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Industry Leaders Ask Legislature To Fix High Cost Of Kansas Electricity

Brian Grimmett
Kansas News Service
A non-binding resolution under consideration in the Kansas Legislature would call for regulators to resist utility rate hike requests. The coal-fired Lawrence Energy Center generates electricity for Westar, which needs state approval for rate hikes.

A resolution pending in the Kansas Legislature would urge, but not require, state regulators to make electric rates more competitive.

In 2017, Kansas electric utility rates averaged 10.58 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s higher than any other state in the region. It’s also slightly higher than the national average of 10.54 cents per kilowatt hour.

Jim Zakoura represents several large manufacturers, including Spirit Aerosystems and Cargill, as part of the Kansas Industrial Consumers Group. He told the Senate Commerce Committee on Monday that high utility rates make the state less competitive. Without legislative action, he said, major utilities won’t stop raising rates.

“They are clearly saying that the trend is upward,” Zakoura said. “There may be fewer increases but they’re going to keep coming.”

Utility company officials, however, told lawmakers no resolution is needed because their companies also worry about staying competitive.

“The only way we can grow, the only way we can find prosperity, is if the businesses and the residents in the states that we serve thrive,” said Chuck Caisley, a spokesman for Kansas City Power & Light Company and Great Plains Energy.

He also told members of the committee that much of the retail price increases during the past decade came from the added costs of meeting stricter EPA regulations and the construction of transmission lines.

If passed, the resolution would only urge regulators to make changes. But it wouldn’t change the rules the Kansas Corporation Commission must follow in responding to rate hike requests.

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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