Westar balks at suggestions it needs to decrease rates
Topeka Westar Energy officials said proposals to decrease its rates would force it to "struggle for mere survival."
Westar, the state's largest electrical provider, is seeking an $84.1 million increase. It has divided its rate increase request into two service areas - the northern area, which includes Lansing, and the southern area, which includes Wichita.
Westar wants a $47.8 million increase in the north and a $36.3 million increase in the south. The increase in the north would be about 10.5 percent for residential customers, an average increase of about $6.15 per month.
But various parties in the rate case have urged the Kansas Corporation Commission to decrease certain rates.
For example, the KCC staff recommended an $11.1 million increase in the north but a $41.5 million decrease in the south for an overall reduction for Westar.
The Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board, which represents residential and small business customers, recommended a $5.9 million decrease in the north and a $42.1 million decrease in the south.
And, the Kansas Industrial Customers Group recommended a $2.1 million increase in the north and a $43.8 million decrease in the south.
Consumer groups say Westar's increase request would give shareholders too great a profit at the expense of ratepayers.
But in written testimony filed late Monday with the KCC, James Haines, president and chief executive officer of the Topeka-based utility company, said the proposals recommended by the opposing parties would devastate Westar.
"The commission's own staff, as well as others, have made recommendations in this case that, if adopted, would force Westar into a struggle for mere survival," Haines said.
He said Westar has worked hard to recover from financial problems over the past two and a half years and needs the rate increases to plan for the longterm energy needs of Kansans.
A final public hearing on the rate increase is scheduled for 7 p.m. today, Oct. 6, in Wichita.
Hearings before the KCC start Oct. 17. A decision in the case must be made by Dec. 28.
The Kansas Corporation Commission is accepting written comments from the public about the Westar's proposed rate increase through Oct. 16.
Comments should reference Docket No. 05-WSEE-981-RTS and be sent to the Kansas Corporation Commission, Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, 1500 S.W. Arrowhead Road, Topeka 66604-4027.
Comments also may be submitted by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, through the commission's Web site, kcc.state.ks.us, or by calling (800) 662-0027.