INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is investigating the impact of COVID-19 on both energy companies and customers.
Some of the largest utility providers in the state requested a look at their losses two weeks ago.
The IURC will consider whether to allow rate increases and power shutoffs.
Right now, the shutoff moratorium ends June 30.
“I’m not sure that those hard dates are realistic and certainly not for people who can’t pay their power bill right now,” said Duke Energy customer Rick Mummey.
He isn’t in that boat, but he is concerned about those who aren’t able to pay for power right now.
“I don’t think anybody wants people to have to go without power which also causes them to lose their housing, so I don’t think we want to put people on the streets right now,” said Mummey.
He’s urging the IURC to extend the power shutoff ban and be fair when it comes to accepting any kind of rate increase.
“I wouldn’t like it,” said Mummey. “I don’t like any of my bills to go up.”
However, he said he would be willing to accept it if companies could truly prove the need.
“As long as it’s not entirely rigged in their favor,” said Mummey.
The Citizens Action Coalition doesn’t think there is a need for one right now. Executive Director Kerwin Olson said he would have liked for the IURC to deny it right away.
“But instead, they’ve allowed the utilities to sort of, make their case which means those of us who oppose that have to also sort of make a case and present that evidence, and so it’s burdensome on the public and nobody has time for this right now,” explained Olson.
Aside from debt caused by people who can’t pay for energy right now, utilities claim they’ve seen an increase in labor costs due to COVID-19.
Companies are also looking to recover expenses like cleaning supplies, personal protection equipment, among other losses.
“Not saying utility companies should not be allowed to recover certain expenses, incremental expenses, that they’ve incurred as a result of the pandemic, but lost revenues as a result of the pandemic is a bridge too far,” said Olson.
Mummey said whatever happens, he hopes the decision is just.
“A balance is necessary,” said Mummey.
We are appreciative of the Commission’s quick response and will continue to work with our customers during this challenging time. In the meantime, we are reviewing the Commission’s request for information and preparing to meet the deadlines associated with the procedural schedule.DANIELLE MCGRATH
PRESIDENT, INDIANA ENERGY ASSOCIATION
Thousands of people have written the IURC letters against rate increases.
The commission encourages feedback, comments may be submitted online here.
(This story was originally published on May 28, 2020)