State to investigate AES charges for natural gas plant outage
The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is investigating whether utility customers should pay for the extended outage at the Eagle Valley natural gas plant in Morgan County.
The plant owned by AES Indiana, formerly Indianapolis Power and Light, has been offline since late April due to issues when employees tried to restart the plant after it was down for maintenance. That forced the utility to buy power off the energy marketplace costing AES an extra $1.2 million.
As a result, residential customers’ bills will go up by about $1 a month through February. Jennifer Washburn serves as counsel for the Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana. She said the outage was AES’s error and the company should absorb the cost.
"Ratepayers paid for this power plant already. Ratepayers have paid for the fuel. We're going to pay for the maintenance and repairs that were caused by this outage. So we're already paying for enough," Wasburn said.
Anthony Swinger is the spokesman for the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor — which asked the state to investigate. If AES can’t justify the cost of the outage, he said it’s possible ratepayers could get a refund through fuel adjustments.
“You're talking about costs that rise and fall based on any number of factors. So, depending on what we learn, depending on how the case goes — a rate credit would be possible," Swinger said.
In an email statement, AES Indiana said it took steps to reduce costs for customers. The company has made repairs to the Eagle Valley plant, but said — due to an unrelated incident — the plant still isn’t running yet.
"Safety and reliability are AES' highest priorities. We will take the time needed to conduct a comprehensive review of the engineering processes and operational procedures at Eagle Valley. AES Indiana maintains its commitment to reliably serve our customers," the company said.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.