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I&M unveils $500 million in upgrades

Effect on monthly bills negligible

A $500 million infrastructure improvement plan by Indiana Michigan Power over the next decade promises to provide a dependable source of consumer energy.

Powering Up Northeast Indiana already is under way and chiefly consists of upgrading transmission systems as the nation’s coal plants disappear.

I&M spokeswoman Sarah Bodner said customers will see less than a $1 increase on monthly electric bills. The average electric customer uses 1,000 kilowatts monthly and pays about $100.

“It will be in the cents,” she said of increases to customers’ bills.

Bodner said the project also won’t require the utility to obtain permission from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

“The investment demonstrates the long-term commitment I&M and (American Electric Power) have to northeast Indiana,” Paul Chodak, I&M president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “Upgrading our transmission system is essential to ensure that we will continue to provide reliable power to households, businesses and industries in our area.”

The company serves more than 401,000 electric customers in Indiana. Powering Up Northeast Indiana could take up to eight years. Bodner said the project is necessary because some transmission systems are 40 to 60 years old.

The project involves strengthening and rebuilding power lines, installing new transmission lines, building and bettering substations, and updating equipment.

Plants in the Roanoke, Auburn, Monroeville and Decatur areas are among the sites slated for improvements. In Fort Wayne, I&M plans significant work at the Spy Run substation to Robison Park.

The I&M work is part of a larger project by American Electric Power, the utility’s parent firm which has 5 million customers in 11 states.

Separate from the $500 million project, I&M recently sought a rate increase to help cover rising operating costs.

A year ago, it received an order from the state’s regulatory commission giving it about half of what it wanted – $85 million. I&M had sought to boost its annual operating revenue by $174 million.

The utility said the typical bill would have risen about 22 percent. That would have meant a $20 boost on the average monthly bill.