Evergy’s proposed rate increases are too high, Kansas regulators announce

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TOPEKA — State regulators say a detailed financial audit shows Evergy’s proposed $218 million rate hikes are unjustified.

The Kansas Corporation Commission on Tuesday announced its staff had determined Evergy should lower rates in the Kansas City area and slightly increase rates for the rest of the state.

The investor-owned utility, which serves about 1.6 million customers in Kansas and Missouri, asked to raise rates in April, following a five-year moratorium on rate increases. The moratorium was part of the agreement when regulators approved the 2018 merger of Westar and Kansas City Power & Light.

Evergy asked for a 1.95% rate increase, which would generate $14.1 million in revenue, for the Kansas City, Kansas, region. But on Tuesday, regulators said a decrease of 7.32%, or $54.1 million, would be appropriate.

Regulators also bucked the utility’s request to raise monthly bills by $14.24 in the Kansas region, which includes Topeka, Wichita, Salina and other eastern parts of the state. The utility wants a 9.77% rate increase for $204.1 million in new revenue.

The Kansas Corporation Commission staff said a 1.66% increase, or $34.7 million, “was all that could be justified” for the region.

Tuesday marked the deadline for direct testimony to be filed by all involved in the proposal, but commissioners are still a few months away from a final decision on Evergy rate increases. Among other steps, the process will involve a settlement conference to determine if the parties can agree on a resolution to submit for the commission’s approval, followed by either a settlement hearing or evidentiary hearing before the commission.

“While an important part in the process, these results are far from final at this stage,” the KCC said in a news release Tuesday.

When making the ask, Evergy officials told state regulators the raise was needed to keep up with system upgrades, power plant investments and inflation, among other costs. Evergy’s status as a regulated utility allows it to adjust rates to recoup costs of building power plants and distribution infrastructure.

At the time of the 2018 merger, Evergy officials claimed they could squeeze out enough efficiencies to save ratepayers billions of dollars and stabilize rates for 15 years.

In the central region, Evergy serves about 736,000 customers. In the Kansas metro area, the utility serves approximately 273,000 customers. 

A final decision is expected in December or January. 

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: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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