Topeka Beware of your electric bill.
That's the message from the state's chief consumer advocate on utility issues.
Westar Energy is seeking a $178 million rate increase, but David Springe, consumer counsel for the Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board, said more increases are to come.
"They'll be back," Springe said. "This is rate case No. 1."
Topeka-based Westar has more than 670,000 customers in Lawrence, eastern and southcentral Kansas.
The company is seeking a 15 percent rate increase, which comes out to about $10 more per month on the average residential bill. The proposal is before the Kansas Corporation Commission, which must rule by Jan. 23.
Westar says it needs the rate increase because it has invested more than $1.2 billion in new generation, transmission, facility upgrades and emission controls. Under the proposal, the rates would allow Westar to make a 10.95 percent shareholder profit.
But Springe notes that Westar has announced $3.2 billion in capital investments through 2010 as part of its comprehensive energy plan to improve the system. The company, he said, will be seeking compensation for those expenses.
The current rate proposal is a huge increase, Springe said, but added, "It's just going to get higher."
Westar says it has no current plans for filing another rate case, but warns that it is facing increased costs.
"We have been very upfront about cost increases, and like other businesses, as the costs go up over time, that may be reflected in our prices as approved by the Kansas Corporation Commission," said Erin La Row, a spokeswoman for Westar.