FORT WAYNE — The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is reviewing plans for an increase in electric rates proposed by Indiana Michigan Power (I&M).
The utility, in submitting its program to regulators, said the overall increase in rates would be about $172 million, or 11.75 percent.
The plan calls for new rates to be phased-in over three steps, with the first occurring in spring 2020, the second on June 1, 2020, and the third in early 2021. After it takes full effect, the monthly increase would be $21.11 – less than 75 cents a day, I&M said – for a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per month.
I&M, an operating company of American Electric Power, said it plans to enhance its energy infrastructure to meet future needs, modernize, and strengthen the energy grid with more high-tech equipment to reduce the number, extent and duration of power outages. Innovate Indiana proposes spending an average of more than $600 million annually for infrastructure.
I&M serves customers in 24 counties in Indiana, including Elkhart County, and six in Michigan.
A key element in developing a smarter energy grid is providing smart meter technology that not only enhances reliability but also empowers customers with better control of their individual energy usage. Smart meters offer customers enhanced insight into their energy use and pave the way for future innovative technologies and customer options, the company said.
“Technology offers I&M a number of ways to improve the reliability and value of service to our customers,” said Toby Thomas, president and chief operating officer of I&M. “From high-tech equipment on power lines and substations to availability of electric car charging to further diversifying the sources of energy, Innovate Indiana helps I&M take another big step toward better serving our customers and meeting their energy needs. I&M will also continue its commitment to customers by continuously focusing on greater efficiency and controlling costs.”
Among other elements of the Innovate Indiana plan:
n Incentives to expand electric vehicle charging, supporting the electric grid and benefitting all customers. Innovate Indiana offers rebates and special rates for charging electric cars overnight along with incentives for businesses and fleet vehicles.
n Helping customers by enhancing job opportunities through reimbursing employers for qualifying apprenticeships and training.
n A new Building Development Program creating a fund to help construct spec buildings that are important for job-creators seeking quickly available locations.
n Continuing to offer programs to assist low-income customers having difficulty paying their utility bills.
I&M plans to further diversify its generation by seeking partnerships with customers to support solar generation. Customers who wish to support green energy will have an enhanced option for contributing directly toward renewable energy.
Innovate Indiana supports continued operation of I&M’s Cook Nuclear Plant, which generates enough emission-free energy to power more than 1.5 million homes. I&M is updating Cook’s two units as part of its extended licenses allowing it to continue generating low-cost, emission-free power through the mid-2030s – 20 years beyond its original licensing periods.
This cost increase includes a proposed hike in the monthly residential service charge. Innovate Indiana proposes to adjust rates “to more accurately reflect the true cost of service provided to each customer,” the utility said.
“Electric utilities must install, maintain, upgrade and replace the infrastructure that brings energy to customers: poles, wires, transformers, substations and much more,” the company said. “These costs are associated with providing energy to the customer and do not change based on the amount of energy used. Yet, most of a customer’s bill is based on the volume of electricity used.”
I&M’s service charge for residential customers is $10.50 per month, second lowest of the major Indiana electric utilities. To more accurately reflect the true costs of serving a residential customer, I&M proposes raising the service charge to $15. This service charge is included in – not an addition to – the new rates.
The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission will review I&M’s request and offer opportunity for public review and input. Customers can learn more about Innovate Indiana and the regulatory rate review process at www.IndianaMichiganPower.com/InnovateIndiana.