Electric cooperatives in southern Minnesota closed a $122 million deal Friday to acquire the assets of the investor-owned utility serving Albert Lea and other small communities.

The acquisition means that 43,000 customers now will be billed by one of 12 co-ops that divided up an area long served by Interstate Power & Light, a unit of Madison, Wis.-based Alliant Energy. The customers also become co-op members, with the right to vote in ­elections for board members.

State regulators approved the acquisition in April along with a rate-moderation plan that will temporarily limit expected rate hikes to former Interstate customers. Their electric rates are lower than the co-ops’, and have not been raised since 2010.

David Shaffer