Topeka The commission that regulates utilities in Kansas is going ahead with a hearing today on Westar Energy Inc.'s electric rates, even though it and other parties have proposed a $130 million settlement.
The hearing, scheduled more than four months ago, will give the Kansas Corporation Commission a chance to review the agreement, commission spokeswoman Rosemary Foreman said Tuesday.
Foreman said the commission also will consider whether separate rates for Westar's northern and southern systems should be blended together. The southern system, which includes Wichita, has higher rates than the northern, which includes Lawrence, Olathe and Topeka.
Westar was formed by the merger in 1991 of two utilities, and the separate rates are a holdover from before the merger. The commission generally has looked for opportunities to equalize the charges.
The agreement would permit Westar, the state's largest electric utility, to increase rates an average of 11 percent for the more than 675,000 homes and businesses it serves. Its shareholders would be allowed to earn a 10.4 percent return on their equity.
Westar had sought an average rate increase of 15 percent to raise its revenues about $177 million a year. But both the KCC and the Citizens' Utility Ratepayers Board, which advocates for residential and small-business customers, pressed for lesser amounts.
Westar argued it needed to raise its rates to pay for new power plants and wind farms and repair damage to its system from winter storms.