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Public field hearing January 28 in Hammond on proposed NIPSCO electric rate hike

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The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is inviting the public to comment on the Northern Indiana Public Service Company’s petition for an electric rate increase, either through written comment or at a public field hearing.

Consumers may:

* Send written comments to the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) by Thursday, Jan. 31; and or

* Speak at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission’s (IURC’s) public field hearing, at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28, at the Hammond High School auditorium, 5926 Calumet Ave. Consumers are encouraged to arrive by 5:45 p.m. for an overview of field hearing procedures and the rate case process.

During the field hearing:

* Consumers will be able to speak directly to the Commission, under oath and on the record, regarding the case.

* Consumers will also be able to submit written comments for the case record.

* Commissioners are not allowed to answer questions. However, OUCC staff will be available before, during, and after each hearing to address questions about the process.

The OUCC, the state agency representing consumer interests in cases before the IURC, is using its legal and technical resources to review NIPSCO’s request and is scheduled to file testimony on Feb. 6. OUCC analysts are reviewing the potential impact of the proposed increase, including its effects on residential bills.

Proposed Rate Hike

In its testimony and exhibits, NIPSCO states that its proposal would raise monthly electric charges for an average residential customer--using 689 kilowatt hours (kWh)--from $94.54 to $105.96. According to NIPSCO’s exhibits, a residential customer using 1,000 kWh would see his or her monthly electric charges rise from $130.96 to $146.07.

Within the rates, NIPSCO’s monthly residential customer charge--which does not vary by use or among customers--would rise from $14.00 to $17.00. Flat monthly charges for small and medium commercial customers would rise from $24.00 to $30.00.

NIPSCO identifies the case’s “key drivers” as realignment of depreciation rates for its coal-fired generating facilities (including costs of planned generating facility retirements), impacts from the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, and the “near-term” shifting recovery of certain costs from industrial customers to other customers, to address options industrial customers have for generating more of their own electricity. In this case, NIPSCO is proposing tariff changes that would allow its largest customers greater access to wholesale power market pricing while retaining them as retail customers.

NIPSCO’s current base electric rates were approved in July 2016. However, billing amounts have changed since then due to rate recovery mechanisms--or “trackers”--which allow rate increases for specific items on an expedited basis.

Trackers are separate from base rates and are also subject to OUCC review and IURC approval. All Indiana investor-owned electric utilities use trackers to varying degrees. NIPSCO uses trackers to recover costs for generating fuel, energy efficiency programs, environmental mandates, resource adequacy, cybersecurity, transmission and distribution system upgrades, and regional transmission.

NIPSCO’s electric rates were adjusted downward in April 2018, to reflect federal income tax reductions the utility received under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Natural gas rates and charges are not at issue in this case. NIPSCO’s electric utility provides service to more than 468,000 customers in 20 counties.

Written Comments

Consumers who wish to submit written comments for the case record may do in the following ways:

* Via the OUCC’s website at www.in.gov/oucc/2361.htm

* Via email at uccinfo@oucc.IN.gov

* Or by mail at Consumer Services Staff, Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, 115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South, Indianapolis, IN 46204

The OUCC needs to receive all written consumer comments no later than Jan. 31 so that it can consider them in preparing its testimony and file them with the IURC to be included in the case’s formal evidentiary record.

Comments should include the consumer’s name, mailing address, and a reference to “IURC Cause No. 45159.” Consumers with questions about submitting written comments can contact the OUCC’s consumer services staff toll-free at (888) 441-2494. Please do not include account numbers or other sensitive information.

An IURC order is expected during the summer of 2019.

 

 

Posted 1/17/2019

 
 
 
 

 

 

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