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Indiana officials to consider request to raise utility bills

INDIANAPOLIS (AP): State regulators have agreed to consider a request by Indiana’s gas and electric companies to charge their customers for the millions of dollars in revenue the utilities are expected to lose because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission ordered an investigation this past week into how the pandemic is affecting utilities and their customers. The commission will consider a request from 10 Indiana utilities to recover lost revenue from consumers by raising monthly bills, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

Meanwhile, thousands of consumers have written letters and emails, opposing the request from Duke Energy, Indianapolis Power & Light Co., Indiana Michigan Power, Northern Indiana Public Service Co., Vectren and some smaller electric and natural gas companies across the state.

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor has also submitted a request to the commission seeking consumer protections, including an extension of utility disconnections beyond the state’s June 30 moratorium and the waiver of all deposits, late fees, convenience fees and reconnection fees.

The commission decided to combine both requests into one investigation.

It’s not yet clear how much the bills could potentially increase. Under the proposed plan, utilities would submit rate cases with cost and revenue impacts from the pandemic that could be reviewed and approved by regulators in future rate cases.

The commission said in the order that the financial and health impacts along with other hardships caused by the pandemic will not go away whenever a public health directive or disconnection moratorium expires.

“The commission anticipates that impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic may not be fully understood for months, if not years, as the effect is ongoing,” the order said.

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