Fewer than a dozen Black Hills Energy customers showed up for Tuesday night’s public hearing in Lawrence.
The meeting was the first of six to take place throughout the state. The Kansas Corporation Commission is gathering input from residents regarding a proposed cost increase for natural gas customers. Black Hills Energy provides natural gas service to the Lawrence area.
On March 31, Black Hills Energy filed an application with the KCC requesting permission to implement a new energy-efficiency cost-recovery surcharge. The company estimates that it will cost close to $2.5 million a year, over a five-year period, to provide energy-efficiency programs to its customers.
The programs are designed to help residents and businesses consume less energy. For example, a homeowner could receive a rebate from Black Hills Energy by purchasing an energy-efficient furnace. Also, the company is offering free in-home audits to help customers identify areas where they could make changes in their home that would save on natural gas costs.
The average residential customer would pay about $13 more per year the first year. That amount could increase to more than $25 by the fifth year of the program.
Matt Daunis, director of energy efficiency for Black Hills Energy, addressed the group at Tuesday’s public hearing. He provided an outline of potential savings for customers. He said special programs would be available for low-income families and organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.
Daunis said a residential customer could save as much as $1,650 through rebates.
Niki Christopher, an attorney who represents The Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board, said at the hearing that few residents would reap the benefits of these programs and most would simply have a higher utility bill.
“Not all customers want to pay for energy efficiency that doesn’t save them money,” Christopher said.
She told the group that about 18,000 out of 97,000 Black Hills Energy customers would benefit, with the majority paying for the rebates and other incentives.
“Believe me, we’re going to be buying these programs from the utilities,” Christopher said.
Two residents addressed officials at the public hearing. Each had concerns that their bills would increase without any benefit to them.
The KCC will conduct other public hearings in Wichita and Dodge City. Video conferencing will be available in Goodland, Garden City and Liberal.
Public comments will be collected through Sept. 2. An evidentiary hearing on the proposed cost increase will be Sept. 13.
Comments may be sent to the KCC through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by mail at KCC Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, 1500 S.W. Arrowhead Road, Topeka, KS 66604, or by phone at 800-662-0027.