After more than a year of preparation, Westar Energy is ready to rebrand on Oct. 1

photo by: Thad Allender

Power lines bisect the skyline at the Westar Energy plant in Lawrence in this file photo from June 2007.

The postcards have been mailed, and billboards and other forms of advertising have helped spread the word that in a couple of weeks Westar Energy will be a thing of the past.

Come Oct. 1, Evergy will be the new name — the result of the merger in June 2018 of Westar Energy, based in Topeka, and Kansas City Power & Light’s parent company, Great Plains Energy, which became the wholly-owned subsidiaries of the new parent company.

The merger brings together $14 billion in equity and an estimated 1.6 million customers in Kansas and Missouri.

The biggest change customers will see is the name change, said Gina Penzig, manager of external communications for Westar. The Westar and KCP&L brands will be retired.

Customers will be seeing the new name on the Westar trucks and on the company’s website, evergy.com, Penzig said. However, customers can still reach both companies at their existing phone numbers and websites. For the time being, outage reporting and bill-paying functions online will not change.

“Part of the reason for the merger was to find a way to stabilize prices and reduce expenses,” Penzig said. As a larger company, Evergy was able to give their residential customers both a tax credit and upfront merger credit.

“There will be additional merger credits in the spring of 2020, plus a moratorium on base rate changes until 2023,” Penzig said.

While tax credits and merger credits were a plus for consumers, at Good Energy Solutions, 641 E. 22nd St., Lawrence, the merger hasn’t brought good news.

The number of installations of solar energy systems has dropped by more than 50% since the merger, said Andy Rondon, a solar consultant with the company, which specializes in commercial and residential installations of solar energy systems.

Rondon thinks a contributing factor to the decline is the way Westar now charges users of solar energy. The company averages a 15-minute window throughout the month of the peak energy use. Part of the customer’s bill is based on that amount.

“That charge is based on the highest usage of the month; you have to pay for that usage even if you only spiked once during the month,” Rondon said. ” Imagine going out to dinner once a month and being charged for the entire month’s food based on that one meal.”

Westar introduced the change last fall with approval from the Kansas Corporation Commission, Penzig said. It depends on how much energy a solar customer uses and how that customer produces and manages energy throughout the day.

“It is better to reflect the cost of serving all customers,” Penzig said. “The rate structure KCC approved has a demand component, and that charge is calculated on how much energy they use during peak hours.”

At the same time, Evergy continues to invest in wind energy, Penzig said, with one-third of the power its residential and business customers need coming from Kansas wind. The Kansas Department of Commerce announced in April that Kansas had surpassed Iowa as the No. 1 producer of wind energy, with 36.4% of the state’s total electricity produced by wind in 2018.

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