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AES Indiana customers could see lower rate hike, break on disconnections under settlement

By Rebecca Thiele, IPB News | Published on in Business, Economy, Law
More power lines — like those seen connected to this Indiana ethanol plant — can help increase reliability of the grid. Grid resiliency is part of what the AES Indiana rate increase will be used for. (FILE PHOTO: Justin Hicks/IPB News)

Electric bills for Indianapolis area residents were expected to go up by more than $17 a month. Now, that increase could be less than $10 a month. That’s according to a settlement AES Indiana reached between consumer advocates, the city of Indianapolis, and companies like Walmart and Rolls Royce.

The utility said the increase will pay for things like making its electric grid more modern and resilient, promoting job creation, expanding ways to pay bills and tree trimming.

The Citizens Action Coalition originally opposed the increase, but said the settlement is a good deal for consumers. Among other things, it bans shut offs on weekends and certain holidays, further delays disconnects for medically-fragile Hoosiers, and allows late fees for some lower-income customers to be waived once every 12 months. It’s not clear how long these changes will last.

Executive Director Kerwin Olson said the settlement can’t set precedent for other utilities, but it might encourage changes to state law.

“Sends a signal out there that we do have to address and be concerned with our medically fragile households. We do have to do something to address the high number of disconnections,” he said.

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Right now, Indiana law only requires investor-owned utilities to delay disconnects for up to 10 days if discontinuing service would pose a serious and immediate threat to a person’s health or safety. Under this settlement, AES Indiana would delay disconnects for some medically-fragile, lower-income individuals for 30 to 40 days.

READ MORE: Dashboard on utility disconnections highlights need for protections, data

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission still has to approve the settlement. If it does, customers could expect higher bills starting next summer.

“We’re committed to our customers and certainly this settlement gives us an opportunity to look at how we’re supporting our customers who may be at risk of disconnection,” said Kelly Young, director of public relations for AES Indiana.

AES customers can learn more about the rate increase and how it might affect their bills through the utility’s website.

Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.