The northern Indiana utility NIPSCO wants to raise rates to pay for new renewable energy projects, but some of the money would also go to maintain its coal plants.
Other utility customers in the state could face similar rate hikes as utilities transition to greener energy sources, at least in the short term.
NIPSCO has asked to increase rates by about $19 a month for the average resident. The price raise would be would be phased in starting in late 2023.
NIPSCO Communications Manager Tara McElmurry said supply chain shortages kept some of the utility’s solar projects from moving forward, which means they have to keep the Schahfer coal plant running for another two years.
“Our operating and maintenance costs are higher than previously planned, had we been able to retire on time if our solar projects had not been delayed," she said.
Kerwin Olson is the executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition. He said the group supports NIPSCO's transition away from fossil fuels, but hopes the utility will explore ways to reduce the financial burden on its customers.
“Unfortunately, what we're going to see for a while is customers paying for the old while they continue to pay for the new sort of these pancaking increases, if you will," he said.
As part of a state pilot program, CenterPoint Energy customers will be able to pay off the cost of its A.B. Brown coal plant over a longer period of time and at a lower rate. Right now, it’s the only utility allowed to do so.
McElmurry said as NIPSCO's coal plants retire, costs should go down because the utility will no longer pay for the cost of fuel. She said any money that NIPSCO receives from selling extra wind or solar power back to the grid would also be added as a credit onto customers’ bills.