The Journal Gazette
 
 
Friday, July 02, 2021 1:00 am

I&M seeking 6.5% rate increase

Utility planning to invest in new technologies

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

The average Indiana Michigan Power residential customer would pay about $9 more a month under plans the utility filed Thursday.

I&M is proposing a $104 million revenue increase – about a 6.5% increase – to make investments in reliability, customer experience and new technologies, according to a news release.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission will conduct a review process with opportunities for public comment, a process that typically takes 300 days.

“We are committed to our customers and continuously focus on new technologies and greater efficiencies, all while controlling costs,” Toby Thomas, utility president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “Investing in high-tech equipment will strengthen and modernize power lines in Indiana, and at the same time enhance the customer experience.”

The increase for residential, commercial and industrial customers would vary depending on usage, but I&M calculated estimates for the typical residential customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month.

Those customers would see their monthly bills increase from about $158 to $167 per month, a 6% increase, the release said.

This includes a requested service charge change. The utility wants to raise this fee by $5 to $20 per month for residential customers and by $6 to $25 per month for small commercial customers.

Proposed improvements include replacing 120 miles of overhead and underground power lines; replacing more than 2,500 poles; upgrading 16 substations; and inspecting and maintaining trees – the top cause of outages – along 4,000 line miles, the release said.

Much of the utility system was built in the 1960s and 1970s, the utility noted.

I&M plans to install over 480,000 smart meters by 2024, adding to the more than 40,000 customers – including 18,000 in Indiana – who are already using such meters, the release said. The technology provides customers with services including usage data, usage alerts and new programs promoting better energy habits.

The utility's filing also includes continued plans to protect the electric grid from physical and cyber threats and adds new technology, including artificial intelligence and robotic process automations.

A new “self-healing technology” would continue to be installed to detect outages and reroute electricity to customers, the release added.

In March 2020, the regulatory commission allowed I&M to increase rates by 5.7% overall, or about $84 million. The approved amount was about 48% of I&M's original request.

Three years ago, the commission allowed I&M to raise rates 7.26% to help pay to replace aging poles and wires and remove encroaching brush, branches and trees.

For information about Indiana Michigan Power's pending rate review and the regulatory rate review process, go to www.indianamichiganpower.com/poweringthenext.

asloboda@jg.net


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