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BusINess » Business Consumer » NIPSCO wants to snuff 16.8 percent rate hike

NIPSCO wants to snuff 16.8 percent rate hike

A NIPSCO meter reader records numbers from a meter as he walks through a Gary neighborhood. If the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission agrees to vacate NIPSCO's first electric rate request for a 16.8 percent increase for residential customers, it would spare the company and the commission from having to proceed on two major rate cases at once. In the second case filed in November, NIPSCO asked for a more moderate 7.9 percent increase for residential customers. (Photograph by Kyle Telechan, File/The Times.)

A NIPSCO meter reader records numbers from a meter as he walks through a Gary neighborhood. If the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission agrees to vacate NIPSCO's first electric rate request for a 16.8 percent increase for residential customers, it would spare the company and the commission from having to proceed on two major rate cases at once. In the second case filed in November, NIPSCO asked for a more moderate 7.9 percent increase for residential customers. (Photograph by Kyle Telechan, File/The Times.)

NIPSCO filed a joint motion Friday to vacate the first of its two recent electric rate cases, one that called for much more drastic increases for its residential customers.

If the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission agrees to vacate the first rate case, it would spare NIPSCO and the commission from having to proceed on two major rate cases at once.

Right now, both are still busy with the rate case filed in summer 2008. The IURC issued an order in that case in August authorizing the utility to raise electric rates.

But when NIPSCO submitted new rates calling for a 16.8 percent increase for residential customers, consumer groups howled.

Appeals were filed with the IURC and the courts. NIPSCO’s large industrial customers also appealed, charging that NIPSCO’s new consolidated rates would cause costs to skyrocket for many of them.

On Nov. 19, NIPSCO filed a second rate case, something it has long promised to do. It was thought that any increase it asked for in the second case would go on top of the first.

But in a surprise move, NIPSCO asked the IURC to rescind its August order and the rate hikes that went with it.

The new request filed Friday is different from the November request in that it would take the first case entirely out of play.

The company filed the motion along with the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, the city of Hammond and LaPorte County.

In the second case filed in November, NIPSCO asked for a more moderate 7.9 percent increase for residential customers. Industrial users would see rates increase 8 percent under the new order as compared to the previous one.

That was double the overall increase sought in the first case, but NIPSCO said the second case contains a number of features industrial users had sought, including bill credits for large customers who agree to have their power supply interrupted during peak demand periods.

It could be a year or more before the IURC issues any order in the second case. Evidence first must be collected and public hearings held before it can do that.

NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer said the request to vacate the first rate case was in an effort to avoid devoting time and resources for rates that would be in effect for a matter of months at most.

The utility said the second case reflects dramatic changes in customer use and expenses since its first case was filed.

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