EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – The month of March is coming to an end, and another energy bill is on its way to shock CenterPoint customers.

Doug Hartman who lives in Mount Vernon says his bill has spiked exponentially in the last few months.

“[In] January of 2022 versus January of 2021, our bill is more than twice what it was. When I opened up that bill I was really expecting to see $320, $340. I was not prepared for $650. That’s enough to really throw people’s finances off the rails. What it creates is a a certain amount of desperation in a lot of people.”

Another month has gone by with no sign of rates going down. Hartman joined the local activist group – Direct Action Against CenterPoint Energy, or “DAACE” – who presented an idea to create an energy affordability task force with the Evansville City Council.

“We’re looking to have outside of council, some fruitful conversations to come up with some real solutions,” said Christopher Norrick, DAACE advocate.

Norrick presented the council with some ideas from a press release by the group:

“DAACE’s initial recommended actions:

  1. Expedite adoption of the numerous strategies outlined in the 2021 Evansville Climate Action Plan that focus on home weatherization and efficiency. Strategies 2.4, 2.5, 2.12, 2.14, 2.15 and 2.16 will help low- and moderate-income residents save on their bills and improve property values while creating jobs.
  2. Develop a City-Scale Energy Efficiency Retrofit Program as recommended in the 2014 Evansville Millennial Plan for 2040 to reduce strain on currently overwhelmed non-profit organizations through a revolving rehabilitation loan fund program. 
  3. Unify with other municipal and county governments in the eight-county CenterPoint Energy Indiana South service territory to collectively address the regional affordability crisis.
  4. Dedicate monies for legal expenses to become an intervening party in future CEI South Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission/Office of Utility Consumer Counselor rate case negotiations.
  5. Strongly recommend, directly to CEI:
  1. Immediately lower its natural gas distribution rate from the newly granted $0.60/therm to its requested $0.36/therm rate.
  2. Abandon its plans to build any new fossil-fueled peaker plants, and associated bill increases, and instead invest in energy efficiency, demand side management and renewable energy storage for reliable peak summer demand needs.
  3. Reinstate the Electric Heating discount rate and increase rebates for a gas furnace to high-efficiency heat pump migration to encourage their adoption to better utilize future energy sources.

“It is our hope that this task force will ultimately lead to a city department fully dedicated to these and other sustainability and affordability goals as already modeled in Bloomington, South Bend, Indianapolis, Gary, Richmond, Hammond and Goshen, to name a few examples,” said one DAACE activist.”

Council president Zac Heronemus said he would like to turn this into a reality. “What I hope to do between now and this next council meeting is reach out to councilors and find out who is interested and willing and able to be on a task force, be on a committee to engage either CenterPoint, DAACE, other municipalities to see if there are some common ground solutions that we can come up with,” said Heronemus.

DAACE members say after months of feeling hopeless and unheard, they feel like they’re on the verge of making a change.

“It makes a big difference,” said Hartman. “It’s probably the most hopeful that most of us have felt since we started opening those egregiously high bills.”

“I’m confident that this is going to turn into something,” added Norrick.