I&M rate increase draws opposition
Posted: 04/24/2012 at 5:00 am
By: Marilyn Odendahl
During a public field hearing Tuesday night at the South Bend Century Center, the 21-year-old resident of Elkhart spoke out against a proposal by Indiana Michigan Power to raise household electric rates by more than 20 percent.
Hall said he did not believe the utility deserved such a big increase and he questioned why the proposed rate hike was so high.
In the end, he told the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission that he objected to the rate increase.
His sentiment was echoed by everyone who testified at the hour-long hearing. Homeowners, business representatives, environmentalists all had concerns about how higher electric bills would affect their wallets and impact the communities.
This was the second of three public field hearings the IURC is conducting this week on the I&M rate case. Monday evening, a number of Fort Wayne residents came out against the increase and Tuesday roughly 50 people turned out for the South Bend event. Tonight, April 25, the commission will be soliciting comments in Muncie.
Indiana Michigan Power filed a petition with the state in September to raise base electric rates by 14 percent overall. For residential customers specifically, the increase would be higher, with their monthly electric bills growing by than 20 percent.
The exact amount is in dispute. The utility says monthly bills would grow by 22 percent while the Indiana Office of the Consumer Counselor calculates the increase would be slightly more than 25 percent.
Speaking before the South Bend hearing, I&M president Paul Chodak said he understood customers would have difficulty paying more for electricity. However, he maintained the increase is necessary for I&M to continue its operations.
“If I can’t provide reliable service then my customers are going to be less happy than spending an extra 20 bucks a month,” he said.
I&M current rates were approved in March 2009 by the IURC. But the settlement agreement reached in 2009 contained the provision that the utility had to file another general rate
The power company, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, has told the commission it must increase its annual revenue by $148.6 million in order to have the financial resources to meet environmental mandates and to maintain the infrastructure so it can provide safe and reliable service.
I&M supplies electricity to nearly 455,000 customers in Indiana. Its service territory spreads over 3,100 square miles and includes the cities of Fort Wayne, South Bend, Elkhart, Muncie, Marion, Kendallville and Decatur.
Joseph Jacob lives in a house with electric heat. He told the commission that during the winter months of January, February and March, his electric bills run $300 to $400 a month.
“I like electric heat,” he said, “but it’s getting to a point where it’s very prohibitive. The rates keep going up.”
This petition is one of three I&M has filed in recent months with the commission. A second one is seeking recovery for $1.4 billion in new pollution control equipment at its Rockport Generating Facility. The third is seeking to put a rider on consumers’ monthly bills to cover the finance charges associated with a $1.2 billion upgrade of the D.C. Cook Nuclear Plant.