Chesterton Tribune



NIPSCO gas, electric plans include rate hikes

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NIPSCO has announced a $713 million plan to invest in its natural-gas infrastructure through the end of the decade.

That plan would increase the average monthly residential natural-gas bill by a little more than 10 percent by 2020, although the increases would be incremental over the next seven years, the Northern Indiana Public Service Company said.

NIPSCO in a statement released on Friday said that the plan would provide “a number of direct benefits to homes and businesses across Northern Indiana.”

“Safety, reliability, and maintaining access to low natural-gas prices are central to the comprehensive, seven-year plan,” the statement said. “Planned projects will range from the elimination of remaining bare steel natural gas lines, to the installation of 80 miles of transmission lines and the construction of new service to customers in rural areas.”

“Homes and businesses across the 32 counties we serve depend on safe, reliable and affordable natural gas service,” NIPSCO CEO Jim Stanley said. “We are proud to be among the lowest cost natural gas providers in Indiana. And, this plan helps to ensure a safe and modern natural gas system for the future, while continuing to maintain competitive rates for customers.”

NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer told the Chesterton Tribune today that, for the average residential customer using 72 therms of natural gas per month, over the plan’s seven-year lifetime monthly bills would increase from $52.22 to $57.72, or by approximately 1.4 percent every year.

NIPSCO is citing the following as “direct benefits to customers and communities”;

* “Maintaining the overall safety and integrity of NIPSCO’s natural gas system

* “Providing the ability to continue delivering low-cost natural gas options to customers.”

* “Supporting hundreds of direct and indirect jobs - including local trades - associated with these projects throughout the decade.”

* “Investments of more than $713 million through 2020 resulting in a direct local economic boost, Including consumer protections, external review and oversight to ensure the necessity of these investments.”

* “Gradual and minimal bill impact over time.”

“A key focus of the plan is to make the necessary improvements while minimizing the impact on customer bills,” NIPSCO said. “Rather than making these investments at one time, NIPSCO is spreading out the work to help eliminate sudden spikes in customer bills. Customers will experience minimal bill impacts, with little-to-no change in their natural gas bills for the first two years of the plan. Average bills are projected to see a gradual average increase of approximately 1.4 percent annually through 2020, with no change in 2014 and a 1 percent increase in 2015.”

Although some projects would get underway in mid-2014, the “bulk” of the project activity is backloaded to later years, NIPSCO said. Sample projects include the installation of 80 miles of transmission pipeline and addition of automated valves, at $280 million; the construction of gas service to rural areas, at $99 million; the retrofit of gas lines for in-line inspection, at $46 million.

The plan must be approved by the IURC, with input and review from customers and the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor.

Electric Infrastructure

In July, NIPSCO announced a similar seven-year modernization plan for its electric infrastructure, with a total price tag of $1 billion, under which residential bills would not increase in 2014, would increase by 0.48 percent in 2015, and then increase by an annual average of 1 percent through 2020.

The plan would include the replacement of 450 miles of underground electric cable which is unjacketed and prone to failure, at $140 million; the rebuilding of 500 miles of electric line and circuits, at $365 million; and the replacement of 75 substation transformers and 900 breakers, at $290 million.

NIPSCO said that, among other things, this plan would identify and eliminate potential recurring outages caused by aging system failures; help to attract new businesses to its service territory with a “modern energy system”; support the equivalent of 1,200 direct and indirect jobs, including local trades, associated with these projects; and invest more than $1 billion through 2020 “resulting in a direct local economic boost.”



Posted 10/7/2013