Lawrence, central Kansas electric bills will increase following approval of Evergy rate hike

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TOPEKA — State regulators approved a utility rate change that will decrease electric rates for Kansas City customers and push up prices for other customers in the state after a long tug of war between proposed corporation price hikes and commission staff estimates over fair prices.

During a Tuesday meeting, the three-member Kansas Corporation Commission voted to approve a unanimous settlement agreement with Evergy, the state’s largest utility company.

“The order seeks to balance the financial interests of averaging with the protection of the substantial interests of Kansas energy ratepayers,” said Commissioner Dwight Keen. “In my opinion, the order achieves this balancing goal and is quite meritorious in that regard.”

The rate change, which will be implemented in December’s billing cycle, will result in Evergy collecting around $41 million more in revenue from ratepayers.

Evergy customers in the Kansas Central territory, such as Topeka, Lawrence, Manhattan and Wichita, will have a 4.05% rate increase, paying approximately $4.64 more per month in electric rates. Customers on the Kansas side of the Kansas City metro will see a 4.75% decrease, or about $6.07 per month.

In the central region, Evergy serves about 736,000 customers. In the Kansas metro area, the utility serves approximately 273,000 customers. The new rates will mean the central area will pay $74 million more while the metro area pays $32.9 million less.

The agreement follows months of debate over what constitutes a fair electric rate increase. The utility’s original ask was much higher — Evergy officials first proposed a $218 million rate hike, with a 1.95% rate increase for the Kansas City, Kansas, region and a request to raise monthly bills by 9.7% in the Kansas region.

Evergy’s request would have increased bills by $14.24 for Kansas Central customers. Kansas City-area customers would have seen bills increase by $3.47.

KCC staff told Evergy the increase was “unjustified,” and recommended only a 1.66% increase for Kansas Central and a 7.32% drop for the Kansas City metro in August. In late September, the parties reached the current agreement.

“I think all of us have been living, eating and breathing this for so long that I don’t have questions,” said Commissioner Annie Kuether.

The change is the first since Evergy was formed from the merger of Kansas City Power & Light and Westar in 2018. As a condition of the merger, the company has been under a rate moratorium, unable to raise rates on its approximately 1.6 million electric customers in Kansas and Missouri.

During merger talks in 2018, utility officials disputed concerns raised by consumer watchdogs about how the utility would try to raise rates as soon as the five-year moratorium expired. The utility officials said in 2018 that the merger would stabilize rates for 15 years. But in April, Evergy officials said they needed to raise rates to keep up with such costs as power plant investments and system upgrades.

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: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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