Indiana regulators Monday denied a request from utilities to charge ratepayers for revenue the companies expect to lose because of the coronavirus pandemic. Officials also extended a moratorium on utility service disconnection through mid-August.
The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission voted unanimously to deny the request by utilities, who had said they needed to recover millions of dollars in lost revenue over the last few months as businesses closed their doors and factories cut hours and used less electricity.
Duke Energy, NIPSCO, Vectren and other Indiana electric and gas companies had petitioned the commission for permission to recover revenue shortfalls.
“Asking customers to go beyond their obligation and pay for service they did not receive is beyond reasonable utility relief based on the facts before us,” the commission said.
The utilities filed a 36-page petition with the IURC in May in which they claimed the effects of the pandemic, including government orders and businesses closing or moving to remote locations, “have resulted in significantly reduced load and revenues for some utilities.”
The IURC also ruled Monday that disconnection suspensions across the state should be extended by 45 days past Tuesday’s deadline, through Aug. 14.
“Temporarily prohibiting disconnections … is a balanced solution that allows both customers and utilities additional time to enter into reasonable payment arrangements to address any arrearages that may have accumulated and maintain essential utility services for the benefit of all customers, the utilities, and other stakeholders,” the order said.
The commission doubled the minimum requirement for extended payment plans by requiring utility companies to offer payment plans of at least six months to all customers.
While customers won’t be charged for electricity they didn’t use, such as at a closed restaurant or bar, those who struggled to pay their utility bills because of a job loss or reduced income may have to pay more later.
The IURC decided to let utilities track the COVID-19 impacts on the prohibition of disconnections and late fees, “which may be considered for cost recovery in the future.”