Westar Energy explains need for another rate hike

TOPEKA (KSNT) — Hundreds of thousands of Kansas consumers may soon have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for electric bills.

This as Westar Energy requests a nearly eight percent rate hike overall — twelve percent for residential consumers.

“Being a regulated entity, this is the process that we go to, to adjust prices,” said Jeff Martin, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs for Westar.

The utility says the hike is because they have to meet environmental mandates on projects like the LaCygne coal fired plant and the Wolf Creek nuclear plant.

“This is coming to the conclusion of that era and so we believe from here on out the increases will be modest or moderate compared to what they have been in the past,” said Martin.

Although that exact hike may not be approved, consumers should expect to see about a 14 to 15 dollar a month increase for a residential home — and that’s in addition to increases approved late last year.

“There are costs, the LaCygne Project, the Commission has already pre-approved. That decision is done, it’s made. So costs are going to go up, the only question is how much at the end of the day,” said David Springe, Consumer Counsel for the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board.

Of course consumers don’t like it, but rate hikes like this are a regular occurrence.

“Since 2009, in fact, Westar’s had 22 increases in rates for about 530 million dollars,” said Springe.

That amount includes increases for items like transmission or environmental lines, but general increases, like the one Westar is requesting now, usually only happen every two years.

But this week’s request, at $152 million, is the largest since 2009.

Now that the request has been submitted, the Kansas Corporation Commission will have eight months to review it.

They’re expected to have a decision on the matter by the end of October.

If you’d like to weigh in before that, a tentative public hearing has been scheduled for July 21.

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