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Vectren South Ratepayers to Voice Concerns to IURC

November 28, 2011

EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Vectren South customers pay the highest electricity rates in the state - and many of those ratepayers are expected to show up at an Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) field hearing tonight in Evansville to comment on Vectren's latest request to recover its costs. Evansville Councilman John Friend says Vectren's high rates are hurting economic development.

"It puts southern Indiana into an economically challenged situation. Any particular industry that wishes to come into, say, southwestern Indiana - not just Evansville, but everywhere where Vectren services - will have that on their concern list."

Vectren South is asking the IURC to recover costs for "dense pack" technology to be installed at its A.B. Brown generating station. It says the technology allows it to more efficiently generate power and use less coal in the process. The IURC hearing is at The Centre, starting at 6 p.m.

State Rep. Gail Riecken (D-Evansville) says some Vectren South customers are already having a hard time paying the high rates.

"The IURC is charged with making sure that the rate proposals that are finally approved are reasonable - quote, 'reasonable.' It's supposed to be a 'reasonable' cost. The problem is, 'reasonable' does not translate to 'affordable.'"

Riecken says Vectren has a relatively small customer base - 142,000 - which means paying for projects is much a bigger burden for each ratepayer. She thinks the IURC should take the lead in watching out for them.

"It's transparency and accountability and then it's looking at the entire system to make it fairer and more affordable for the customer."

Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition, says the IURC approved installation of the new dense pack technology as part of Vectren's last rate case and told the company to return when the project was finished to recover costs.

"In the last legislative session, Vectren actually changed the law, via SB 251. It changed some language in existing statutes that allows them now to come back to the commission ask them for immediate cost recovery."

Olson points out that the IURC hears from utility companies every day. He says it is rare - but critical - that the commissioners also hear from utility customers.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN