State regulators reject Duke Energy’s request for rate hike

INDIANAPOLIS (May 11, 2015) – State regulators have rejected a proposal from Duke Energy to raise customers’ rates. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission said Friday in a ruling the company didn’t provide enough details for their $1.9 billion, seven-year plan.

The proposal would have put Duke’s Indiana customers on smart grid technology.

“We remain committed to making the critically important investments to our system for the benefit of our customers,” Lew Middleton said, a spokesperson for Duke Energy.

Middleton said the company will most likely re-file a revised proposal. The original plan would have installed digital smart meters in homes, which would have tracked energy consumption and transmitted that data wirelessly.

Privacy experts nationwide have voiced major concerns about where that data goes. But power companies have maintained there’s no risk for customer information, adding the new technology would allow crews to fix outages faster and allow customers to reduce their bills.

“Many of these components are getting older, aging and there’s new technology that works better to help keep the power flowing,” Middleton said.

Duke’s plan faced a slew of opposition.

“This was a big win for consumers,” Kerwin Olson said, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition. “Duke failed to meet their burden of proof. The law clearly spells out criteria that the utility has to get in order to meet this kind of approval. And this is a lot of money.”

The company said rates would have increased 1% a year for seven years.

“We’re still reviewing it and trying to decide what it means for us and what our plans will be going forward and what our options are,” Middleton said. “The grid is aging. It’s not getting any younger.”

Middleton added it’s difficult to say whether Duke Energy could fully complete its proposal without raising rates.

“Rates are always going up,” Olson said. “Fuel is going up and other things are going up, so this doesn’t mean Duke bills are necessarily coming down. But it is a win, in a sense, Duke rate payers aren’t going to have to pay for these unnecessary projects.”