There is no aspect of human life that is not impacted by money. The cost of living is rising, and there is nothing the general population can do about it. Paying monthly bills is a significant stressor, and it does not help that utility companies are constantly raising prices. One of these companies is CenterPoint Energy. They are the only provider of electric services in southern Indiana, and they have requested a significant electric rate increase. This proposal would impact many families, which is why so many people have spoken out about it.

          Many variables impact electric bills. One of the most well-known reasons is the change in seasons. When the weather changes, homeowners are forced to change their energy usage, switching back and forth from heating to cooling. Current world events also shape a bill. If a plant closes or their supply is affected, they will likely raise rates. It is also important to not leave the lights on, devices running, or things plugged in if one wants to attempt to lower energy consumption. But what consumers cannot control is when utilities raise rates to cover the cost of the coal and gas needed to run their power plants. They are also likely to make customers pay more when their plants shut down, and they must repay companies for the energy they bought. CenterPoint Energy has claimed that their proposed rate increase has to do with making changes to the company, even though they are a billion-dollar company.

          CenterPoint Energy is a utility company that provides natural gas and electricity. They serve approximately 4 million homes and businesses within six US states: Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, and Texas. They also serve 2.8 million customers by maintaining their poles, wires, and electric infrastructure. The company was formerly known as Vectren and was purchased by CenterPoint Energy Inc for $6 billion in 2019. They currently hold a monopoly over electricity in Southern Indiana; there are no other electric companies the people can turn to. Their submitted request would raise the electricity rates for these customers under IURC Cause No. 45990.

          Their request has caused an upset with their customers. Electricity companies raise rates all the time, so why is this time so controversial? CenterPoint’s request asked to raise their rates by $118.8 million (a 16.02% increase) in three phases; the third phase would take effect in March of 2026. They would also increase their fixed monthly charge, which is the amount paid before a customer uses any energy. They would increase the price from $10.84 to $23.20 monthly, a 114% increase. The average customer’s monthly rate would be increased by at least $47; some would go as high as raising $63.33. Unfortunately for CenterPoint customers, they have already paid the highest electricity bills in Indiana since all the way back in 2008. This rate increase has caused concern for many customers. Because this is such a drastic increase, many people are concerned that they will not be able to pay their bills.

          One of CenterPoint’s representatives claimed that this drastic increase in cost is due to the utility company attempting to improve its systems and begin to shift to clean energy. Previously, in 2022, CenterPoint proposed a shift to wind and solar power in which the company would open two new plants for around $1 billion. These plants would only be open 10% of the time during peak energy usage. This proposal would require significantly less money than they are currently requesting in their current proposal. CenterPoint also claims on its website that it wants to have net zero carbon emissions by 2035 and offer affordable programs for its customers. The representative’s claim was also a cause for confusion because renewable energy is often considered significantly cheaper than fossil fuels; some go as far as to say it would make the companies that use it money. Fossil fuels are in high demand and have a low supply, which increases the cost. Renewable energies are abundant and can range from $0.04 to $0.10 per kWh, while nonrenewable energy can cost up to $0.22 per kWh. The representative’s short explanation does now fully explain the extreme rate increase requested.

          The rate increase process goes through many stages and many different people. The utility company sends the request to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC). After they send it in, they must inform their customers of the pending case within 45 days of the filing date. The case is then assigned to an Administrative Law Judge who presides over the case. Then, it is the public’s turn to comment during hearings in the largest town in the area of the increase. During the parts of the trial where the public is not present, the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) represents them. The OUCC testifies on their behalf, followed by a rebuttal testimony from the utility company. The OUCC, utilities, and investors cross-examine each other during the IURC evidentiary hearing. All parties wait until the IURC issues their final decision. Typically, rate cases take 10 to 12 months from the initial filing date to the finalization of the commission’s decision. It is projected that the final decision for CenterPoint’s case will be available in the fall of 2024.

          CenterPoint Energy is raising rates for their customers, so it is crucial that those people speak up and make their feelings of displeasure known to the company and commission. On February 29th, a Public Field Hearing was held at the Old National Events Plaza. At this hearing, the public could swear in and testify under oath. They gave speeches on why the rate hike is not a good idea and how it will affect their lives and families. The proposal will harmfully impact the average customer but will have detrimental effects on poor people and people who are sick. With over 100,000 people in Evansville affected by this proposed change, many of those people will likely face unfortunate consequences. Hundreds of these customers showed up to a hearing, and dozens of them spoke. Unsurprisingly, none of them were in favor of CenterPoint Energy’s request. Many customers questioned why it was their responsibility to fund this company’s investments when they are so wealthy. Some went as far as saying they would leave the Evansville area entirely if the request went through. The new Mayor of Evansville, Stephanie Terry, addressed this issue on her Instagram, writing:

               “In short, I am concerned that approving this rate case will have a negative impact on

               our residents, and that it will have a negative impact on our city. This is what residents

               are telling us every day. And as their mayor and elected leader, it is my responsibility to

               share their concerns—our concerns.”

For people unable to attend these meetings, the Citizen Action Coalition has created a premade email form where people can send messages to their representatives to express disproval of CenterPoint’s requested rate change. Using leads to a form that will be sent to Indiana’s Utility Consumer Counselor Bill Fine. Using leads to a form that will be sent to the local representatives in Evansville.

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