Duke calls for rate hike, but consumer advocates ask for rate cut

I-Team 8

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A state consumer advocacy agency wants the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to not only reject Duke Energy’s request to raise rates, but to “cut” what Duke currently charges you for electricity.

I-Team 8 obtained the recommendations filed by the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, the state agency that represents utility customers.

The OUCC wants the state to reject Duke’s requested rate hike request totaling nearly $400 million. Part of the reason for OUCC’s request is they say Duke has not given sufficient information to back up the need for higher bills.

Duke announced the rate hike request earlier this year, saying it would use the money to pay for operating and maintenance costs, plus upgrades to its infrastructure in Indiana. But an industry expert who reviewed the case for the state said the company’s revenue and sales forecasts do not add up, and that Duke hasn’t given enough information to support the rate hike. That expert, Glenn Watkins, said he has reviewed more than 300 cases over 39 years.

“In my experience, I have not seen a rate filing that compares with the unsupported, inadequate, unorganized/undocumented nature of Duke’s current filing in Indiana,” said Watkins in his testimony.

The OUCC review not only recommends rejecting Duke’s proposed hike, but also suggests cutting Duke’s current rates by $130 million per year.

Duke spokesperson Angeline Protogere sent I-Team 8 the following statement:

“Rate cases are legal proceedings, so it’s not surprising there are adversarial positions like this. We’ll be responding to every claim, and there will be public hearings before state utility regulators to hear from all sides. All the evidence for the case will be carefully considered and reviewed by the commission before a decision is made. We’ve added more than 100,000 customers-the equivalent of a small city-to our system since our last base rate request, and we’ve had to build to serve them. We’re also transitioning to cleaner power and making our energy grid more reliable to reduce power outages. And we’re giving customers more convenient options like the ability to monitor their energy usage and pay their bill with a credit or debit card. We didn’t take this step lightly, and we have worked hard to keep our rates reasonable, and in fact our overall average electric rates are the lowest in the state today.”

Angeline Protogere, Duke Energy

The next step is that Duke will likely file additional information with state regulators. There is no specific timeline yet when they will make a final decision, but that could come next summer.

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