Westar increasing rates

WICHITA, Kansas — Turning on the lights, adjusting your thermostat and opening your refrigerator door. All those things are going to cost you a bit more starting next month. Westar is raising rates and this time it didn’t have to go through public hearings to do it.

The new Westar rate hike is a tariff request which by law doesn’t require public hearings, just sufficient notice.

State regulators have okayed 43.6 million dollars for Westar. For the average homeowner, that is $2.59 more a month tacked onto your bill. If you have a larger home it will be closer to $4.32 a month.

It all starts on April 2nd.

But what is the money going to?

Officials with Westar say it’s all in the name of making sure that your lights stay on and if they happen to go off in a power outage due to a thunder storm or tornado, the new resources can help them get the power back on faster.

“Our transmission system is a two way flow so while we have wind energy in the west part of the state and a load actually in the east part of the state, we need these super highways, these transmission systems to move power back and forth,” said Jeff Martin, Vice President of Westar Energy’s Regulatory Affairs.

Officials say the work will do more than just bring the wind power onto their power grid but it will also improve their reliability as a service.

“As you have more connection points you can move that power around in different areas so if you have one area that is hit with a thunder storm or a tornado, then you have different paths where you can actually move that power around and get our customers restored quicker,” said Martin.

But some customers are concerned that they will have to cover the costs.

“I feel that they should be covering the costs of these kind of things. They’re one of the wealthiest companies throughout the state, they can afford to let us have a break on what we need,” said Wes Hardin, a Wichita resident.

And the extra payments may hit some residents hard, especially those with limited resources.

“Some people may not be able to afford that $2, some people only live on a fixed income and they’re not capable of being able to dig in the couch and find those coins, it’s just not there,” said Hardin.

Now the price increase will still need to be combed through by the KCC to make sure there are no issues with that change. If any are found, customers can expect to receive a refund.

This rate hike is the 20th for Westar in just over five years. There was one small decrease during that time as well.

CURB, the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board, did the math and the grand total adds up to 526 and a half million dollars more for Westar.

An average bill in 2008 was $83 a month. Now, it is closer to $113 a month, a 37% increase.

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