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I&M given about half of requested rate hike

Electric customers face increase, but size isn’t yet clear

Indiana Michigan Power didn’t get what it asked for but will still benefit from a rate increase that will add to the electric bills of thousands of customers.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission issued an order Wednesday concerning the September 2011 petition the utility filed for a rate hike. I&M sought to raise its annual operating revenue by $174 million but will get about half – $85 million.

The company serves nearly 180,000 electric customers in northeast Indiana.

I&M has 30 days to respond to the commission’s order. At that time, increases to ratepayers will become clearer.

The typical residential customer pays $86 a month, I&M said last March, but it is uncertain how much that person would pay under the new rate structure.

The utility said last year the typical bill would rise about 22 percent. That would have meant a $20 boost on the average monthly bill.

I&M said the proposed increase would help cover rising operating costs. A company official last March said it had invested $440 million since its last rate case in 2009.

The utility has the right to make a fair recovery on that investment to continue to generate and deliver electricity to customers, the company said.

Sarah Bodner, communications director for I&M, on Wednesday said the company hasn’t had time to review the commission’s order but would publicly respond in coming days.

Anthony Swinger, spokesman for the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, which represented the public’s interest in the rate case, also declined to comment.

“We’re still reviewing the order,” he said Wednesday evening.

“We had three field hearings in Fort Wayne, South Bend and Muncie (last) April. We also had 16 days of testimony in Indianapolis. There were thousands of pages of testimony and pleadings from various parties. It was a very large case.”

In late April last year, the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor said it was recommending that I&M receive just $21.8 million of the rate hike it requested.

“Our analysis shows that a partial rate increase to ensure a continuation of safe, reliable service is justified,” Utility Consumer Counselor David Stippler said last year in a written statement.

When the commission determines whether a utility may alter its rates and charges, it examines several issues, including the revenue requirements for the utility as well as evidence presented by the state Office of Utility Consumer Counselor and any interveners.

Once a final decision is rendered, the utility must file revised tariffs and supporting documentation.