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Rate Hikes Fossilize Energy Future

Don't reward the power company with another rate hike approval if ratepayer dollars go to lobbyists to work against the interests of the public. Per the Citizens Action Coalition, "I&M [Power] bills have increased 48% in the last decade, and now the monopoly is filing their fourth base rate case in the last 6 years."

I recognize the need for system upgrades being asked, but not when the influence of lobbyist dollars (paid by ratepayers) yields Statehouse plans that deny valuable practices--like community solar--that would serve our future better. Rate hike dollars that fossilize the energy system shouldn't impede Hoosiers who want to do the right thing.

I opposed I&M's proposed rate hike at a public field hearing of the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) in South Bend, IN, on October 30, 2023:

I speak tonight to oppose a rate hike while millions of ratepayer dollars are spent to work against the best interests of the public. According to the Cause Number 45933 will force customers to pay $4 million in dues for multiple industry trade association memberships, which lobby for the utilities’ interests.

Our money is being used against people who seek solutions that would serve the grid, and instead of looking forward, the money is being used to further fossilize a carbon-based grid.

For example, remember Y2K and the start of the 21st century, over 2 decades ago? This year, 2023*, the Indiana Statehouse convened its so-called 21st Century Energy Policy Development Plan Task Force, and the day its Final Report was released the thinking behind it was already 20-plus years behind the times.

In Indiana we are not allowed to develop real Community Solar, thanks in part to those millions of ratepayer dollars given to special interests in one of the previous rate hikes. And the utility now asks for more.

Lectern for public hearing in front of 7-person panel.
Public field hearing of the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor.

FYI, Community Solar is when a group of private investors (like anyone in this room) spend their own money to build a collective solar panel because none of the participants can build an array by themselves.

People who would benefit include:

  • Those who rent or who don’t own a roof,

  • People who can only invest small sums of money or for a short term,

  • People who live where it’s shady,

  • People who seek grid resiliency through distributed energy, and

  • People who have historically been denied the right to do what’s best for their own health and well being. They would benefit from community solar.

In general, community solar benefits people who want a lower electric bill—not a rate increase.

There are serious Hoosiers who want to change our energy trajectory. But we can’t, because rate-funded lobbyists serve the utilities rather than the ratepayers.

Until the utilities and the people they lobby stop impeding Hoosiers from doing the right thing, I encourage you not to reward them by funding rate hikes such as this.

I thank you for your service and for being here tonight to hear community input.

*Corrected Nov.1, 2023: The final report was available before November 1, 2022, as required by statute.


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