Your Turn: Kansas needs energy efficiency savings
Kansas may be getting a new set of energy efficiency programs approved by the Kansas Corporation Commission. Under an energy efficiency application that Evergy filed with the KCC (which was modified and supported by several energy efficiency proponents), ratepayer energy savings were projected to be over 240,000 MWhs over the next four years. However, an alternative proposal before the KCC would save less than 20,000 MWhs during that same period, approximately 8% of the savings that Kansas ratepayers could enjoy under a wider set of energy efficiency programs.
This docket is very important to Kansas utility ratepayers for a number of reasons. Energy efficiency is a least-cost energy resource, meaning that it is a less expensive source of energy for Kansans than generating electricity. With energy costs increasing due to inflation and other causes, energy efficiency proponents believe that Kansans should have a meaningful opportunity to reduce their energy bills and improve system reliability through energy efficiency offerings.
In view of Winter Storm Uri, ratepayers should understand that energy efficiency is a highly reliable source of energy. While renewables are intermittent and natural gas may not always be available or may be high-priced, energy efficiency is an energy resource that remains stable and affordable. With the volatility in the energy marketplace, it is important that Kansas begins to use energy efficiency as a dependable energy resource for Kansans to maintain reliability while also lowering energy bills for all customers.
Kansas has remained behind most other states in energy efficiency efforts. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranks all states with respect to how well they institute energy efficiency policies and programs. In the most recent scorecard, Kansas currently ranks 49th, tied with South Carolina. Kansas received only 3 points out of a possible 50 with respect to energy efficiency. Without a robust set of energy efficiency programs being offered to Kansas ratepayers, Kansas could remain in the cellar of state rankings.
While Kansas has not had substantial energy efficiency programs in the past, Missouri ratepayers have had opportunities to lower their electric bills through energy efficiency programs offered by their utilities for nearly a decade. Some believe that Kansas utility customers should have the same opportunities that Missouri customers have had to lower their energy bills through energy efficiency. Missouri ranks 29th in the ACEEE energy efficiency rankings of states, twenty positions higher than Kansas.
One of the highlights of Evergy’s modified energy efficiency proposal is a program (i.e., Pay as You Save or PAYS®) where low and moderate income Kansans can pay the costs of purchasing energy efficiency measures through the savings that these measures generate. Many low and moderate income families cannot afford to shell out the money needed for energy-saving appliances such as energy efficient HVAC systems. Several energy efficiency proponents believe that a PAYS® program in Kansas will allow such households to upgrade their appliances and experience benefits in costs and conservation efforts.
Energy efficiency sprang out of the energy crisis of the 1970s. Since then, some estimate that energy efficiency measures have saved residential consumers and businesses significant energy costs. It is time for Kansas to start saving energy through a robust set of energy efficiency programs to help meet our energy needs.
— David Nickel is consumer counsel with Kansas Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board.