INDIANAPOLIS — On Wednesday, Dec. 4, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission announced it issued orders in a NIPSCO electric rate case allowing them to increase rates, but at a percentage less than had been requested by the utility company.
On Thursday, NIPSCO announced it had been given permission to “modify” its rates. In a press release, the company states, “An average NIPSCO residential electric customer will see an overall increase of approximately $6 per month instead of $11 as in the original proposal. The change will be phased in across two steps — Jan. 1, and March 1, 2020.”
Monthly usage charge, a flat monthly cost associated with customers regardless of their usage will decrease by $.50 per month, going from $14 to $13.50.
The IURC also allowed NIPSCO to change how it charges its largest usage customers, mostly industrial companies, which will also see less of an increase than the company had proposed, and rates will vary depending on the companies’ usage.
The Citizens Action Coalition (CAC) also sent out a press release after the IURC decision blasting the decision to “shift between $40 million and $60 million of costs annually from the large companies to NIPSCO’s remaining captive customers.” It states that six companies threatened to leave Indiana or even the country.
The CAC and Earthjustice represented a coalition of Hoosier ratepayers who challenged the proposal at the commission, the release states.
The IURC said it modified the settlement agreement by decreasing NIPSCO’s “return on equity” or “ROE” from the proposed 9.90% to 9.75%. Their press release states the reason the commission decreased the ROE was due to the second settlement agreement that involved NIPSCO and its five largest customers. According to the IURC NIPSCO’s industrial customers comprise less than 1% of the utility’s customers, but account for more than 56% of its energy sales, with its five largest customers using 40% of that usage.
It states, “This large concentration of load in a few specific customers presents a unique business risk for NIPSCO and its customers.”
“We are very disappointed with the commission’s decision to choose six multibillion dollar corporations over northern Indiana’s families and other businesses,” said Earthjustice attorney Raghu Murthy. “We intend to hold NIPSCO [to] its commitment to address the struggle low-income families face in paying their power bills.”
Kerwin Olson, executive director of the CAC said, “Give the monopoly utilities and industrialists what they want, while ignoring the struggles of Hoosier households and small businesses. Captive customers deserve better.”
The IURC’s release states, “It is not in the public interest to ignore the challenges of NIPSCO’s ability to forecast the load it is required to serve and would thereby enhance its accuracy in procuring the appropriate amount of replacement capacity for its aging generation resources. Likewise, approval of the Rate 831 settlement will also enable NIPSCO to make better resource decisions while maintaining system reliability and resiliency.”
In NIPSCO’s release, Violet Sistovaris, president of NIPSCO, said, “Providing affordable and reliable energy is essential. New rates are anticipated to remain in line with the national average as we focus on continuing to better serve customers now and into the future.”
The last change in the electric company’s base electric rates was made in 2016. The primary reason for the increase, according to NIPSCO, includes its investments in upgrading electric infrastructure, environmental upgrades and “a shift in the way some large industrial customers will obtain electricity in the future.”
Customers experiencing trouble paying their bill, regardless of income, can learn about their options at nipsco.com/paymentassistance.