Lawmakers hope rate study could lower electricity prices

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Kansans are seeing higher electric bills than they have in the past.

“We have seen significant price increases in Kansas in the past decade or so,” said Westar Energy spokeswoman Gina Penzig.

A new state law requires companies like Westar, KCP&L, and Empire Electric to participate in a rate study.

“The legislature and policy makers really wanted to have a good understanding of what drove those increases and what benefits maybe came out of them for consumers,” Penzig said.

The most recent government statistics from 2017 say rates in Kansas are higher than any bordering state as well as the national average.

The study could help companies and the industry as a whole see where they could make changes.

“This is having a third party looking at it, so just in the recent past, any time we go in to set prices there’s a little bit of a study that goes on because we have to provide supporting information as to why we’ve made that request, most recently it was actually a request to decrease prices a little bit,” said Penzig.

She said the transition from coal to renewable energy was costly in the beginning with new equipment and transmission lines.

Now many in the industry are hoping to find savings in the new constantly changing energy field.

“We want to see services provided to our constituents in the most economic and efficient manner,” said David Nickel, consumer counsel for the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board.

“How do we best manage the different environments that are so dynamic at this time, and are there better practices, are there best practices that the commission could employ that could actually help to lower rates,” Nickel said.

“A study will allow us to look at things in the future, what we can do,” he said.

It’s unclear when the energy study will happen though. On Tuesday, lawmakers couldn’t come to an agreement on what company should conduct the study.

But energy prices shouldn’t go up in the meantime, at least not for many Kansans. The state’s largest energy suppliers, Westar and KCP&L, that merged as Evergy, say they don’t plan on raising prices for the next five years.

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