News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

January 26, 2013

Duke Energy triples dollars for utility assistance

TERRE HAUTE — Duke Energy customers who need help paying their electric bills are being urged to apply for part of $3.5 million set aside for energy assistance in Indiana.

“I would encourage people to take advantage of this program,” said Rick Burger, district manager of Duke Energy in Terre Haute, adding that Duke also offers other programs that can help customers with their bills.

Customers who qualify for Duke Energy’s Helping Hand program can receive up to $300 toward their electric bill if the local energy assistance agency determines eligibility, based on need and other criteria. In the past, customers were eligible for up to $100. Customers who now qualify will see a credit on their monthly utility bill.

The company is contributing $700,000 per year for the next five years for low-income energy assistance, Burger said. That is in addition to the $100,000 in customer contributions added to the Helping Hand program, for a total of $800,000 available for this year.

Also, Duke Energy is expanding the Helping Hand program to include any Duke Energy Indiana customer who qualifies based on income guidelines. Previously, only low-income customers who were at least age 60 and older, or who were disabled, were eligible for the Helping Hand assistance.

If funds are still available by summer, customers can also receive assistance on summer cooling bills, Burger said.

The $700,000 in new funds for the program are part of a settlement between Duke and the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission regarding construction of the Edwardsport power plant in southern Indiana.

“We spent a lot of money, and customers are paying for that plant,” Burger said, “but we’re giving money back.”

Duke Energy customers who want to apply for Helping Hands assistance should go to their local energy assistance office.

In Vigo County, the Western Indiana Community Action Agency handles those applications at its office in the former Crawford School at 705 S. Fifth St. Applicants should enter the south entrance of the building off Deming Street. The office is open 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Burger pointed out that Duke Energy offers additional programs to help customers pay their electric bills:

• Budget billing enables customers to avoid bill spikes by providing predictable monthly payments.

• Adjusted due date lets customers adjust the payment date to meet the timing of their income. The program is popular with senior citizens.

• Indiana Home Weatherization offers free measures through Energizing Indiana, an organization of the state’s major utility companies. Professional energy advisers will install multiple energy saving measures during their home visits. For a free evaluation, call Energizing Indiana at 1-888-446-7750.

• Extended payment agreement spreads out a high bill across a few months, if a customer qualifies. Customers must first contact the company to see if they are eligible.

• Life support program is offered for customers who use electrically powered life support equipment. That is especially helpful for Duke Energy to know in power outage situations, such as storm damage, so that those people can have their power restored as soon as possible, Burger said.

• Third-party notification is a program that sends a copy of a monthly bill to a friend or relative as a watchful eye for the customer, without holding the third party responsible for payment of the bill.

The Duke Energy programs are aimed at making sure customers stay connected to their electric service, Burger said.

“We’re a big company, but we’re a caring company, too,” he said.

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