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Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) on July 1 filed a rate review with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC). I&M is proposing a $104 million revenue increase, or an approximate 6.5% increase, to make needed improvements.

The actual increase for residential, commercial and industrial customers will vary depending on electricity usage, according to an I&M news release. If the proposal is approved, a typical residential customer, who uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity a month, would pay less than $10 more per month. They will see their bill go up from about $158 to $167 per month, a 6% increase.

Included in the increase is a requested change to I&M’s service charge. I&M proposes raising the service charge to $20 per month from the current $15 per month for a residential customer, and the small commercial customer charge to $25 per month, from the current $19 per month.

“Indiana Michigan Power is ‘Powering the Next’ step forward as we work to redefine the future of energy. We are committed to our customers and continuously focus on new technologies and greater efficiencies, all while controlling costs,” said Toby Thomas, president and chief operating officer of I&M, in the news release. “Investing in high-tech equipment will strengthen and modernize power lines in Indiana, and at the same time enhance the customer experience.”

“Powering the Next” is the company’s slogan for the rate increase and improvements to the system. Following are some of the reasons the company lists for why the rate increase is needed.

Powering the Next in reliability

I&M maintains more than 15,000 miles of power lines and 193 substations in Indiana. Much of the system was built in the 1960s and 1970s and more investments are needed to replace aging infrastructure and provide safe, reliable service.

I&M is Powering the Next in reliability with the following proposals to continue strengthening the electric grid in Indiana to reduce the number and duration of power outages:

• Replacing 120 miles of overhead and underground power lines

• Replacing more than 2,500 poles

• Upgrading 16 substations

• Inspecting and maintaining trees along 4,000 line miles, since trees are the number one cause of outage for I&M customers

Projects approved in previous I&M rate reviews have dropped tree-related outage durations to the lowest point in 5 years, and outages related to equipment issues are at a 3-year low.

Powering the Next in customer experience

I&M is dedicated to providing its customers with value and an overall positive customer experience, including proposed new options to help determine what best fits their energy needs and lifestyle, according to the news release. I&M is Powering the Next in customer experience enabling customers to gain control over their energy use by offering the following:

• I&M plans to continue investing in smart meters as the technology provides customers with a variety of services, including usage data, usage alerts and new programs to help customers develop better energy habits and potentially save money. More than 40,000 I&M customers, including 18,000 I&M customers in Indiana, already use smart meters. I&M plans to install more than 480,000 smart meters by 2024.

• The rate review proposes new programs optimizing smart meter technology including alerts during high energy demand times and rebate offerings.

• I&M plans to expand its payment and billing options with the addition of FlexPay, which is a voluntary program for customers with smart meters. It will provide customers with the ability to pay based on their own schedule and budget.

I&M already offers programs such as average monthly payment plans, paperless billing, income-qualified weatherproofing, electric vehicle incentives and IM Green, a clean energy program.

Powering the Next in new technologies

• In the rate review, I&M proposes plans to continue to protect the electric grid 24/7, 365 days a year from physical and cyber threats, and adding new technology, including artificial intelligence, robotic process automations and other tools to automate processes.

• New self-healing technology will continue to be installed to detect power outages and reroute electricity to customers. I&M plans to install more overhead line sensors and smart circuits. This new technology will enable I&M to respond quicker if an outage occurs and detect potential safety risks.

“With today’s IURC filing, I&M is proposing to make strategic investments to enhance reliability, and to continue to serve our customers and communities,” said Thomas in the news release. “These investments will help our customers by reducing the length of power outages and bring value to customers’ lives.”

Ultimately, the IURC will conduct a review process including several opportunities for public comment.

Typically, from start to finish, this is a 300-day process.

Customers can learn more about I&M’s pending rate review and the regulatory rate review process at www.indianamichiganpower.com/poweringthenext.

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