CenterPoint customers in seven southern Indiana counties could see a three-month rate hike next year as the utility company seeks approval for a fuel cost adjustment.
CenterPoint Energy Indiana South filed a petition with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission on Nov. 16 that, if approved, would allow an approximate $13.20 monthly increase in electricity bills for February, March and April for its roughly 150,000 customers in southern Indiana.
The amount is based off the average energy used for an Indiana household, which is 1,000 kWh per month. The utility provides electricity in seven counties: Pike, Gibson, Dubois, Posey, Vanderburgh, Warrick, and Spencer counties.
The rate increase request comes after the utility had to purchase power from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) network due, mainly, to a coal-fired plant becoming inoperable after a turbine failed, according to partially redacted testimony of CenterPoint Vice President of Power Generation Operations Wayne Games.
The turbine failed June 24, leaving CenterPoint’s Culley Unit 3 inoperable for the rest of 2022. Games also testified that volatile fuel costs for the coal-fired plant were also part of the reason CenterPoint filed the petition.
Kerwin Olson, executive director of consumer advocate group Citizens Action Coalition, said utility customers should not be expected to pick up the tab for replacement power when a plant goes offline.
“That always irks consumer advocates because rate payers continue to pay for the power plant,” Olson said. “So, they’re paying for a power plant that’s not producing energy and at the same time they’re forced to pay for replacement power because the power plant is not working.”
The most disappointing and frustrating aspect of the petition, Olson said, was that most of the information is confidential.
“It’s completely unacceptable,” Olson said.
Games testified that CenterPoint, working with General Electric, has found a replacement turbine in a decommissioned coal-fired plant in Montana. GE will purchase the turbine from the plant, disassemble and refurbish it before transporting and installing it at CenterPoint.
The projected in-service date for the replacement turbine in Culley Unit 3 has been redacted due to the CEI South filing, which requested that some information in the testimony be classified as confidential. Games said that GE estimated 6-12 months from the time the replacement was located and purchased. The cost of the work to return the Culley Unit 3 to service was also redacted.
Commissioners asked Games during testimony to explain the benefit of this approach to CEI South customers. Games’ entire answer is redacted.
CenterPoint’s motion for these redactions says Games’ testimony contains “competitively sensitive trade secrets and protected critical infrastructure information.”
The commission’s decision on CenterPoint’s petition is pending, but Olson said he expects one by January.
Recently a NIPSCO cost-recovery petition was denied a similar request after a fire at its Schahfer Unit.
“There have been occasions where the commission has denied cost recovery,” Olson said. “Sometimes it has been necessary for consumer advocates to get involved and make those requests. It’s hard to say what the commission would do absent of stakeholder involvement.”
Karl Schneider is an IndyStar environment reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @karlstartswithk
IndyStar's environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the nonprofit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: CenterPoint files for rate hike following coal plant malfunction