At Tuesday night’s regular meeting of Monroe County’s council, the seven-member group got a request for an extra $80,500 to pay for utilities at five county buildings. The extra expenditure was needed because of inaccurate estimates of usage, not the planned electric rate increase by Duke Energy.
But the extra appropriation led to a quick discussion of a current proposal by Duke Energy to raise its residential electric rates by around 19 percent.
County councilor Eric Spoonmore told Angie Purdie, administer for the board of commissioners, he was glad she’d mentioned the rate case that’s now going through the regulatory process. He encouraged residents of Monroe County to make their voices heard on the matter.
Based on the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) summary of the Duke Energy proposal, Duke wants to increase annual operating revenues by $395 million, which is an rise of about 15.5 percent—after the proposed two-stage implementation is done, in 2020 and 2021.
How much would more would Duke Energy’s 840,000 customers in 69 Indiana counties pay? According to OUCC, Duke Energy’s request would raise a monthly residential electric bill for 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) from $120.30 to $142.95. That’s 18.8 percent more.
Spoonmore said he considered that to be “a huge increase.” Duke customers don’t have any other choice, he said. “When you don’t have a whole lot of money to begin with … and you live in the most expensive place in the state of Indiana, and you get hit with a 15 to 17 percent increase on your utility costs, to heat your house, that’s hard, it’s really difficult,” Spoonmore said.
Spoomore said he’d used the online feedback form to give his feedback to the OUCC.
The reasons cited by Duke Energy for the proposed rate hike include increases in operating and maintenance costs and several capital improvements, according to the OUCC.
According to the OUCC, Duke Energy describes the following capital improvements:
- advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) throughout its Indiana service territory
- ash pond closures and remediation at its coal-fired generating facilities
- plans to retire certain coal-fired generation units earlier than
- tree trimming and vegetation management costs
- plug-in electric vehicle incentives
- improvements throughout the utility’s Indiana transmission and distribution system including line sensors and additional grid technology
Spoonmore criticized the selection of locations for hearings on the rate increase: New Albany, Carmel, and Terre Haute, saying that effectively left out Monroe County residents. The hearing dates for those locations have already passed. The most recent one was on Oct. 1, in New Albany.
The deadline for comments to the OUCC is Oct. 23, 2019. Comments submitted in writing are supposed to include the consumer’s name, mailing address, and a reference to either “IURC Cause No. 45253” or Duke Energy.
In addition to the online form used by Spoonmore, comments can be sent by email to uccinfo@oucc.IN.gov
Comments can be sent by regular mail to:
Consumer Services Staff
Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Note: In a separate piece, The Beacon will report on the county council’s approval of the 2020 budget, which also came on Tuesday night.