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Indiana’s largest electric utility submits request to raise electric bills

A picture of smokestacks at a power plant
Wikimedia Commons
The Sierra Club said that the rate hike would help keep two of Duke Energy's plants open – including its Gibson Generating Station. The plant was identified as a "Super Polluter" by the Center for Public Integrity.

Indiana’s largest electric utility is asking state regulators to approve almost $500 million in new rate increases. This is the second price hike request since 2019 and would raise the average consumer’s bill by about $27.

The company filed the request with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission on April 4.

Angeline Protogere is a spokesperson for Duke Energy. She said these rate increases are essential to providing increased services for customers.

“More than 50 percent of the request is for projects related to the reliability of the electric grid hardening against severe weather, physical security,” Protogere said.

She said this also includes replacing some wooden electric poles to steel poles, which she said are more reliable in bad weather, and putting in more sensors, which can help to redirect energy and affect fewer customers in the event of lost power.

Protogere said the need for this funding also comes from a need to expand services.

“Indiana is growing,” she said. “We expect to have about 60,000 new customers by 2025, and we are building 345 miles of new power lines and other infrastructure to serve them. We also are making investments in customer systems that, for instance, add more convenience – where a customer can go online, make a request to initiate service at a location and receive services that same day.”

Environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, are expressing concerns about these price increases and environmental consequences.

Megan Anderson is a senior field organizer with the Sierra Club. She said Duke Energy is using consumer money to fund its coal plants, which have been losing money.

“Duke continues to fail Hoosiers,” she said. “And they have saddled customers to some of the worst performing coal plants in the country.”

In a press release, the Sierra Club said two of Duke Energy’s plants, the Edwardsport coal gasification plant and the Gibson plant, have lost revenue and remain environmental hazards.

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Anderson said this new request could further those environmental hazards

“I'm very surprised to see this rate case today, given the little amount of work Duke has done since this last case,” she said. “Duke frames these cases as being about clean energy. They have built virtually no sizable amount of clean energy.”

Protogere said Duke Energy is working to identify the resources available to create cleaner energy options. But she said it currently needs to utilize both readily available energy, such as fossil fuels, and clean energy, like wind or solar.

“We’ve also issued a request for proposals for both renewable energy as well as energy that is dispatchable, such as natural gas that isn't dependent on the weather,” she said. “We need a combination of both to serve customers reliably.”

Anderson said her organization would still like to see more effort from the utility company moving forward to pursue clean energy.

“Duke needs to look at how they can responsibly and affordably transition away from coal,” she said. “In the next decade, scaling up renewable energy in the communities they serve, in the communities where their coal plants are located.”

Protogere emphasized Duke Energy is trying to transition as best it can from an affordability standpoint.

“We also are proposing to offer a new program called Time of Use Rates, where customers can better manage their bills by shifting some of their power use to different times of the day,” Protogere said. “Again, it's a voluntary program, but it would be available to all customers as a new pricing option.”

Anderson urges Hoosiers to express their opinions or concerns about this process via written comments, public meetings or contact with regulators – like the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission – in the upcoming months. She said there need to be better ways for Duke Energy to provide their services while better considering affordability and environmental concerns.

Violet is our daily news reporter. Contact her at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.

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