INDIANAPOLIS – AES Indiana customers continue to voice concerns about a proposed utility rate hike.
The company is seeking approval to increase rates for the average user by about $17 per month. In a public hearing Thursday, people demanded the proposal be rejected.
AES Indiana aims to raise its annual revenue by $134 million. They say it’s to cover operational costs “as a result of inflationary impacts on operations and maintenance expenses, investments in reliability and resiliency improvements, and enhancements to customer systems.”
But consumers are saying they feel like a captive audience – watching their bills go up while the quality of service doesn’t.
The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission heard frustrations from everyday Marion County residents Thursday, and even a few people elected to represent them.
“When you come to that hearing with AES – I’m asking you to vote down this increase,” customer Alicia Howell said, addressing the IURC.
“I’m concerned about the fixed income and the seniors and the low-income people in my area,” City-County Councillor Dan Boots said at the podium. “This is something else that just is another foot on their back and another anvil around their necks that I think is unnecessary coming from a monopoly.”
If the IURC decides in favor of AES next spring, customers could see their bills increase by summer 2024 – something that could put a strain on already financially-strapped Hoosiers.
“This is life and death. We’re all in this together,” customer Mary Bookwalter said. “You’re [AES Indiana] profiting from us. Give us something in return that makes us proud.”
Some who disapprove of the plan also referenced a storm that knocked out power for 80,000 customers in late June. For several thousand, the lights didn’t turn back on for up to five days. Citizens Action Coalition Program Director Ben Inskeep said it wasn’t an isolated incident.
“Many Hoosiers right now do not have adequate and reliable service from AES Indiana, so it’s extra insulting that we’re seeing this massive bill increase,” Inskeep said.
That’s also why State Senator Jean Breaux, who serves on the Utilities Committee, calls the proposal “unfair.”
“They [AES] are a big utility. They have a lot of resources and access to great minds,” Breaux said. “There ought to be a way to have a comprehensive plan – figure out what is needed. How much will it take to get them where they need to go so they’re not coming to us nickel and dime-ing us every year?”
AES Indiana followed up with this statement after the hearing:
This is AES Indiana’s first base rate increase request since 2017. Factors leading to this new review of rates include rising operations and maintenance expenses, investments needed to make reliability and resiliency improvements, and enhancements to our customer systems. If approved, the current AES Indiana rate review in front of the IURC will enhance safety and reliability, sustain the energy transition, and improve overall customer experience. AES Indiana has had the lowest residential rates among investor-owned utilities in Indiana and expects to remain among the lowest residential rates if the proposed rates are approved.
A second public hearing will be held on Oct. 2 at New Augusta Public Academy North.
The deadline for written comments is Oct. 6, which can be submitted by email at email@example.com, online at www.in.gov/oucc/contact-us or by mail, addressed to OUCC Public Comments, 115 West Washington Street, Suite 1500 South, Indianapolis, Indiana 46204.