IN Brief

Consumer advocates request investigation into long AES storm outages

By: - July 12, 2023 12:58 pm

Storm-induced power outages left some Indianapolis-area residents without power for nearly a week. (Getty Images)

State and nonprofit utility consumer advocates have asked state regulators to investigate AES Indiana after a recent storm left some customers without power for nearly a week. The utility primarily serves the Indianapolis area.

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) and Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana filed the petition with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) on Tuesday. The request asks the powerful regulating agency to look into AES Indiana’s “practices and procedures for storm outage restoration,” and to see what caused the power losses and what complicated repair.

A line of thunderstorms from Iowa on June 29 turned into a derecho in Indiana, according to the National Weather Service. That evening, AES Indiana told the IURC that power outages had affected more than 70,000 customers, the petition says.

By the next afternoon, the AES Indiana reported the outages had affected about 80,000 customers, and nearly 40,000 were still without electricity at the time of the report. The utility said it had hundreds of employees working to restore power.

Still, about 21,000 customers remained without power on July 1, and about 7,000 on July 2, with 3,000 out on July 3. AES Indiana said it had restored electricity to all of its customers the evening of July 4 — but the petition notes some customers wrote on Twitter that they still didn’t have power.

“We understand that the June 29 storms were especially intense, and that additional storms occurred in the following days,” Indiana Utility Consumer Counselor Bill Fine said in a joint news release Wednesday. “However, we need to gather the facts regarding the outages, especially the factors causing certain customers to be without electricity for more than five days.”

He said customers should be able to have confidence in resilient utility service, adding, “We trust that a Commission investigation will identify any steps needed to improve service quality in the future.”

Coalition Executive Director Kerwin Olson said he wanted to identify the “root causes” for the lengthy outages, storm aside, to boost reliability.

“Hoosier ratepayers deserve a complete and thorough investigation,” Olson said.

Meanwhile, AES Indiana recently filed asking regulators to let it raise base rates for the first time in five years. The utility’s requested hike would add about $17 to the average customer’s monthly bill.


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Leslie Bonilla Muñiz
Leslie Bonilla Muñiz

Leslie joins the Indiana Capital Chronicle after covering city government and urban affairs for the Indianapolis Business Journal for more than a year. She graduated from Northwestern University in March 2021, and has reported for the Chicago Tribune, Voice of America and student publications in Evanston, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and Doha, Qatar.