Dollars & Sense

KCP&L seeks 2.3 percent rate increase in Kansas

Updated: 2013-12-11T05:25:10Z

By STEVE EVERLY

The Kansas City Star

Kansas City Power & Light electric bills could increase in Kansas to help pay for the utility’s share of a $1.2 billion environmental upgrade to a coal-fired power plant.

The increase, if approved as filed to the Kansas Corporation Commission, would raise rates 2.3 percent, or $12.1 million annually. A typical residential customer would be charged an additional $2.35 a month.

The regulatory agency has eight months to consider the request, but an outright rejection is unlikely. Regulators in 2011 approved the pollution equipment upgrade for the La Cygne power plant in Kansas along with cost estimates for the work. That leaves just a review to see whether the money was properly spent.

“The only issue is whether they spent the money prudently,” said James Zakoura, an attorney who represents some of KCP&L’s commercial customers in the state.

Utility officials said Tuesday there would be at least one more rate request to pay for the upgrade by the time the work is completed in 2015.

The La Cygne plant is jointly owned with Westar Energy, the biggest electric utility in the state, which previously requested a $31.7 million rate increase to begin paying for its share of the upgrade. State regulators in November approved all but $1 million of Westar’s increase. The increase, which costs the average residential customer about $3 a month, went into effect in December.

KCP&L’s Missouri customers will also see their rates go up to pay for the environmental work on the plant, but under Missouri rules, a rate increase can’t be requested until the upgrade is completed.

KCP&L officials said the upgrade to the power plant is a good deal for its customers.

“Our La Cygne plant provides electricity at a competitive price, and these environment upgrades are the most cost-effective option to improve air quality,” said Terry Bassham, president and chief executive of KCP&L.

Environmental groups have been critical of the utility for spending so much money to extend the life of a coal-fired power plant when they see more environmentally friendly and cost-effective options such as a natural-gas-fired plant.

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

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