As a prairie state, Kansas has abundant opportunity for sun and wind energy production. (Mischa Keijser/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Evergy customers with solar panels on their homes will get refunds in the coming weeks for the unconstitutional charges the electric utility required them to pay.
The Kansas Corporation Commission earlier this week approved an order modifying rates for Evergy’s customers on the Kansas side of the Kansas City metro, meant to bring solar panel owners there into alignment with the rest of Evergy’s Kansas customers.
Within 60 days, Evergy must remove what’s known as a demand charge from the bills customers with residential solar panels receive and issue refunds for those demand charges, which the Kansas Supreme Court declared unconstitutional. The KCC ordered the company to do so for the rest of its Kansas customers earlier this year.
In a release, the KCC said the proposal was brought by its staff, Evergy and the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board to restore consistency among Evergy’s Kansas customers.
“The commission agreed there is potential for confusion and frustration over the disparate treatment of residential … customers between Evergy’s two Kansas service territories and that it is in the public interest to treat Evergy’s residential … customers consistently in this regard throughout both of its service territories,” the release said.
For several years and with approval from the KCC, customers who have solar panels were required to pay demand charges, in essence, to help support Evergy’s fixed costs to maintain its grid. That’s because some of those costs are rolled into traditional customers’ energy usage rates, which vary depending on how much energy they consume. Customers with solar panels end up paying less since they are generating their own electricity.
“The intent of the three-part rate was to ensure fair pricing for all customers and to establish rates that reflect the costs of services provided to customers,” said Gina Penzig, a spokeswoman for Evergy. “Customers who have private solar rely on the power grid just as customers who do not have private generation.”
In the summer, solar panel owners who ended up needing to draw energy from Evergy’s grid paid another $3 in the winter and $9 in the summer.
But several climate nonprofits challenged that rate structure, and in April 2020, the Kansas Supreme Court found it was unconstitutional because it discriminated against solar panel owners and charged them more for their energy.
Penzig said Evergy’s Missouri customers with private solar generation are not charged the three-part rate.
Evergy, she said, is “open to discussion and collaboration with stakeholders to develop a framework that would provide fair price structures.”
David Nickel, executive director of CURB, said consumer advocates and the utility need to get together to determine a fair mechanism for solar panel owners to contribute to maintaining the grid.
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