Letter to the editor: Westar’s rush hour

To the editor:

On the hot dog days of summer, Westar starts its obsolete and most expensive power plants as air-conditioning demands blow transformers and overheat powerlines. Like TV SuperBowl ads, or Christmas Eve airline tickets, electricity has a “rush hour” value that is much higher than the average retail rate. Ahmed Faruqui, Westar’s expert witness, calculated its average peak costs as 23.4 cents/kWh, 91 cents/kWh on “Critical Peak” days. Rooftop solar shortcuts all that.

Everybody knows sunlight produces most power on cloudless, long summer afternoons. Generating on rooftops where the cooling is needed allows utilities across the U.S. to downsize everything from generators through powerlines to transformers. As new lines are required, replaced or upgraded, they can be designed closer to utilities’ low demand periods at dawn. Kansas statute allows Westar to only pay 3.4 cents/kWh for excess solar power sent to neighboring households no matter when it is produced. By accepting the measly value of coal, solar families are subsidizing Westar and saving all ratepayers.

With electricity use going flat, there is little justification for new power plants. This leaves the distribution system as the only place Westar can pad its “opportunities for stockholder investment.” This is the threat of rooftop solar. The KCC must decide who to benefit: ratepayers or stockholders.

If Westar wants solar families to purchase batteries to exactly match the system peak, then they should also pay what it is worth: 23.4 cents/kWh.

Bill Dorsett,

Manhattan

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