I&M plans substantial rate hike

BRIDGMAN — Indiana Michigan Power customers will see a hefty increase to their bills next spring if plans submitted Monday to the Michigan Public Service Commission are approved.

I&M announced in a news release that the “Michigan Plan” calls for $478 million in infrastructure improvements at Cook Nuclear Plant, along with general infrastructure enhancements around Southwest Michigan.

I&M serves about 125,000 customers in Michigan.

When fully implemented, the monthly increase for what I&M calls a “typical customer” using 1,000 kilowatts hours (kWh) of electricity per month would be $36.03. This estimated hike includes a planned monthly service fee increase, from $7.25 to $10 a month, which I&M says will cover the true costs associated with providing meter reading, billing and collection and other customer-related services.

In the example I&M provided, costs for a customer using 1,000 kWh/month would rise from $132.84 to 168.87 a month (this includes the proposed fee increase). This represents a 27.12 percent hike. The increase would take effect in spring 2020, pending regulatory approval.

Toby Thomas, president and chief operating officer of I&M, said in the news release that the Michigan Plan takes another step toward better serving customers.

“Cook Nuclear Plant is vital to I&M’s generation system and is a major driver of the Southwest Michigan economy – largely because of well-planned, cost-effective investments and thorough, efficient maintenance and operations,” Thomas said. “In addition to supporting Cook Plant, I&M’s Michigan Plan will boost our reliability infrastructure by pro-actively updating poles and wires while adding more high-tech equipment to power lines, substations and homes.”

The plan incorporates the first two years of I&M’s five-year Distribution Reliability Plan. Over 2019 and 2020, I&M plans to replace more than 1,200 poles, 40 miles of wires and other equipment as it nears expected lifespans.

I&M said the Michigan Plan will address the top cause of customer outages by systematic tree trimming; invest in advanced technological equipment that enhances reliability by automatically detecting and addressing possible system problems; and provide customers with new smart meters that will reduce outage times and give customers more information about their energy use.

The plan will also give most residential and small commercial customers an option for flat monthly billing, eliminate the service charge for income-qualified customers, move 24 miles of lines now in problematic, hard-to reach areas and add more ways to support electric car charging.

The MPSC will review I&M’s base rates and the proposal, using a process that offers opportunity for public review and input. A ruling on the rate review is expected in the first quarter of 2020, I&M said.

For more information on I&M’s Michigan Plan and the regulatory rate review process, visit www.IndianaMichiganPower.com/MichiganPlan.

Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman