NewsPublic Affairs / June 30, 2020

Utilities Ordered To Keep The Lights On Until Aug. 14 Despite Unpaid Bills

Original story from   IPBS-RJC

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Duke Energy is one of several regulated utilities that's been asked to further suspend disconnections due to COVID-19.  - Rebecca Thiele/IPB News

Duke Energy is one of several regulated utilities that's been asked to further suspend disconnections due to COVID-19.

Rebecca Thiele/IPB News

Many Hoosiers who are unable to pay their energy bills won’t face shutoffs for another 45 days. On Monday, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission ordered some utilities to continue the moratorium on shutoffs through Aug. 14. 

Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition, said it’s a positive move for utility customers.

“It's even a better thing that they left the door open for a future extension depending on the circumstances, you know, that developed over the next couple of months," he said.

But the order only apples to the utilities the IURC oversees. Several small, unregulated utilities aren’t under the IURC’s jurisdiction. One day after IURC issued the order, Gov. Eric Holcomb extended the moratorium on shutoffs until Aug. 14 for all utilities in the state. He also extended the hold on evictions and foreclosures until August.

The IURC also denied a request to let utilities recover revenue from lower energy demand during the pandemic.

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Utilities said they lost money during “Stay-At-Home” orders because large energy users like businesses and schools were closed. Meanwhile, the Indiana Energy Association said utilities have been providing service for unemployed Hoosiers and flexible payment options for customers.

The IURC said it might consider letting utilities recover other losses due to COVID-19, but it said it's unreasonable to make customers pay for energy they didn’t use.

“It was an extraordinary, if not absurd, request in the wake of everything going on and shame on the utilities for even suggesting that they wanted to collect that money, but kudos to the commission for closing that door and saying absolutely not," Olson said.

The IURC will also require utilities under its jurisdiction to offer extended payment plans to its customers of at least six months.

Contact Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

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.

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