Big Indiana energy bill decisions expected Monday

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INDIANAPOLIS – Thousands of Indiana energy customers are waiting for some big decisions next week. 

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is meeting on Monday to determine whether some utility companies can increase costs due to the pandemic. 

It is also considering a Duke Energy rate increase requested a year ago. The deadline to respond to Duke’s request is July 1, 2020.

For those who are late paying for their energy bills, power shutoffs could start after June 30. That is, unless the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission decides to extend the moratorium. 

“We are certainly optimistic that the commission will indeed extend that disconnection moratorium,” said Citizens Action Coalition Executive Director Kerwin Olson. “The question is, for how long?”

The Citizens Action Coalition fights in favor of consumers. The group wants the IURC to deny any rate increases due to the pandemic as well as a Duke Energy rate increase originally requested in July of last year. It will add about $23 to each bill. 

“We were against it because it was an extraordinary request for relief a substantial increase,” said Olson.

Duke Energy Spokesperson Angeline Protogere said this increase is fair due to investments the company has made over the years. Since its last rate hike, Duke says it has added more than 100,000 customers. 

“The equivalent of a small city,” said Protogere. “We’ve had to build to serve them whether it is power lines and other infrastructure.”

Duke claims it also helps pay for improvements in technology, convenience and clean energy. 

“The vast majority of our power here in Indiana is generated from coal fired power plants and while we will be using coal for many years to come, we need to diversify our system,” said Protogere.

This rate increase has nothing to do with the pandemic. However, Duke also joined several other major companies like Indianapolis Power and Light to recover costs lost from COVID-19 as well. Citizens Energy Group was the only large company to opt out of that request. It also isn’t shutting off power until September 1. 

“There will be time later to look at the impacts of COVID-19, the crisis on Citizens, but this just isn’t that time,” said Citizens Energy Group Spokesperson Dan Considine. “Our focus now is and needs to be on helping our customers in need. We have about 20,000 customers currently who are behind on their bill.”

Unlike Citizens Energy Group, Duke and others involved in the IURC request have stakeholders. 

“We recognize this is a challenging time,” said Protogere.

Which is why Duke said even if the IURC does allow a power shut off, customers will have time to prepare. 

“Customers would have a month full billing cycle in order to make payment arrangements and to look at options for getting caught up on their bills,” said Protogere.

Right now, about 23,000 Duke customers are 60 days behind on their bills.

The Indiana Energy Association encourages customers who are having trouble paying bills to reach out to their respective utility company to explore resources such as 211, a free service that connects Hoosiers to services they need.

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