Duke Energy asking state regulators for rate decrease

After increasing rates last year because of rising fuel costs, Duke Energy is filing for its second rate decrease in four months.

Plainfield-based Duke Energy Indiana filed an application with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission requesting approval of rate changes for its electric and steam services due to fuel costs on Jan. 31. Duke Energy serves about 34,000 customers in Johnson County, and the application was filed as part of the utility’s quarterly Fuel Adjustment Clause, or FAC, tracker.

In the request, Duke Energy announced its intent to decrease its current residential electric rates by 15.9%, or 1.5% over what these customers paid for the same period last year. It would appear on bills as a decrease of $26.60 per billing cycle, meaning a residential customer with a bill of $150.50 right now would see it go down to $123.90. For commercial electric customers, the rates will decrease by at least 12.9% and for industrial customers, the rates will decrease by at least 18.6%, according to filings.

If approved by regulators, the new rates would take effect in March and last for three months into June. This is also Duke’s second rate decrease request, as the company was granted approval in December for residential rates to decrease by 5.5% starting in Janaury, said Angeline Protogere, a Duke Energy spokesperson.

The decreases come after Duke Energy requested several rate increases throughout 2022. Rates increased by more than $34 for the average residential customer in 2022 as a result of continued volatility in fuel markets. The volatility led to a “significant and prolonged” rise in coal, natural gas and wholesale power prices, filings say.

While fuel markets are still volatile, Duke Energy officials have seen prices stabilize in recent months. They’ve also seen improvements in fuel deliveries, which has helped reduce purchased power costs, Protogere said.

“We are passing along those savings to our customers,” she said.

Fuel accounts for a significant portion of the cost of producing power, averaging as much as 38% of a total electric bill in January. Because of this, when energy markets are volatile, it can substantial effects on bills, Protegere said.

When asking for the rate adjustments last year, Duke Energy officials emphasized that they would not be permanent. This is something the utility is stressing once again.

“The rate adjustments are not permanent; fuel costs rise and fall, and we pass those costs to our customers with no profit, so customers pay what we pay,” Protegere said. “Our priority is to purchase fuel at the best possible price, through steps such as long-term contracts and using a diversity of suppliers.”

Along with the rate adjustments, customers may have seen higher bills recently because of higher power usage — especially during the extremely cold temperatures around the holidays. Heating usually accounts for the most energy usage during the winter in a home, and it is very cold, more energy is required to heat a home, she said.

The holidays are also a time when people are home more and use more energy, she said.

Protegere says Duke Energy wants to help customers manage their bills, and is encouraging anyone who is struggling to contact them. There are several options available, including interest-free payment plans, budget billing and usage alerts, she said.

Customers can also follow energy efficiency tips to help save on their bills this winter. Tips include setting thermostats to the lowest comfortable setting, changing air filters routinely, managing water heaters and running full loads of dishes and laundry, according to the utility.

More information about how customers can lower their bills can be found online at duke-energy.com/home/savings/lower-my-bill-toolkit.