Westar residential rates would go up $3 per month under proposed settlement

? Residential customers of Westar Energy would see a $3 per month increase in their electric bills under a proposed settlement announced today.

The proposal will next go to the Kansas Corporation Commission on Thursday for consideration.

Westar originally wanted to increase residential and small business rates while reducing rates paid by big businesses and industrial customers. Under Westar’s initial request, residential customers would have paid $7.50 more per month.

But under the settlement, that “re-balancing” of rates won’t happen.

“What didn’t happen was the huge revenue shift,” said David Springe, consumer counsel for the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board, which represents residential customers and small businesses.

Under the proposal, Westar will receive a $30.7 million rate increase, which it says it needs for environmental improvements at the La Cygne coal-fired power plant in eastern Kansas.

Of that increase, residential customers would pay approximately $18 million more; small general businesses, such as downtown stores, $12.7 million; medium-sized businesses, $3.9 million; large industrial customers, $3.2 million; cities and other street lighting customers, $2.1 million; and school districts, $500,000.

Under a separate contract, Occidental Chemical plant in Wichita, one of Westar’s largest customers, will receive a $9.7 million rate reduction.

For residential customers, the $3 increase represents about a 2.5 percent hike, Springe said.

During a public hearing in July, Westar officials said more of the rates needed to be paid by residential customers because big businesses were paying more than their fair share.

But dozens of speakers disagreed.