Kansas regulators will review a proposal to let the state's largest electric company raise rates for residential customers by an average of $3 a month.
The Kansas Corporation Commission's hearing Thursday focuses on a settlement involving Westar Energy and representatives of its customers. The deal would let Westar boost overall rates by about $31 million annually, or less than 2 percent.
The company had proposed a slightly higher overall increase, mostly to pay for environmental upgrades at its La Cygne power plant in eastern Kansas.
Westar Energy Inc. is trying to expand its renewable energy portfolio.
The state's largest electric utility says it's accepting proposals from developers to add at least 80 megawatts of wind energy production, through September 13. Westar wants to enter into long-term contracts to help it meet state renewable energy requirements for 2016. The standard requires utilities to get 15 percent of their peak power through renewable sources.
Westar has almost 700 megawatts of renewable energy resources in Kansas, in addition to its coal and natural gas power plants.
A Kansas consumer advocate agency is saying that Westar Energy, Inc. can make necessary environmental improvements at its power plants with a smaller rate increase than it requested.
An attorney for the Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board filed testimony with the Kansas Corporation Commission yesterday, saying Westar could reduce its rate increase request by $1 million and still accomplish its goals.
CURB also argues against Westar's plan to shift the burden of the increase away from large businesses to residential customers.
State regulators took public comments last night on a proposed Westar Energy rate increase.
Westar is asking to raise rates by 2 percent and to shift more electricity costs from large customers to residential users and small businesses. The company said the cost shift is necessary because larger business customers are paying more than their fair share.
About 80 people showed up in Topeka for the hearing, and many of them lined up to blast the proposal.
Westar Energy officials who are dealing with $200,000 in damage at a substation over the weekend say thieves also hit two other substations.
The utility discovered damage Monday at substations near Valley Center and in Wichita. Westar Manager Doug VenJohn says thieves have hit 31 substations just in April. There were only 15 similar thefts in all of 2012.
Westar crews were at six different substations Monday to make repairs related to copper thefts. The company will replace the stolen copper with materials that have no scrap value.
Kansas utility company officials say someone who caused a power outage and more than $150,000 in damage at a substation could possibly be seriously injured.
Westar crews went to check on a Wichita substation at 5:45 a.m. Saturday found grounding cables and copper wire missing and noticed the chain link fence was cut.
Westar says whoever broke into the substation was messing with dangerous materials and probably was severely injured when the transformer shorted out. They could possibly be blind, deaf and seriously burned.