Dollars & Sense

Petitions urge KCP&L to do more to help consumers boost energy efficiency

Updated: 2013-05-29T03:35:01Z

By STEVE EVERLY

The Kansas City Star

An environmental group on Tuesday delivered petitions to state regulators in a bid to get Kansas City Power & Light Co. to do more to help customers become energy efficient.

Harry Alper, an organizer for the Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club, said KCP&L has acknowledged that energy efficiency is a low-cost option, especially compared with building new power plants. But, he said, the utility has failed to take advantage of the potential.

The petition drive, which collected 1,000 signatures from Kansas City, was meant to show public support for the utility to be more aggressive.

“We found really strong support; people really get this issue,” he said.

Alper said that four years after Missouri enacted a law that allows utilities to recover lost profits when it invests in programs that conserve electricity, KCP&L doesn’t offer comprehensive energy efficiency programs to all of its customers in the state and is spending less on the issue than Ameren, a St. Louis utility.

KCP&L originally proposed an efficiency program for all its Missouri customers. But in early 2012 it reduced the proposal by removing the 270,000 customers in its traditional KCP&L territory, which includes most of Kansas City.

It said then that it had more than enough electricity for those customers and that for now investing in energy efficiency wouldn’t be economical.

That left a program, which includes incentives such as rebates for more-efficient appliances, that covers 300,000 KCP&L customers in the territory the utility took over when it bought Aquila Inc. The area includes suburbs such as Raytown and Lee’s Summit and other towns in western Missouri, and about 20,000 customers in southeast Kansas City.

But Chuck Caisley, a spokesman for KCP&L, said Tuesday that later this year the utility plans to file with state regulators an energy efficiency plan that will cover the rest of its Missouri customers.

“It’s always been an issue of timing, not commitment to this,” he said.

He added that the utility’s investment in energy efficiency compares favorably with Ameren when measured by dollars per customers covered.

Robert Kenney, the new chairman of the Missouri Public Service Commission, told The Kansas City Star’s editorial board on Tuesday that to a “significant degree” the Missouri law that allows utilities to profitably invest in energy efficiency is voluntary. He said it’s “in all our interest to see energy efficiency that’s possible.”

At a rally, more than a dozen supporters of the Sierra Club’s petition drive on Tuesday listened to speakers before the petition signatures were submitted.

Rob Jones, the chairman for Efficiency First Kansas City, an association of local companies, said energy efficiency adds jobs. A letter signed by about 40 local energy-efficiency companies urging that KCP&L do more was also given to state regulators.

Eloise Weatherford, a Kansas City resident, said she had benefited from past incentives that included a rebate for a more efficient air conditioner.

“It’s made my home more comfortable and have lower electricity bills,” she said.

To reach Steve Everly, call 816-234-4455 or send email to severly@kcstar.com.

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