State agency seeks smaller Westar electric rate increase

8/23/2013

TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas' largest electric utility can make necessary environmental improvements at its power plants even with a smaller rate increase, a Kansas consumer agency said Wednesday.

TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas' largest electric utility can make necessary environmental improvements at its power plants even with a smaller rate increase, a Kansas consumer agency said Wednesday.

David Springe, an attorney for the Citizens Utility Ratepayers Board, filed testimony with the Kansas Corporation Commission saying Westar Energy, Inc., could reduce its rate increase request by $1 million and still accomplish its goals, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Westar is seeking a $31.7 million rate increase from its customers in order to pay for $1.2 billion in upgrades at its LaCygne plant in eastern Kansas to satisfy Environmental Protection Agency regulations. CURB said in its testimony that Westar could get by with a $30.6 million increase.

CURB also argues against Westar's plan to shift the burden of the increase away from large businesses to residential customers.

"Unlike Westar, we don't lower anyone's rates if other classes are having increases," he said in an email statement.

Westar serves nearly 700,000 customers in eastern and central Kansas, including the cities of Topeka, Lawrence, Wichita and Pittsburg.

The KCC will hold a hearing on Westar's request Sept. 26 and 27, with the three commissioners making a decision by Dec. 11. Public comment will be accepted through Sept. 23.

According to Westar's request, residential customers would see their rates increase by about $7.50 a month, while small businesses would pay another $21.5 million overall. Medium-sized businesses would see their rates drop by about $18.5 million and large industrial users would pay about $17.4 million less.

Education and special contract customers also would get a break, paying about $49.1 million less.

The Topeka-based utility argues the shift is necessary to more fairly distribute costs and that large industrial users are more stable in their energy demands than residential customers.

Springe said CURB's rate calculation was similar to one applied to a recent rate request from Kansas City Power & Light.

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