INDIANAPOLIS — State regulators will consider a request from Indiana utility companies to charge ratepayers for revenue the utilities expect to lose due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission ordered an investigation into the impact of the pandemic on ratepayers and utilities two weeks after Duke Energy, Indianapolis Power & Light and eight other Indiana electric and gas companies petitioned the commission for permission to recover revenue shortfalls.
The IURC's investigation will also focus on a request by the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor for the commission to consider ratepayer protections, which include an extension of the state's moratorium on utility disconnections past June 30, along with waiving all deposits, late fees, convenience fees and reconnection fees.
Both issues will be combined into one investigation that the IURC will conduct in two phases.
In the first phase, the IURC will request information regarding disconnections, utility fees, customer payment arrangements and regulatory accounting. The commission plans to issue an order before the June 30 disconnection moratorium deadline.
The IURC will hear the utility companies' request to recover lost revenue from customers in the second phase. The commission alluded in its filing that the impacts of the pandemic could be long-lasting and that they "may not be fully understood for months, if not years, as the effect is ongoing."
In its order, the commission also said, " … it would be unreasonable to expect that the financial, health, and other hardships currently being experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic would immediately disappear upon expiration of any public health declaration or disconnection moratorium.”
The utility companies filed a 36-page petition on May 11 with the IURC 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."
It is not clear how much customers' bills could increase if the IURC grants the utility companies' request.