TOPEKA Residents of northeast Kansas, including Lawrence, will see a 5.1 percent increase in their monthly electric bills, while southern Kansans will see a cut of 4.8 percent under an order filed today by the Kansas Corporation Commission in Westar Energy's rate case.
Overall, the KCC action means Westar, the state's largest utility, will receive an annual increase of $3 million in rates, a far cry from its requested $84 million increase.
The three-member commission said in a prepared statement that the order "will allow Kansans and our state's economy to continue to benefit from a strong utility that efficiently generates electricity, encourages conservation and meets its environmental responsibilities, all at just and reasonable rates." (See the order.)
Northern region rates will increase $24.2 million. That region includes Lawrence, Atchison, Leavenworth, Olathe, Topeka, Emporia, Manhattan, Salina, Hutchinson and Parsons.
The average residential customer's bill in that region will increase approximately $3 per month, from $58.50 to $61.50, the KCC said.
For customers in the southern region, the average residential bill monthly bill will decrease approximately $3.47 from $72 to $68.53. That area includes Wichita, Arkansas City, El Dorado, Fort Scott, Independence, Newton and Pittsburg.
The commission's order brings the two regions rates closer together.
But those electric bills for all Westar customers could be even more because the KCC will now allow Westar to pass through its fuel costs on to consumers. on a monthly basis.
Westar, the state's largest electric company, said it needed an $84 million rate increase to offset financial problems from former chief executive David Wittig's tenure, and to improve services.
Wittig, who resigned in 2002, was convicted this year on charges that he and another former Westar executive looted the company.
The KCC, however, said it excluded costs from the rate request "associated with the misdeeds of prior Westar management."
The KCC also said its order gives Westar overall revenues close to existing rates. "These current revenues have enabled Westar to improve its balance sheet, attract investors, refinance debt, move toward investment grade credit ratings, and yet generate electricity at the cheapest rates in Kansas," the KCC said.