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Westar Reaches Agreement That Would Lower Utility Rates

Westar has reached an agreement with staff of the Kansas Corporation Commission and several other interested parties that would reduce Westar’s annual revenue by $66 million.

For the average residential customer, that will mean a decrease of about $3.50 a month.

Westar's original request was for a $52 million increase.

While the settlement agreement will end up decreasing rates for most users, it still includes changes to how self-generators, like solar users, will pay for electricity.

The plan would create a separate billing class that would make solar users pay a demand charge in addition to the typical usage rates. Solar advocates say this is an attempt to prevent the solar industry from growing.Dorothy Barnett is executive director of the Climate and Energy Project. It's one of three groups involved in the rate case that did not agree to the settlement. "I feel confident that if the commission really looks at the data, and looks at the numbers, they will see that this is not fair for consumers," she said. 

The issue of how to handle solar customers fairly is one that Westar, solar advocates and state regulators have discussed for more than three years. 

“It is important that we look at how we modernize rate structures in order to allow solar to grow in a way that it doesn’t have a potential to have significant impact on the prices that other customers pay,” Westar Spokeswoman Gina Penzig said.

The agreement still needs to receive final approval from state regulators. If approved, the changes will go into effect in September.

Brian Grimmett, based at KMUW in Wichita, is a reporter focusing on the environment and energy for 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.

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