NewsLocal News / August 22, 2014

Consumer Counselor, IPL, City Reach Deal For Car-Sharing Program

Lesley Weidenbener - The StatehouseFile.com
Consumer Counselor, IPL, City Reach Deal For Car-Sharing Program

TheStatehousFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – A state agency representing customers has struck a deal that could allow an electric car-sharing program to move forward, even though it would still mean higher rates for power customers.

The deal between the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, the city of Indianapolis, and Indianapolis Power & Light Co. requires that some profits from the BlueIndy car-sharing program be used to offset higher rates for IPL customers. It also calls for better street lighting in the city.

But IPL customers would still pay about 28 cents more per month – at least initially.

The deal now goes to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for consideration.

“We have taken into account the risks of litigation and the concessions the OUCC was able to obtain for the benefit of IPL ratepayers from the city and IPL following intensive negotiations,” said Indiana Utility Consumer Counselor David Stippler.

“IPL customers will also benefit from a creative and innovative street lighting plan, along with the real potential for the establishment of other meaningful energy savings initiatives,” he said. “Accordingly, we believe this agreement is in the public interest and should be approved by the IURC.”

IPL originally proposed a $16 million rate increase that would be used to pay startup costs for the BlueIndy car-sharing program, which will make electric cars available for lease throughout the city at rates that have not yet been published. The program includes the construction of more than 200 charging stations throughout Marion County.

IPL estimated its initial proposal would raise an average residential customer’s bill by 44 cents per month.

The increase was designed to cover an estimated $3.7 million in unfunded program costs for providing electric line extensions to the charging sites and about $12.3 million for installing the charging stations and related equipment, according to the utility consumer counselor.

But not everyone is pleased. State Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, has been an outspoken critic of the car-sharing program and said Thursday she’s not happy with the deal.

“I’m disappointed that the OUCC came up with a compromise that’s still going to require the ratepayers to pay into the private enterprise,” Pryor said. “I do think it should be accomplished with no rate increase. The people who want to utilize the service should pay for it.”

The new deal – which was filed today with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission – reduces the per-customer average charge to about 28 cents per month. Also under the plan, any funds IPL receives through the profit sharing arrangement it has reached with BlueIndy and the city will be used solely to reduce those rates.

In the agreement, IPL and the city also settled on additional concessions regarding the BlueIndy project:

  • Any profit share the city is entitled to will go to IPL for rate mitigation until 125 percent of all costs incurred by ratepayers have been recovered. After that, the city and IPL will equally share in the program’s profits, with IPL continuing to use all proceeds for rate mitigation.
  • The city commits to make all reasonable efforts to seek grant funding to help mitigate electric rates, along with efforts to secure other project funding especially from corporate citizens.
  • IPL will provide the state with annual reports including any profit share it receives, the vehicle-sharing program’s impact on IPL’s distribution system and the regional power grid, and data on consumer behavior and use of the vehicles.
  • IPL customers who sign up for an annual membership for the service within the first six months would receive the first two months free, a value of about $26 per customer.

The agreement would also create a new initiative to improve street lighting in IPL’s service territory to enhance energy efficiency and public safety, and provide other public benefits.

The plan calls for IPL to develop an Energy Efficient Street Lighting Program for IURC approval. The program will provide up to $1.5 million for the benefit of interested communities and neighborhoods throughout IPL’s service territory.

In addition, the agreement calls for IPL to explore other energy efficiency initiatives.

Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.