Duke Energy residential bills could rise by 19%; advocates plan to intervene

Duke Energy is seeking a rate increase that could leave residents paying about 19% more on their power bills.

Plainfield-based Duke Energy Indiana filed an application with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission on April 4 requesting approval of rate changes for its electric services to increase electric grid reliability and security, add new systems and more. The utility serves about 34,000 customers in Johnson County.

If approved, an increase would be added in two steps with an approximately 12% increase in 2025 and about 4% in 2026, leading to an overall average bill increase of approximately 16% for all customer types. However, the increase will vary between residential, business and commercial customers. Residents using 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month would see an about 19% increase for the two steps combined, appearing on bills as a $27.63 increase, according to the utility.

Duke’s annual revenue increase would be $492 million after the rate increase, according to a news release from the utility.

They are also proposing time-of-use rates where customers can shift some of their power use to times of day when energy is less expensive. If approved, the program would be voluntary for residential, commercial and industrial customers.

Duke Energy has made investments in Johnson County over the last several years to strengthen the local electric grid and increase its reliability, some of which are part of the rate increase request. This efforts include upgrading a high-voltage power line along U.S. 31/Morton Street in Franklin to protect power lines from lightning during a storm and upgrading power line circuits fed through substations in Greenwood. For the substations, crews installed modernized equipment and automated technologies along the power line circuits that can automatically restore power, similar to a breaker in a house, or reroute power to other lines to help mitigate outages, said McKenzie Barbknecht, a Duke Energy spokesperson.

Some of the investments, improvements and upgrades included as part of Duke Energy’s rate increase request include:

  • Adding state-of-art sensors to power lines that can identify power outages and alternate energy pathways to restore service faster.
  • Changing wood poles to steel, under grounding power lines in targeted, outage-prone areas and rebuilding overhead lines.
  • Improving physical security and protections at key infrastructure.
  • Adding 345 miles of new power lines and infrastructure to account for 60,000 new residential and business customers expected by 2025.
  • Closing its Indiana coal ash basins in compliance with environmental regulations.
  • Installing new systems such as the ability for customers to initiate service at a new location online and receive same day service.

Since its last rate increase in 2020, Duke Energy has invested $1.6 billion in its electric grid, power plants and overall system, Duke Energy President Stan Pinegar said in a statement

Three organizations have filed a petition to intervene in the case as of Friday morning — Nucor Steel, Wabash Valley Power Association and Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, the oldest advocacy group in the state.

Some groups are concerned about the affordability impacts the rate increase may have, including Ben Inskeep, the program director at the Citizens Action Coalition.

“That’s a very large rate increase for customers to absorb given that electricity service is really essential for people,” Inskeep said. “It keeps their houses warm and lets them cook. This is an essential service that if they can’t afford it and they get disconnected, people can get evicted from their houses. CPS [Child Protective Services] can take their kids away from them. It can be really life changing if you can’t afford your energy bill and you have to deal with ramifications of having your power disconnected.”

Some of the requests such as cleaning up coal ash and a carbon capture-and-sequestration study — which is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide— seem unreasonable for customers to “shoulder the costs,” Inskeep said. Shareholders should be paying for those responsibilities, not customers, Inskeep said.

The Sierra Club, America’s largest grassroots environmental organization, is concerned about Duke Energy’s transition to clean energy, saying they are the furthest behind compared to other utilities and that is costing customers more money.

“Regulators at the IURC can’t keep allowing Duke to put our money into polluting resources; we need to see investments in clean energy that benefit our communities,” said Robyn Skuya-Boss, director of the Sierra Club’s Hoosier chapter.

Duke Energy is working toward net-zero methane emissions from its natural gas business by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions from electric grid upgrades by 2050, according to Duke Energy.

There is no immediate impact to resident’s bill from the request. A decision is possible in early 2025, the utility said.