The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, June 30, 2020 1:00 am

Utilities denied bid to recover lost income

Customers won't cover losses; no disconnections until Aug. 14

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana regulators denied Monday a request from utilities to charge ratepayers for revenue the companies expect to lose because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission voted unanimously to deny the request by utilities, which had said they needed to recover millions of dollars in lost revenue over the last few months as businesses closed their doors and factories cut hours and used less electricity.

Ten gas and electric companies, including Indiana Michigan Power Co., Northern Indiana Public Service Co. and Indianapolis Power & Light Co. had petitioned the commission for permission to recover revenue shortfalls.

“Asking customers to go beyond their obligation and pay for service they did not receive is beyond reasonable utility relief based on the facts before us,” the commission said.

The utilities filed a 36-page petition with the IURC in May in which they claimed the effects of the pandemic, including government orders and businesses closing or moving to remote locations, “have resulted in significantly reduced load and revenues for some utilities.”

The IURC also ruled Monday that disconnection suspensions across the state should be extended by 45 days past today's deadline through Aug. 14.

“Temporarily prohibiting disconnections ... is a balanced solution that allows both customers and utilities additional time to enter into reasonable payment arrangements to address any arrearages that may have accumulated and maintain essential utility services for the benefit of all customers, the utilities and other stakeholders,” the order said.

The commission doubled the minimum requirement for extended payment plans by requiring utility companies to offer payment plans of at least six months to all customers.

Although customers won't be charged for electricity they didn't use, such as at a closed restaurant or bar, those who struggled to pay their utility bills because of a job loss or reduced income might have to pay more later.

The IURC decided to let utilities track the effects of COVID-19 on the prohibition of disconnections and late fees, “which may be considered for cost recovery in the future.”

Toby Thomas, Indiana Michigan Power's president and chief operating officer, commented on the decision.

“I&M respects the decision by the IURC to balance the interests of all concerned in these challenging times brought on by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said Monday in a statement. “Our team at I&M is committed to ensuring that when our customers flip the light switch, cool their homes or operate their business, the energy to power their lives is available 24/7.”

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