WASHINGTON – Duke Energy, the biggest investor-owned power utility in the country, is asking Indiana regulators to force the state’s residents and companies to pay for electricity they have not used due to the coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered businesses and kept people at home.
Last week, Duke Energy Indiana and four other big investor-owned utilities petitioned the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, arguing that lower electricity sales should be considered an expense caused by the pandemic and therefore the utilities should be allowed to recover the lost revenue from ratepayers.
The Duke Energy Accountability Coalition, an alliance of public interest, social justice, watchdog and environmental groups from across the six states Duke serves, issued this response:
Using the coronavirus pandemic to demand that families and businesses pay for electricity they did not use is a cynical exploitation of a public health and economic emergency that has cost Indiana more than 1,400 deaths and more than 600,000 jobs.
Duke, with nationwide profits in 2018 of about $2.6 billion, is trying to enrich its investors at the expense of hardworking Indiana residents and businesses at the height of an unprecedented economic crisis. Duke is the U.S. poster child for its poor treatment of ratepayers, but it’s not surprising that its cohorts also joined the petition, which is symptomatic of monopoly utilities to view ratepayer bank accounts as company property.
We urge Indiana regulators to quickly dismiss this petition – as we would hope regulators would in any other state where Duke or other utilities are brazen enough to propose it. Duke and the other utilities behind the petition should instead focus on ensuring that all customers retain power in this emergency, deferring payments if necessary until Indiana and the rest of the nation recover.
The Duke Energy Accountability Coalition will closely monitor the situation in Indiana and other states in Duke’s service area, and will make sure that ratepayers, public officials and the news media are made aware of any efforts by the utility to make families and businesses pay for electricity not used during the pandemic.
The Duke Energy Accountability Coalition of public interest, social justice, watchdog and environmental groups was formed to hold Duke Energy, the largest investor-owned U.S. electric utility, accountable for its policies, which impact almost eight million Americans in six states – and by extension, impede the nation’s progress toward a clean energy future.