State regulators strike special fees charged to homeowners generating own power through solar energy

photo by: Stephen Koranda/Kansas News Service

Solar panels are pictured on the roof of a home in Lawrence.

Homeowners who generate their own solar power to supply part of their electricity needs will no longer be charged a special fee by the state’s largest electric utility, Kansas regulators have ruled.

The Kansas Corporation Commission on Thursday issued an order that repeals a special rate system for customers of Evergy who produce their own power through solar panels or other means.

The ruling means that Evergy customers who use solar panels to produce a portion of their own energy now will be charged under the same rate system used by standard electric customers who don’t have solar panels.

The ruling eliminates a special $3 per kW fee that had been charged to those customers. Alternatively, solar customers also were subject to a $35 minimum monthly bill. That minimum monthly bill requirement also was eliminated.

Evergy and other energy companies have argued that solar users should be subject to certain minimum monthly bills, even if their households are using little to no power during the month. That’s because the utility company incurs certain costs to ensure that the household has immediate access to power, if the solar panels can’t meet all the household’s energy needs.

The Kansas Supreme Court, however, ruled in April that the pricing system was discriminatory. The KCC was ordered by the court to review the rates again. Thursday’s hearing was a result of that court ruling, which affects not only solar users but all types of customers who produce their own power. Those customers are known as residential distributed generator customers or DG customers.

“Many states, including Kansas, are struggling to appropriately value residential DG resources, while ensuring those customers pay their fair share to support the grid,” KCC Chairman Andrew French said. “Evergy’s proposals weren’t the right way to address those concerns under current law, but the issue won’t go away. We need to look for new solutions.”

The KCC previously had approved the special rate structure in 2018, but groups including the Sierra Club and Vote for Solar appealed the decision.

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