Topeka The public will have its say this week on a proposal by Westar Energy to increase rates on average residential customers by $7.50 per month while cutting rates for major industrial and commercial businesses.
The proposal would increase Westar's revenue by $31.7 million. It would raise residential bills by 8.8 percent and small businesses by 6.2 percent, while decreasing industrial bills by 8.4 percent and bills that public schools pay by 7.6 percent.
A public hearing on the proposal is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Kansas Corporation Commission, 1500 S.W. Arrowhead Road.
Westar says it needs the rate increase to meet EPA-required upgrades at the coal-burning La Cygne power plant.
And Westar says it needs to shift the rate-structure burden because big business customers are paying more than their fair share.
“Electricity provides great value, and we are looking to the commission to allow us tools that help keep it affordable as costs rise," said Mark Ruelle, president and chief executive officer of Westar. "First, we need to make sure rates are fair and reflect the cost of providing service to each type of customer."
The Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board, which represents residential customers and small businesses, says the proposed increases are way out of line.
"Small-business owners, those people up and down Massachusetts Street, should be hopping mad," said David Springe, consumer counsel for CURB. "This is a big impact on the small mom and pop stores."
Since January 2009, Westar has received 18 increases for a total of $469 million.
The KCC hearing in Topeka will also be available via video conference at three more sites: Kansas State University-Salina, Pittsburg State University and Hutchinson Community College.
The KCC will accept written comments from the public through Sept. 23. Comments regarding the case should reference Docket No.13-WSEE-629-RTS and should be sent to the Kansas Corporation Commission Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, 1500 S.W. Arrowhead Road, Topeka, Kansas 66604-4027. Comments may also be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The KCC has until Dec. 2 to make a decision.
Springe urged consumers to submit written comment to the KCC if they are unable to make the meeting.