Less coal, less bills: Evergy customers apply in accordance with the utility’s “sustainability” plan
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Evergy’s plan to spend more than $ 8.9 billion to modernize its infrastructure is too expensive and does not focus enough on moving the electric utility away from coal-fired power , according to the consensus of hundreds of members of the public who commented on the plan.
Since last year, the Kansas Corporation Commission and environmental and consumer stakeholders have reviewed Evergy’s “Sustainability Transformation Plan”,»Which it developed under the pressure of an investor. And despite its name, the plan faced criticism that it seems more geared towards Evergy shareholders than durability.
After some of these complaints, the KCC opened the plan to public comment, receiving overwhelming comments that Kansas electric customers want more price protection and more renewable energy.
“This is what it looks like when a hedge fund is leading a ‘sustainability transformation plan’,” Mission’s Michelle Milburn said in written comments posted to the KCC website Wednesday.
Evergy announced the STP last August after Elliott Management Corporation, an activist shareholder of Evergy, urged the board of directors to make such a plan or sell. The plan does not need the approval of the KCC. The commission will review any infrastructure expenses that Evergy proposes to pass on to customers as part of its normal pricing process.
But the KCC has opened an investigation to review the plan and allow environmental groups, consumer advocates and Evergy to discuss the proposals. Much of the analysis behind the plan – and more detailed information about the plan itself – has been marked confidential and protected from public scrutiny.
Over the past few months, KCC has held workshops on STP before opening up to public comment.
“Now, public comments are part of the agency’s record and can be taken into account by the commission, ”agency spokeswoman Linda Berry said in an email. “The commission will assess the case and determine whether additional information or procedures are needed. “
The plan, presented as a five-year strategic and operational plan, aims to “generate increased value and benefits for all stakeholders in the business, including shareholders, customers, employees and the communities it serves.” , the company said in its announcement. Last year. The plan says the company plans to spend more than $ 8.9 billion by 2024.
The bulk of that – around $ 5 billion – will go towards upgrading transmission and distribution technology to improve reliability. Only $ 675 million is used to produce more renewable energy. The plan calls for removing up to 500 megawatts of coal production and development and purchasing up to 900 megawatts to replace it.
Documents filed with the KCC show that the plan could result in rate increases of more than 11% over the next few years. For its part, Evergy says its rates have become more competitive in recent years and expects any rate increase resulting from the STP to be lower than inflation.
Evergy has since filed Integrated Resource Plans in Kansas and Missouri that outline investments in renewable energy and the retirement of coal-fired power plants. Evergy spokeswoman Gina Penzig said in an email that the company is prioritizing “reliability and keeping energy affordable as we begin to phase out aging fossil-fueled units and add more renewable energy “.
“We appreciate that customers take the time to learn about the plan and share their thoughts, ”said Penzig. “Public feedback will complement our customer research to help us better understand where customers are favorable or affected by the company’s long-term plans. “
Evergy announced this spring as part of her IRP files that she remove the Lawrence Energy Center, a 487 megawatt power plant north of the city, in 2023.
But it will be until 2040 for the company to withdraw “almost all” of its remaining coal production, something stakeholder groups and members of the public want it to do more quickly.
“We don’t have time to gradually lose coal,” Molly Crager of St. Paul wrote to the commission. “We need him to go now. … We knew about the climate crisis years ago and knew it would cost more to wait.
Ty Gorman, Kansas representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, said the environmental group was not happy with STP’s priorities. Environmentalists want to see the company invest in battery storage to help make wind power, which is now only reliable when the wind is blowing, more stable. They also want to see Evergy working on energy efficiency projects to reduce the amount of electricity people use.
Members of the public were also concerned that Evergy’s PTS would mean an increase in their tariffs after a year of economic destruction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Veda Joy, from Leavenworth, wrote that when her family lost power in an ice storm in 2019, they lost their perishable food and stayed in a hotel.
“It took me almost a year to pay off the credit card debt we incurred as a result,” Joy said. “And we weren’t alone.”
Kansas ‘electricity rates, including Evergy and other companies’ territories, were among the highest among surrounding states in March, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Penzig said the company’s rates have become more competitive over the past three years, following the merger between Westar and Kansas City Power & Light, which created Evergy.
Evergy must go through the KCC to increase customer rates, and Penzig said in a statement the company “remains committed to regionally competitive rates.”
The STP, she said, predicts that any rate hike will be lower than inflation.
While the STP does not need KCC’s approval, Gorman said he hopes the public comments will inform the committee’s deliberations and push Evergy to invest more in renewables and energy efficiency. in its next update of the integrated resource plan.
“We really want KCC staff and commissioners to know that the public cares about their energy future,” said Gorman. “They know it is possible to move away from toxic fossil fuels and switch to clean energy while lowering prices for our struggling communities.”