Utility counselor recommends against Vectren plan approval

Indiana's utility consumer counselor has recommended that state regulators reject Vectren Corp.'s energy-efficiency plan, saying it would charge customers more than necessary.

Utility Consumer Counselor spokesman Anthony Swinger said Evansville-based Vectren already brings in enough revenue to fund its energy-efficiency programs.

A state law passed this year requires utilities to seek the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission's approval for efficiency programs by the end of 2017. Utilities can recover the costs of such programs through rate increases.

In August, the Utility Consumer Counselor said Vectren's proposed two-year plan to make customer homes more energy efficient during 2016 and 2017 would raise residential customers' monthly bill by $1.10 for 1,000 kilowatt hours in 2016.

Vectren spokeswoman Chase Kelley said the utility is aware that such programs encourage customers to use less energy, thus impacting the company's bottom line.

"We have to be able to recover our fixed costs," Kelley said.

But the Utility Consumer Counselor believes Vectren is already doing that.

The office's utility analysts filed written testimony last week saying Vectren's plan to recover lost revenues is unreasonable under state law and that the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission should deny it.

The commission has the final say on whether energy-efficiency programs and goals are appropriate.

Utility analyst Edward Rutter said in his testimony that 57 percent of every dollar spent on Vectren's plan would actually go to costs not associated with energy-efficiency efforts.

Vectren is one of five investor-owned utilities in Indiana offering energy-efficiency programs. The company has some 680,000 natural gas customers in central and southern Indiana and another 142,000 electric customers in southwestern Indiana.

Lawmakers last year eliminated a statewide initiative called Energizing Indiana that had provided utility consumers with low-income home weatherization, free in-home energy audits and other services.

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