NIPSCO says generating cleaner electricity from renewable energy projects and upgrading its electric grid to support the transmission and monitoring of that electricity are some of the key factors leading to a request with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to adjust its base electric rates next year.
NIPSCO is a subsidiary of NiSource Inc. (NYSE:NI).
While the proposed increase was filed with the IURC, it will undergo a thorough regulatory review process, which includes the opportunity for the public to provide input. Any changes to a customer’s bill that are ultimately approved by the IURC will be phased in over time beginning in late 2023 and into 2024, versus a one-time increase.
NIPSCO’s last request to change electric rates was in 2018.
“The investments we’re making provide direct benefits to all our customers, the communities we serve and the local economy,” said Mike Hooper, NIPSCO president. “Beyond the necessary upgrades, grid modernization and customer-centric enhancements that are critical to ensure the level of service our customers expect for the future, a significant portion of the investments are tied to our future energy transition and the addition of new renewable energy projects located in Indiana.”
NIPSCO transition includes renewable energy generation, which represents approximately $840 million in new investments through 2023. In turn, customers directly benefit by receiving a credit on their bills from 100 percent of the revenue associated with the sale of excess power currently being generated by the existing renewable projects and the sales from the upcoming additions. We currently forecast that benefit to be $50 million annually, depending on how much energy is ultimately generated from these sources.
“While there are near-term costs associated with the investments being made to get our wind and solar projects off the ground, customers are already benefiting from these existing renewable projects and will continue to see cost savings grow in the long term when we’re able to eliminate the costs associated with running our remaining coal-fired electric generating facilities by 2026-2028,” added Hooper.
The company also says it is investing approximately $700 million for electric transmission and distribution system upgrades, technology improvements, and safety and reliability initiatives to be completed by the end of 2023, with plans for similar investments into the future.
NIPSCO says it seeks to further its commitment to customers in several ways, including:
• Proposing new bill payment assistance programs for income-qualified customers, with a portion funded by NIPSCO
• Continuing investments to thwart and protect its electric grid against cybersecurity threats
• Upgrading and replacing overhead and underground cable to increase reliability
• Modernizing the electric grid with automated technology that identifies problems and outages to enable us to restore service faster
• Enhancing the overall customer experience through the introduction of a new mobile app, along with the ability for customers to connect with customer care agents online via live or automated chat, the continuation of energy efficiency programs and more
As a regulated energy provider, NIPSCO cannot change any rates or charges to its customers without the approval of the IURC. NIPSCO’s natural gas rates are not affected by this request.
Based on NIPSCO’s proposal, an average residential electric customer using 668 kilowatt hours (kwh) per month, paying approximately $120 today, would see an overall increase of approximately $19 per month, or approximately 16.5 percent, spread over multiple years.
The change would begin to occur by September 2023, with the remaining changes applied in March 2024 and July 2024.
As the company retires its remaining coal-fired generation, the costs associated with operating and maintaining those facilities during the transition to more renewable resources will reduce and eventually be eliminated. This proposal ensures customers are only paying costs as NIPSCO incurs them, and the associated savings of approximately $6 per month will be passed directly back to customers – providing a more real-time benefit to customers.
Actual projected bill impacts may vary by customer – including non-residential customers – depending on usage and future potential changes in market prices for commodities like coal.
Bill payment assistance and energy savings programs are available
As the current economic effects of inflation and the pandemic are being experienced, it’s important to know that help continues to be available. Bill payment assistance programs are available for customers experiencing financial difficulties – including low-income customers.
Outside of the state and federal energy assistance programs and moratorium on winter service disconnections, NIPSCO provides funding for an additional bill reduction program, credit arrangements, budget plans and reduced deposits for eligible customers, including:
• Payment Agreements: NIPSCO has expanded its payment plan agreements to offer its most flexible payment plans to customers that need financial support, including a three-month option, a six-month option introduced during the pandemic and a 12-month option for eligible LIHEAP customers. Customers can learn more and enroll at NIPSCO.com/PaymentPlans.
• LIHEAP Program: LIHEAP support is available to households that are at or below 60 percent of State Median Income (SMI). The program opens on October 1 for online and mail-in applications. Customers can learn more and find out if they qualify at? eap.ihcda.in.gov?or call 2-1-1.
• Township Trustees: A limited amount of energy assistance funds are available through local Township Trustee offices. NIPSCO customers are encouraged to contact their local Township Trustee to see what help may be available.
• The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (IERA): Provides up to 18 months of rental and utility assistance for renters. Additional information can be found at https://www.in.gov/ihcda/homeowners-and-renters/rental-assistance/.
Customers experiencing difficulty with paying their bill – regardless of their income – are encouraged to contact our Customer Care Center Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. CT at 1-800-464-7726 to determine what help might be available to them. For more information on bill assistance, customers can visit NIPSCO.com/FinancialSupport.
In addition to offering a variety of payment assistance options, NIPSCO offers a number of energy efficiency programs to help lower energy usage and bills. Visit NIPSCO.com/Save for more information on available programs and other ways to save.
For more information pertaining to NIPSCO’s request, visit NIPSCO.com/2023electricrates.