Solar Advocates Criticize Westar's Rate Case At Public Hearing

May 23, 2018

A couple dozen people showed up Tuesday night in Topeka to voice their concerns about Westar Energy’s proposed rate increase.

Westar is asking the Kansas Corporation Commission to increase prices by about $52 million. That's after taking into account savings from changes to the federal corporate income tax.

The increase would cost the average Westar customer about $5.90 a month.

The proposal also includes changes to how Westar treats residential solar customers. It would put them in a separate class from other residential users and charge them more per kilowatt-hour.

Westar says the changes would help eliminate a subsidy those customers receive.

“I want to make it fair for all customers,” said Jeff Martin, Westar’s vice president of regulatory affairs.

But Ted Lesiecky, like many of the people who testified at the hearing, said the subsidy doesn't exist.

“Just please reflect and look at the math,” he said. “It’s not there. They can’t prove it.”

Others said the proposal is nothing more than an attack on solar that pits neighbor against neighbor.

“I see this as illogical,” Dan Smalley said. “This really don’t sound right to me.”

While this rate case is separate from Westar’s attempt to merge with Great Plains Energy, its rate request would decrease to $17.6 million if it’s approved in the coming weeks.

The KCC will continue to take public comment on the proposed rate increase online through July 18.

Brian Grimmett reports on the environment and energy for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @briangrimmett. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.