Kansas regulators want to cut Evergy’s energy efficiency plan

Evergy headquarters in downtown Topeka. The utility's energy efficiency plan could be radically changed under a proposal from regulators. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Evergy headquarters in downtown Topeka. The utility’s energy efficiency plan could be radically changed under a proposal from regulators. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

By ALLISON KITE
Kansas Reflector

Opposition from regulators could derail a consensus plan to provide millions of dollars in energy efficiency programs to Evergy customers in Kansas.

Evergy, Kansas’s largest electric utility, has reached an agreement with consumer and environmental advocates on a variety of programs designed to reduce energy demand and save customers nearly $100 million dollars over four years.

The plan must be approved by the Kansas Corporation Commission. But objections from KCC staff mean there are now two proposals: the original and one that cuts programs by more than 80%.

“KCC staff and Evergy have pretty much stripped everything from the original deal,” said Ty Gorman, Kansas representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

Evergy has had energy efficiency programs — including home improvement and weatherproofing financing — in place in Missouri for years. But establishing those same programs in Kansas has proven difficult.

The company applied to the KCC nearly a year ago to establish a series of programs and subsequently reached an agreement with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board and other stakeholders who it claims would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount comparable to taking tens of thousands of cars off the road.

But KCC staff objected, saying the programs would benefit Evergy more than taxpayers. From now on, the commissioners will decide between the two competing proposals. Evergy signed both, but the defenders aren’t signing the KCC staff-supported version.

“We don’t think it’s better than nothing,” said Dave Nickel, consumer advocate for the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board, which represents residential users and small businesses. “We think it’s going the other way around.”

CURB and environmental groups worked for months to reach a consensus aimed at both reducing emissions and offering programs to help low-income customers.

“It’s just awful what they agreed to, but there was an agreement to bring forward both the original settlement and this new settlement and let the commissioners decide,” said Ashok Gupta, senior economist at the energy for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Evergy spokeswoman Gina Penzig said in a statement that the initial deal or smaller set of programs would be a “positive step forward for Evergy customers in Kansas.”

“For more than a decade, Evergy customers in Missouri have benefited from energy efficiency programs, and we want to bring programs to our customers in Kansas,” she said. “Investing in energy efficiency helps customers use less energy and lower their bills, which is good for household budgets and makes businesses more competitive.”

KCC spokeswoman Linda Berry said in a statement that staff “remain supportive of the initial slate of programs.”

“Staff also support the smaller package contained in the alternative agreement, as it preserves educational and low-income programs while significantly reducing the costs Evergy would require to implement these programs, thereby reducing the amount that customers will have to pay for the programs,” Berry said. .

Evergy, consumer advocates and environmental groups argue that reducing customer energy demand is cheaper than building new power plants or renewable energy, which means that in the long run, even customers who don’t not directly benefit from the programs will benefit.

And Kansas is behind almost every state in its investments in energy efficiency policies and programs. The state ranks 47th out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Now the KCC could have a hearing on the new proposal in early December, before Evergy and stakeholders file briefs to persuade the commissioners to pass one package or another. The KCC is expected to make a decision in mid-February.

. regulators Kansas want reduce plan energy efficiency Evergy

. Kansas regulators cut Evergys energy efficiency plan

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