Evergy customers in Kansas could soon get discounts and rebates to upgrade their homes to be more energy efficient.
The electric utility, which serves 1.2 million customers in Kansas and Missouri, filed a plan with Kansas regulators last week to invest in a host of energy efficiency programs for business and residential customers.
The plan, which Evergy says is worth $42 million in net customer savings, requires approval by the Kansas Corporation Commission.
Brian File, director of demand side management for Evergy, said the company wanted to remove barriers for customers to help improve their energy efficiency.
“This is investment that customers are behind and that really benefits them in the short run and the long run,” File said.
Evergy’s plan would add to the fees on customers’ bills to offer programs such as weatherization for low-income residents, energy audits to educate customers about their usage, and rebates to encourage customers to invest in more energy-efficient water heaters and air conditioners. Their bills would go up slightly in the coming years. But over the long term, all of Evergy’s customers, not just those who take advantage of the program, benefit, Field said. The utility offers similar incentives for its business customers.
Evergy says the reduced emissions associated with the plan would be equivalent to taking 45,000 cars off the road. The energy saved could power 39,000 homes.
The plan, Evergy says, would reduce demand by 260 megawatts, a much larger sum than the 190 megawatts of solar the company plans to add in the coming years.
Promoting energy efficiency, advocates note, is cheaper than investing in new wind farms, natural gas facilities or coal plants to meet growing demand.
Programs such as financing improvements through residents’ energy bills, offering incentives for local plumbers and hardware stores to stock energy-efficient appliances, and giving out smart thermostats are commonly offered by utility companies. Evergy has a slate of programs for Missouri customers, but its Kansas offerings are far more limited.
As a state, Kansas ranks 47th out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for energy efficiency policies and programs, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
When Evergy’s predecessor in the Kansas City area, Kansas City Power & Light Co., tried to invest in energy efficiency in 2016, the Kansas Corporation Commission rejected parts of the program, so it withdrew the rest.
Cost effectiveness of energy efficiency
Evergy is already on a path to reduce its carbon footprint. The company plans to retire all coal operations at the Lawrence Energy Center by the end of 2023 and expects to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045.
But utilities have to design their operations to meet demand during huge summer peaks. That means having generators that can be called upon to create massive amounts of energy only a few weeks or days a year.
Ashok Gupta, senior energy economist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said it’s important to consider not just the costs Evergy customers will save — but the increased costs they’ll avoid if the company doesn’t have to build more generators.
“Yes, the energy efficiency programs cost, but other things the utility would have done also cost and cost more,” Gupta said.
Gupta said earlier this year that resource planning for electric utilities is like a delivery service that has to buy a new truck to deliver one package once a year.
“The whole system is designed for peaks, and fixing people’s homes is so much cheaper than to keep building more and more and more and keep buying more and more and more trucks that you hardly ever use,” Gupta said.
Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.