Reduce KCP&L's rate requests where warranted
The Kansas City Star
The latest rate increase request by Kansas City Power & Light continues the trend of dire news for its customers during financially challenging times.
The utility is asking the Kansas Corporation Commission to allow a 12.9 percent jump in rates for its nearly 250,000 Kansas-side customers. If granted, the increase would cost the average residential customer an additional $150 a year.
And it would mean that rates would have soared by a total of 54 percent for Kansas customers since 2007, after five separate requests in that time.
The news isn’t any better for Missouri-side customers in the Kansas City area. Earlier this year, KCP&L announced it wanted a 15 percent increase for those users, which could end up resulting in a total hike in electricity rates of 66 percent since 2007.
Both the Kansas Corporation Commission and the Missouri Public Service Commission will have months to painstakingly review the utility’s cases and grant lower rate increases if warranted.
The commissions charged with looking after ratepayers must scrutinize all the programs and upgrades that KCP&L wants to finance with tens of millions of extra dollars. The review panels especially must be on guard against any unjustified costs sought by the utility. And they should determine whether the plans fairly share expenses between ratepayers and shareholders.
KCP&L previously has noted that depressed electricity sales, after years of dependable growth, have created some economic problems for the utility. The flip side is that significantly boosting the cost of electricity could make it tougher for this region to emerge from its economic funk.
For its part, KCP&L says its cost-cutting actions in recent years — such as reducing executive pay and its workforce — have saved millions of dollars.
In Kansas, the utility is seeking higher rates to pay for sensible projects. One was the addition of wind power to meet a state-mandated goal for renewable energy. The other is to pay for environmental upgrades at a major power station.
But even with those admirable goals, KCP&L as a regulated utility is obligated to spend its customers’ funds as prudently as possible.
The two state commissions must be vigilant, hold the utility accountable and strip out any parts of the rate requests they find invalid.