Indiana households have more energy insecurity than all but seven states in the country. That’s according to a survey released this week by the Energy Information Administration.
Nearly 30 percent of Hoosier households surveyed in 2020 said they forgo food or medicine to pay their utility bill, have received a disconnection notice, or keep their home at unhealthy temperatures to save money.
During the past two years of the pandemic, the state required several Indiana utilities to keep a detailed records of how many people are behind on their bills and have had their power shutoff.
“Given the inflation that we've seen since the first of the year and given the very high energy costs of the high wholesale natural gas prices — and how they are flowing through to customers on their natural gas and electric bills — we think it's appropriate to have the data collected again," said Anthony Swinger, spokesperson for the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor.
Several Indiana electric and gas utilities have asked the state’s permission to make big, temporary rate increases to adjust for the higher cost of fuel due to market disruptions from the war in Ukraine and the pandemic. Duke Energy's request for 16 percent rate hike has already been approved.
Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues, including this series on climate change and solutions.
Swinger said without the data on how these changes are affecting consumers' ability to pay, the state can do little to address these issues.
“What's the impact on customers being shut off? What's the impact on customers' abilities to pay their bills and stay current on their accounts? We don't know that without seeing data," Swinger said.
Another study shows Indiana has had the third most shutoffs of any state during the pandemic so far.
Several utilities offered longer payment plans or waived fees to help keep customers connected during the pandemic. Data on current unpaid bills and disconnections could shed light on whether those efforts have worked.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.