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    NIPSCO seeks to hike electric rates by 16.5%


    September 20, 2022 - Joseph S. Pete, The Times, Munster, Ind.

     

      Sep. 19—NIPSCO wants to charge you more for electricity — about one-sixth more.

      The Merrillville-based electricity and natural gas utility is asking the state to approve a 16.5% rate hike over the next two years. The average residential customer using 668 kilowatt hours per month and paying $120 now would pay $19 more per month.

      Bills would vary depending on electricity usage.

      If approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, the rate hikes would start to kick in next September. Bills would then rise again in March of 2024 and July of 2024.

      NIPSCO, a subsidiary of the publicly traded NiSource, said it is trying to raise funds to modernize its electricity grid, monitor the transmission of electricity and generate cleaner electricity from renewable energy projects.

      "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, which last hiked electricity rates in 2018 and will raise its natural gas bills by 10% in September, is seeking to phase in the latest electricity rate increases.

      The utility said the rate hike will help cover $840 million in new renewable energy generation investments through 2023. It expects to make $50 million a year from selling excess power, which it said it will return to customers through a credit on their bills.

      Customers also will save an estimated $6 a month on their bills after coal-fired plants are retired and NIPSCO no longer has to pass on those costs to consumers.

      "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," said Hooper.

      NIPSCO also will pump another $700 million into system upgrades, new technology and various safety and reliability initiatives. It continuously invests in its electric transmission and distribution system, recouping its investment through state-approved rate hikes and passing additional profit to its shareholders.

      The IURC must approve any rate hikes since the utility has a monopoly on electricity and natural gas in the markets it serves, exempting it from the competitive market pressures that would normally keep prices in check.

      NIPSCO said the investments will allow it to do automotive monitoring that will let it restore service faster, replace overhead and underground cable and defend against cybersecurity threats. It also plans to offer new bill payment assistance programs and launch a new mobile app.

      The public can give feedback to the state on the proposed increase. For more information or to comment, visit www.in.gov/iurc/.

      ___

      (c)2022 The Times (Munster, Ind.)

      Visit The Times (Munster, Ind.) at www.nwitimes.com

      Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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