Duke Energy customers upset as increased fuel costs impact energy bills
INDIANAPOLIS — Dozens of Duke Energy customers sent their bills to WRTV Investigates, saying they are concerned about significant increases over the last month.
Jessica Nester in Grant County’s Duke Energy bill was $268 last month and her current bill, due Aug. 5, is $386.
“I was just blown away,” said Nester. “With everything as high as it is, to make such a significant jump with no warning, it makes a big impact.”
Nester said their home is 2,000 square feet.
“We've had consistent bills for the last two years, and this is a huge jump,” said Nester.
Duke Energy customers say they have not changed their energy habits over the last month.
Johnna Markham’s bill in Kokomo is $470 this month compared to $246 last month, a 91% increase.
Laranda Colbert in Sheridan says her bill doubled.
“It’s a significant impact,” said Colbert. “We are a one-income family. I homeschool our youngest kids. An electrical bill increase like this is devastating to our budget."
WRTV Investigates sent examples of customers’ bills to Duke Energy and asked what is behind the increase.
The utility says high fuel costs are to blame.
“Duke Energy is seeing the highest sustained prices for fuel to produce that electricity that we have witnessed in a decade,” read a Duke Energy statement provided to WRTV. “Global demand and tight fuel supplies, as well as labor shortages at coal mines and railroads, are affecting the cost of the power we produce as well as what we purchase in the energy markets. These are not permanent rate increases.”
The utility emphasizes they do not profit from the increased fuel costs.
“Our priority is to purchase fuel at the best possible price, through steps such as long-term contracts and using a diversity of suppliers,” read Duke Energy’s statement. “To lessen the impact on customer bills, we have proposed spreading recovery of some of these fuel costs over a longer period to reduce the rate impact. If you are struggling financially to pay your electric bill, contact us at 800-521-2232.”
The cost of fuel — which includes coal, gas and purchased power — is adjusted four times a year for Indiana utilities.
Duke Energy points out that some customers may also be seeing higher usage reflected on their bills due to hot summer temperatures.
According to the utility, the average temperature for the month of July 2022, 78 degrees was three degrees warmer than it was in July 2021, 75 degrees, and three degrees warmer than in June 2022, 75 degrees.
Duke Energy says it is taking steps to help customers manage their bills, including extending interest-free payment plans for eligible customers to six months and adding $100,000 to our Share the Light financial assistance funds.
Eligible customers can obtain the funds through community action agencies statewide, a Duke Energy spokesperson said.
The sticker shock this month comes as Duke Energy is asking state regulators for a 7.2% rate hike .
Kerwin Olson, executive director with the Citizens Action Coalition, a utility watchdog group, says Duke Energy customers should direct their concerns to the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) and reference Cause No. 38707 FAC-133.
You may send your comments by email to uccinfo@oucc.IN.gov , or by mail to:
Consumer Services Staff Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) 115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 SOUTH Indianapolis, IN 46204
Olson said fuel prices have been escalating this year.
Utilities bill for fuel through the FAC tracker, which is a mechanism that allows the utilities to adjust the price customers pay to reflect fluctuations in the cost of fuel used, like coal and fossil gas, and the costs of any purchased power used to supply electricity to ratepayers.
The Citizens Action Coalition compiled this table (below) with the last two years of Duke’s FAC rates, which change quarterly.
“You’ll see that they’ve been steadily increasing every quarter since last October,” said Olson.
2022 October-December (proposed)