EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — Keeping the light on could be more expensive for CenterPoint Energy customers. The utility company officially filed paperwork with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission last week and gave several reasons why the increase is needed.
The Citizens Actions Coalition says one of those reasons was swept under the rug for over five months. The problem began on June 24 when CenterPoint’s Culley Unit 3 Coal fired power plant went offline. It has not been opened since.
Ben Inskeep is the program director at the Citizen’s Action Coalition and tells us it is unusual for a unit to be down this long.
“These power plants are supposed to available when customers need them. That is why utilities invest hundreds of millions of dollars in building them,” he says.
As a result, CenterPoint has had to purchase more expensive replacement power from the wholesale market. Now, it is asking the state to approve a rate increase. According to the filings, the rate increase would last for three months.
CAC members stop short of saying the price hike should be denied, but they do say CenterPoint could do more in explaining what happened and why the price hike is needed. The utility did a route cause analysis on the problem, but critics say there are problems with the study.
“That entire study, they redacted it and kept it out of the view of the public,” Inskeep says.
If approved by the IURC, the average CenterPoint residential customer bill will increase by $13.30 for the months of February, March, and April of 2023.
In June 2022, the company’s F.B. Culley Unit 3 coal-fired power generation unit experienced an operating issue relating to its boiler feed pump turbine, and it remains out of service. Immediately following the outage at Culley, CenterPoint Energy notified the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC). We have been transparent with this information since the outage occurred. It has been disclosed to our stakeholders through filings and public meetings, several of which the Citizens Action Coalition has been a part of and participated in with CenterPoint Energy.
For the duration of the unplanned outage, which is expected to continue into the first quarter of 2023, CenterPoint Energy will continue to meet its generation capacity needs from its other generation units, economic market purchases and power purchase agreements.
CenterPoint released this statement to us Tuesday evening:
With respect to the fuel adjustment charge (FAC), CenterPoint Energy recently filed for recovery of its FAC with the IURC. The FAC is the amount the company applies to customers’ bills based on the varying price of fuel and purchased power costs. It is not a new charge, is filed quarterly with the IURC, and can fluctuate based on the cost of fuel. While the outage at F.B. Culley did partially impact our FAC, we have used credits received through energy and capacity sold to the market to help mitigate the impact to customers’ bills.