Duke files plan to upgrade tech, but approval means rate hike

WLFI File Photo
WLFI File Photo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – Duke Energy Indiana filed a plan Friday with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to modernize its aging electric grid, but if it’s approved customers will see an increase in rates.

The seven-year, $1.9 billion plan uses a combination of advanced technology and infrastructure upgrades to improve service to its customers and provide them with better information about their energy use, officials with Duke Energy said.

“Today we still deliver power much like we did a century ago, but there’s technology now that can help utilities reduce power outages. With advanced systems, we can pinpoint problems faster and get the lights on sooner while providing customers with better information,” Duke Energy Indiana President Doug Esamann told News 18 in a release.

Duke said there are many benefits in the plan such as fewer and shorter power outages using “self-healing” systems — a technology that can automatically detect the problem, isolate it and reroute power leaving fewer customers left in the dark.

Another upgrade will be advanced meters which are read automatically. This will eliminate manual meter reading and reduce bill estimates when meters cannot be reached in bad weather. Also, with the new meters there will be quicker turn over in connecting and disconnecting service as it can be done via remote.

The new advanced meters are equipped to tell the company your power is out, which will help Duke identify who doesn’t have service instead of relying on customers to call. Advancements in software will also provide customers more personal information.

According to Duke Energy, better information is available through the new meters to help manage your personal energy use. Approximately 40 percent of the nation has already made the transition to the advanced meter technology, Duke said.

Officials said there will be improved power reliability and better safety precautions in updating and replacing the aging electric grid — which includes substations, utility poles, power lines and transformers. The upgraded power lines will reduce the overall power consumption by about one percent

However, if the plan is approved by Indiana state utility regulators, customers will see a gradual rate increase averaging about 1 percent per year between 2016 and 2022.

IURC has yet to set a hearing date, but said a decision is expected by next spring.

Duke serves more than 800,000 customers within Indiana.

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