Energy costs increase for Kansas consumers


Earlier this summer, the Kansas Corporation Commission gave both Kansas Gas Service and Evergy the approval to tack on a recurring charge to customers’ monthly bills. The charge, which will last for multiple years, is so KGS and Evergy can incrementally recoup the extraordinary costs of natural gas prices set over a year ago during Winter Storm Uri in February 2021.

The recurring charges might decrease if ongoing federal investigations into possible market manipulation by natural gas wholesalers produce recovery. Both KGS and Evergy will pass the recovered money to customers.

It is yet another turn in the Kansas electricity saga that is likely to ramp up again in 2023, as Evergy looks to complete their Sustainability Transformation Plan to enhance transmission and renewable energy.

However, according to the Kansas Industrial Consumers Group and its initiative Kansans for Lower Electric Rates, this should be a concern for Evergy customers.

In February 2022, KLER proposed a state bill which sought to cap electric rate increases in Kansas at 1% above customers’ monthly bill from the previous year for 10 years, with unregulated things like fuel costs and other unpredictable variables like transmission rates remaining uncapped. During testimony in the committee hearing, KLER’s lawyer expressed that electricity in Kansas should be a free market. The bill, which featured a tighter regulation on electricity in Kansas, did not pass the committee.

Alongside KIC in opposition to the STP is Kansas Strong, an oil and gas resources fund which informs the public how Kansas prospers through petroleum products.

The latest advertisement from Kansas Strong asks, “What has happened in every single state that has received over five percent of its electricity from renewable sources: large increases or decreases in electric rates?”

A contestant on the fictional game show called Flip That Switch reckons that since the air and sunlight are free, electric rates must be going down. But the contestant is corrected by the host, who says, “Electric rates have increased dramatically!”

While Kansans receive significantly more electricity from renewables than 5%, Kansas Evergy customers have not seen an electric rate increase since the investor-owned utility’s founding merger in 2018. Evergy’s streamlined costs of operations have lowered the price 4% for their customers while staying below the rate of inflation.

However, former Westar Energy customers indeed saw a dramatic 63% price increase on their annual electric bills over the span of 20 years prior to Evergy’s merger. The higher price was the cost of federally-mandated emission controls for coal-fired plants and investments into fuel-less wind generation which reduces its captivity to natural gas prices.

A contradictory spending projection from one of Evergy’s past STP filings was made known by KCC Staff in July. Evergy will meet with the KCC on Dec. 13 to finalize Evergy’s current capital spending plan.

Jim Zakoura, president of KIC, confirmed he is continuing to represent KIC after his Overland Park office was absorbed into a larger legal firm earlier this year.

Edited by: Glorianna Noland