NIPSCO Customers Encouraged To Weigh In On Rate Hike

Northern Indiana Public Service Company customers have a few ways to comment on the utility’s proposed electric rate increase.
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor encourages consumers to comment for the formal case record, according to a release from the consumer advocacy agency. Customers can comment in two ways: By speaking at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission’s public field hearing  Dec. 14 or by sending written comments to the OUCC by Jan. 15.
The IURC’s Dec. 14 public field hearing will be in the auditorium at Hammond High School, 5926 Calumet Ave., in Hammond, at 6 p.m. An OUCC informational meeting on field hearing procedures and the regulatory process will start at 5:30 p.m.
During the public field hearing, according to the release, consumers will be able to speak directly to the commission, under oath and on the record, and consumers will be able to submit written comments for the case record. Comments will carry equal weight whether they are oral or written.
Commissioners are not allowed to answer questions during the field hearing. However, OUCC staff will be available before, during and after the hearing to address questions about the process.
NIPSCO provides electric service to more than 461,000 customers in 20 counties. According to its testimony and exhibits, the utility’s request would raise a monthly residential electric bill for 1,000 kilowatt hours from $126.18 to 137.28. An average monthly residential electric bill for 698 kWh would rise from $91.40 to $101.92, the release states.
This would include increasing the flat, monthly residential customer charge from $11 to $20.
The “energy charge,” or the part of the base rate that varies by usage, would also rise.
NIPSCO’s current electric base rates received IURC approval in 2011. However, bills have increased since then due to rate recovery mechanisms – or “trackers” – which allow rate increases for specific items on an expedited basis, according to the release. Trackers are separate from base rates and are subject to OUCC review and IURC approval, with all Indiana investor-owned electric utilities using them to varying degrees.
NIPSCO uses trackers to recover costs for generating fuel, energy efficiency programs, environmental mandates, regional transmission, system reliability resources and critical infrastructure protection, or cyber security.
The request would give NIPSCO a $126.6 million increase in overall annual operating revenues, which is an increase of nearly 9.2 percent over current revenues.
In its testimony and exhibits, NIPSCO states that it is seeking the new rates due to increases in operating and maintenance costs, and to pay for capital improvements including the replacement of all meters throughout its service territory; infrastructure improvements, including new lines, poles, and substations; technology upgrades; and plans to retire the Bailly Generating Station.
The OUCC has not yet taken a position on the request and has until Jan. 22 to file testimony.
A number of additional parties have formally intervened in the case, as allowed by state law, and are also scheduled to file testimony on Jan. 22. They include the LaPorte County Board of Commissioners; the Indiana Municipal Utility Group; The Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana; industrial customers including Accurate Castings Inc., Arcelor Mittal USA, BP Products North America Inc., Cargill Inc., Praxair Inc., NLMK Indiana and USG Corporation; Wal-Mart Stores East LP and Sam’s East Inc.; and the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, AFL-CIO/CLC.
For more information, including links to NIPSCO’s testimony, visit Natural gas rates are not at issue in this case.
Consumers who wish to submit written comments for the case record may do so via the OUCC’s Website at, or by mail, email or fax:
Mail: Consumer Services Staff, Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, 115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South, Indianapolis, IN 46204
Fax: 317-232-5923
The OUCC needs to receive all written consumer comments no later than Jan. 15 so that it can consider them in preparing its testimony and file them with the commission to be included in the case’s formal evidentiary record, according to the release. Comments should include the consumer’s name, mailing address and a reference to “IURC Cause No. 44688.”
Consumers with questions about submitting written comments can contact the OUCC’s consumer services staff at 888-441-2494.

(Story By The Times Union)