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Archive for Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Westar rates projected to rise again

Westar Energy plant smokestacks billow behind a windmill in North Lawrence against the backdrop of a Kansas sunset Nov. 26, 2007.

Westar Energy plant smokestacks billow behind a windmill in North Lawrence against the backdrop of a Kansas sunset Nov. 26, 2007.

April 1, 2009

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— Westar Energy Inc. customers are likely to see their rates rise $80 million or more over the next year, on top of a significant increase Kansas regulators approved about two months ago.

The higher rates would cover costs associated with upgrading Westar’s transmission system, improving pollution controls at its power plants and investing in wind farms.

The Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities, approved part of the latest proposed increases last month. It plans to consider the other parts this spring and summer, and Westar has told institutional investors such as pension and mutual funds that it expects all the increases to be in place by early 2010.

The increases would deal with costs that weren’t addressed when the commission approved a $130 million increase in rates in late January. Westar has about 680,000 customers in Kansas and is the state’s largest electric utility.

Westar is certain to get the increases, said David Springe, chief attorney for the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayers Board, a state agency representing residential customers and small businesses.

Springe said Wednesday that in recent years, the commission and Kansas Legislature have changed how utility rates are set, to encourage utilities to build new plants, invest in wind farms and upgrade existing plants and transmission systems. State policies make it easier for utilities to recover the costs, he said.

“It’s pretty much a done deal. Your rates are just going to keep going up and up and up,” Springe said. “The system right now is set up to carry out any number of policy objectives, and the consumers’ wallet is there for the picking.”

Neither Westar nor the commission have calculated how much the latest round of increases would cost residential customers on their monthly bills. The increase approved in late January was about 11 percent on average, adding between $6 and $9 to residential customers’ monthly charges.

Westar noted that the additional rate increases will cover the cost of replacing transmission lines and poles, as well as stringing a new high-voltage line between Wichita and Hutchinson. Westar also has built a new natural gas-fired power plant outside Emporia to handle peak demand and invested in wind farms in western Kansas.

Also, the company estimated that it made $243 million in investments in pollution control upgrades in 2008.

“A lot of these are based on the continued investment in equipment for serving our customers,” Bruce Burns, Westar’s director of investor relations, said Wednesday, about the new increases. “The investments are necessary so that we can provide that safe, reliable energy our customers have come to expect.”

In early March, the commission approved an increase in Westar’s rates of nearly $32 million to cover costs associated with upgrading its transmission system. Those charges are now showing up on customers’ bills.

Less than two weeks after the commission’s order, Westar filed another request for a rate increase of nearly $34 million to cover the costs associated with upgrading the pollution controls on its plants. The commission plans to have hearings on the request in May, and Westar hopes the charges will be in place in June.

Commission spokeswoman Abbie Hodgson said the agency plans to have hearings this summer on raising rates to cover Westar’s investments in the Emporia plant and wind farms. The company has told investors rates would rise again from $15 million to $20 million.

At the close of regular trading Wednesday, shares of Westar were unchanged at $17.53.

Comments

willie_wildcat 5 years, 8 months ago

I would say this is one sick April Fool's joke but I know it's not a joke.....As the saying goes everything goes up but the paychecks!

sunnyday 5 years, 8 months ago

I will happily pay more so that investments can be made in cleaner technologies and wind power.

Centerville 5 years, 8 months ago

This is part of Kathy's going-away present to us. She has promised Westar at least a 15% rate increase every year if they will just throw up some wind turbines and, in the press, act like they're all for it. We get less reliable electricity at laughable rates. She gets a federal job.

spankyandcranky 5 years, 8 months ago

I think I'm going to make some investments of my own ... maybe I'll look into adding some solar panels. Definitely, I'll be putting up a clothes line outside, instead of using my dryer in the summer ... as long as it's not raining. I'm already in the process of getting a garden ready so that I can redirect the money I usually spend on vegetables and herbs. So much for not becoming my mother!

deskboy04 5 years, 8 months ago

They need more money. I am sure that the executives need a bonus this year. And don't forget that they care so much about you.

justforfun 5 years, 8 months ago

oneeye_wilbur Your just tryin to stir the pot. It's too bad you are a moron and you suck at it!

matahari 5 years, 8 months ago

hey everybody, must make things a little easier on yourselves and grease up!

Bill Griffith 5 years, 8 months ago

Any type of new energy source is granted a rate of return to the franchise power provider by the KCC after a rate hearing-this is a state statute and is done in a somewhat similar fashion in all fifty states. There are two keys: the cost of each particular type of energy, with energy efficiency being the cheapest, then wind, natural gas or coal (depending on the price of ng), solar thermal in the w. half of the U.S., and lastly, nuclear power. If Westar had built a new coal plant, the rates would be markedly higher. Westar's own comments in this rate case and the KCC's investigation by staff last year bears this out. Secondly, rates may go up but your bill can go down or remain constant by taking advantage of utility ee initiatives or doing it yourself. My bills hover around 30 dollars for 9-10 months of the year due to ee investments and selecting the proper home at purchase time. This is after two rate increases from Westar during this time. This is in a 3/3 with 1900 sq. ft.

JoeRen115 5 years, 8 months ago

What do you think is Sustainable? Fill out a survey for the University of Kansas at let researches know what you think!

http://www.engr.ku.edu/~oswald/EPA.html

bearded_gnome 5 years, 8 months ago

sunnyday (Anonymous) says…

I will happily pay more so that investments can be made in cleaner technologies and wind power.

---okay, open your wallet and I'll reach in so you can pay mine too!

manmade global warming is a hoax. our planet has been warmer than this in the past, climate is constantly changing.

absolutely stupid to make electricity more expensive.

plus these are supposed to be the terminally caring liberals, what about the costs of increased energy bills when you're on a fixed income?

greenie wheenies push for the enviro changes without considering the human misery those changes bring.

danemary 5 years, 8 months ago

"REGULATORS" LOOK LIKE DOPES! AUDIT WESTSTAR AND SEE HOW MUCH MONEY THEY HAVE STACHED AWAY!! AUDIT THEM 1ST, HAVE AUDIT DONE BY MIZE HOUSER OR AN OUTSIDER BUT AUDIT. THEN AUDIT THE "REGULATORS" FOR KICK BACK THEY GET FROM WESTSTAR! BUT AUDIT FOR SURE!!!

The_Voice_of_Reason 5 years, 8 months ago

oneeye_wilbur says and I quote... "You in Lawrence are over educated." That's the spirit Wilbur! Stay dumb and follow the pack; after all, us commie, socialist, libs over here in L-Town wouldn't want the sheep to figure out what the Obama administration really has in store for you! Muuuuuuhahahahaha!

Kat Christian 5 years, 8 months ago

Sunnyday you must make a good paycheck or live in la-la land. I wouldn't trust large corporations to to do what they say about the environment - unless the government forces them to. I think it's just an excuse to get more money just like every one else is doing. Digging deeper into the average citizens pocket. Seems like utilities, retail stores, etc want more money, but give less in the long run. So the more we pay the less we get. It's called GREED.

Kat Christian 5 years, 8 months ago

Sunnyday you must make a good paycheck or live in la-la land. I wouldn't trust large corporations to to do what they say about the environment - unless the government forces them to. I think it's just an excuse to get more money just like every one else is doing. Digging deeper into the average citizens pocket. Seems like utilities, retail stores, etc want more money, but give less in the long run. So the more we pay the less we get. It's called GREED - runs rampant in this country.

Bossa_Nova 5 years, 8 months ago

i saw my utilities reduce by about 25% since i put in more insulation upstairs last october. with the price hikes for power, i say we all need to look for ways to need less power. mass gluttony is getting our country in trouble.

KURocks 5 years, 8 months ago

Hey one eye. If I recall correctly, KU was picked to finish around 3rd in the big 12, but ended up winning the big 12. I guess being from Eudora you don't understand the definition of over-rated.

Poon 5 years, 8 months ago

Oh fuque a duque, here we go again.

Ogallala_Kid 5 years, 8 months ago

Do this a few more times and it will almost be like paying rates that people in SW Kansas pay.

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