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Save Kansas Solar Update – Kansas Energy Office

Synopsis Provided by the Climate & Energy Project and Clean Energy Business Council:

Thank you to those of you who reached out to your Kansas House members via phone, email and social media asking for their support for lower electricity rates.

Unfortunately, despite thoughtful remarks from the well-supporting Executive Reorganization Order 46 from Representative Gartner, Carmichael, Moore and Horn, the House voted 74-44 to keep the Kansas Energy Office at the Kansas Corporation Commission. You can watch the debate on this video on Youtube.

The good news is that Governor Kelly appointed a terrific Kansas Corporation Commissioner, Susan Duffy, and has another appointment very soon. We will continue to advocate for the KCC to scale up the State Energy Office staff so they can manage the important process of creating a much needed state energy plan.

 


Updated: 2/25/2020

Save Kansas Solar Update – Climate Change Hearing

Provided by the Climate & Energy Project and Clean Energy Business Council

A Climate hearing at the Capitol building in Topeka was held on 02/10/2020 hosted by the WEALTH Coalition (Water, Energy, Air, Land, Transportation, and Health) The hearing brought together a committee made up of members representing both chambers and parties, as well as members of the community with expertise or commitment to climate action to discuss the science of climate change, the costs to our state and agriculture economy, our health and environment, along with solutions and strategies for resilience.

Climate Hearing testimonies and supporting documents can be found here

Watch the hearing here:

Following the hearing, participants heard from Senator Tom Hawk; Climate + Energy Project’s Executive Director, Dorothy Barnett; and Sierra Club lobbyist, Zack Pistora at the Climate Rally.

 


Updated: 2/13/2020

Save Kansas Solar Update

Provided by the Climate & Energy Project and Clean Energy Business Council

Governor Kelly proposed the development of an energy plan through an independent state energy office. This is an important step in efforts to address higher rates and plan for our future. But the plan is in jeopardy!

TAKE ACTION: Tell your Kansas representatives you want lower electricity rates. VOTE NO on HCR 6031

Click here to look up your representative and/or obtain their contact information.

BACKGROUND: Kansas electric rates have skyrocketed over the past decade and your options for energy efficiency tools, solar installations, or other cost-saving options haven’t increased, leaving you stuck with higher bills. Reach out to your House member today and let them know you want them to vote against HCR 6031. We need a state energy plan to help lower electric rates.

TALKING POINTS:

  1. We cannot expect to address increasing utility rates without a plan! Not advancing an energy plan through an independent energy office further stalls meaningful action and moves us further from addressing our energy needs, leading to continued rate increases, no matter your electric provider.
  2. Kansas is one of only three states that have their energy office in their regulatory agency. The Kansas Corporation Commission exists to provide regulatory oversight and should not be the home of the Energy Office.

Thank you for taking action for a healthier Kansas energy future!

See orginial article,

 


Updated: 1/28/2020

Save Kansas Solar Update

Provided by the Climate & Energy Project and Clean Energy Business Council

Article: Governor Kelly to Move Kansas Energy Office 

Today Governor Kelly took a bold step for our state’s energy future by announcing an Executive Reorganization Order to move the Kansas Energy Office (SEO) out of the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) to the Office of the Governor. We applaud her vision!

For more than a year, the Climate + Energy Project has been advocating for an independent State Energy Office (SEO) and a State Energy Plan. According to the State Energy Program Operations Manual, the overarching goal of an SEO is to transform markets for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies through policies, strategies, and public-private partnerships that facilitate their adoption and implementation. This goal directly conflicts with the KCC’s role as a regulator.

The recently released Electricity Rate Study from London Economics outlined the development of a State Energy Plan as a key strategy for lowering rates in Kansas.

In more than 40 states, State Energy Plans have been created to capitalize on energy as a key resource and area of strategic importance to the state’s economy and economic development efforts. These plans are increasingly seen as an excellent means to set state executive branch and legislative priorities and provide strategic direction and guidance for state utility regulators and other state and local agencies.  In a majority of states, State Energy Offices lead or guide the planning process and plan development.

The London Economics study noted the first step for an energy plan is to have it initiated by a top-level state authority – which is accomplished by creating an independent energy office.

The development of a state energy plan also requires data collection and public input. After developing the goals and specific actions required to reach them, the energy plan should be publicized, implemented, and the progress should be monitored.

The constantly changing energy sector is and will continue to be a challenge for policymakers and our state. A State Energy Plan would address energy supply and demand challenges, ensure reliable and affordable energy, determine potential ways to minimize costs and maximize production benefits, while also supporting economic development. A State Energy Plan would identify and design a pathway for a prosperous energy future using Kansas resources, infrastructure and workforce talent to promote economic competitiveness and a healthy environment.

Congratulations Kansas, and thank you Governor Kelly!


 

Updated: 1/03/2020

Save Kansas Solar Update

Provided by Andy Rondon of Good Energy Solutions who attended the hearing at the Kansas Supreme Court.

Good Energy Solutions Customers and Solar Energy Fans,
 
On Thursday Dec 19th, 2019 the Kansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the “solar demand charge” case. My hope in this article is to explain what was argued in front of Kansas’ highest court and what the implications are of the various outcomes.
 
A quick background on the laws in question – Several decades ago, the Kansas Legislature adopted legislation that prohibits rate discrimination to customers utilizing renewable energy sources (KSA 66-117).  This law provides rather broad protection to renewable energy users (i.e. homeowners with solar) and goes so far as to say that they are protected from any “prejudice or disadvantage on account of the use of any such renewable energy sources.”
More recently, in 2014, the Kansas Legislature passed legislation that allows solar customers to be put into a separate rate class and charged differently than non-solar customers (KSA 66-1265).  This 2014 legislation is what allowed Westar’s Rate case in 2018 that ultimately led to today, where residential solar customers are subject to the demand charge rate (RS-DG).  The 2014 law (KSA 66-1265e) allows for “time-of-use rates, minimum bills, or other rate structures”.   While the RS-DG rate includes a time-of-use aspect, RS-DG falls under “other rate structures”.  In the utility sector, the phrase “time-of-use” typically refers to energy charges, not demand charges.
 
What was argued on Dec 19th, 2019? The utility, Evergy (formerly Westar), argues that because the 2014 law is newer and more specific, it supersedes the older law that protects solar customers. I am not a lawyer, but it is my understanding that this is a legitimate legal argument. New laws regularly conflict with old laws. When conflict exists, it is common for a newer, more specific law to overrule an older, broader law. The question is whether these laws are really in conflict with each other. Can solar customers be put into a separate rate AND not be discriminated against? The answer is a resounding YES!  A rate where solar customers are advantaged (i.e. pay less than non-solar customers) would not be in violation of either law.
 
Where do we go from here? We wait until the Supreme Court gives their ruling. We do not know how long that will be. After hearing the justices ask questions, I feel more optimistic than I thought I would going into it. If you have ~1 hour and 20 minutes to spare, I’d recommend watching the oral arguments on YouTube.  Comment below (at the bottom of this page) with your takeaways, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
 
What are the possible outcomes? I’ve played through a few scenarios in my head and here is what I came up with:
  • The KS Supreme Court rules in favor of Evergy, and nothing changes – Demand charges are here to stay.  Obviously, this is not the outcome that we want.  If we saw this outcome, my fear would be that the other utilities in the area would get more aggressive towards solar customers.
  • The KS Supreme Court Rules in favor of Solar Customers, Evergy moves everyone to RS-DG – I doubt that Evergy wants to do this, but a rate that applies to everyone, by definition, does not disadvantage any single subgroup (i.e. solar customers).  Evergy might not end up choosing demand charges specifically, but they would have the leeway to change the way they bill everyone. This could lead to a complete overhaul of the way the utilities bill and operate.
  • The KS Supreme Court Rules in favor of Solar Customers, Evergy makes RS-DG optional – Evergy likes the demand charges and there are probably some solar customers out there that also like them. Providing solar customers with options, but not forcing them to move away from the standard rate, wouldn’t put them at a disadvantage. Wouldn’t everyone choose the rate that best suited their lifestyle? I think that this is the most likely path.
  • Something else – These are my best guesses and the KS Supreme Court is not bound to any of these. Their ruling could be very narrow or very broad. They can ultimately do whatever they want.
Hopeful,
Andy Rondon
 
 

Updated: 12/18/2019

Save Kansas Solar Update

Provided by the Climate & Energy Project and Clean Energy Business Council

Tomorrow, Dec. 19, the Kansas Supreme Court will review whether the rate design for distributed generation class (demand charges) discriminates against renewable energy users in violation of both Kansas state law and federal law. This hearing is open to the public. Everyone is welcome to attend in person or listen online (instructions below). Proceedings are also archived online.

Sierra Club and Vote Solar’s petition for review was filed with the supreme court and includes a summary of the issues and positions, it can be reviewed here.

 

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If you wish to attend the hearing, here is information to help with your visit.

Kansas Supreme Court
301 SW 10th Avenue
Topeka Kansas 66612-1507
Telephone # 785.296.2256
Thursday, Dec. 19
9:00 a.m.

General and Parking Information: Visitor parking is in the northeast corner of the parking lot and handicap parking is along the front row. All visitors will pass through security which includes a metal detector and x-ray machine. The courtroom will be on the 3rd floor. Each side will have 15 minutes to share their case. Arrive 15 minutes or so early to secure parking, get through security, and arrive in the courtroom before or by 9am.

Watch the Kansas Supreme Court Online

Oral arguments before the Supreme Court are open to the public and may be viewed live online. Proceedings are also recorded and archived so they may be viewed online any time. More information here. If you have questions or concerns about the webstream, call the Appellate Clerk’s office at 785-296-3229.

Information about the Kansas Supreme Court: The Kansas Supreme Court sits in Topeka in the Kansas Judicial Center and is the state court of last resort. It hears direct appeals from the district courts in the most serious criminal cases and appeals in any case in which a statute has been held unconstitutional. It may review cases decided by the Court of Appeals, and may transfer cases from that court to the Supreme Court. It also has original jurisdiction in several types of cases.

See original.

 


Updated: 9/24/2019

Save Kansas Solar Update

Provided by the Climate & Energy Project

Westar solar customers who installed a solar system before October 1, 2018 should have seen a change on their September bill, eliminating the demand charges. If you’re a Westar solar customer and still being charged the demand rate, contact the utility. If you prefer to keep the demand charge rate you must opt-in by calling Westar by October 1, 2019.

The Clean Energy Business Council (CEBC) continues to negotiate with Evergy on options for those who want to go solar. Stay tuned for an update at the end of October!


Updated: 3/27/2019
PRESS RELEASE:

Clean Energy Business Council Reaches Agreement with Evergy

Both parties find common ground in effort to address residential solar opportunities

TOPEKA, KAN. –  After months of debate in the Kansas statehouse, the Clean Energy Business Council presented to the Senate Utilities committee on Thursday that Evergy had agreed to file a new tariff with the KCC to request that Westar customers with solar installations prior to October 1, 2018, and KCP&L customers with installations prior to December 20, 2018, are grandfathered into the old rate and not subject to the mandatory demand charges.“We appreciate Evergy agreeing to grandfather these customers into the old rate so solar users aren’t impacted by prohibitive rate hikes. We’re now focused on how we can make sure Kansas policies enable future solar customers to affordably access the technology for their homes. Our agreement with Evergy included their commitment to collaborate in the coming months to find reasonable solutions that will allow the industry to grow and we’re looking forward to those discussions,” said Dorothy Barnett, executive director of the Clean Energy Business Council.

Vice Chairman of Senate Utilities Mike Petersen (R-Wichita) told Barnett in committee, “I want to thank you and the industry for getting together and figuring out how to help these folks that made their investments (in solar) and coming to a reasonable solution.”

The Clean Energy Business Council introduced SB 124 to eliminate the demand charges approved by the KCC in the fall. “We’ve agreed to stop pursuit of SB 124 this session so the tariff can be filed and we can work outside of the legislature to address how to value the costs and benefits of residential solar for future customers,” said Barnett.

For more information:
Jessica Lucas – 620-931-7161
Dorothy Barnett – 785-424-0444

 
Good Energy Solutions thanks everyone who has written testimonies, participated in rallies, and supported the cause of residential solar in Kansas. It will take a submission of the tariff to the KCC, and then 30 days to approve, but the change should happen right away, so hopefully customers will not see the effects of the $9/kW summer demand charges. Please feel free to reach out to Good Energy Solutions if you have any questions.
 
In addition, Governor Kelly’s nominee for Commissioner of the Kansas Corporation Commission, is Susan Duffy. Susan has been a supporter of transitioning to electric buses that cut costs and pollution.


Updated: 2/26/2019

The hearing took place on Monday, Feb. 25. Listen here


A recent Bill, The Energy Fairness Act, could revoke current punitive demand charges for Kansas homeowners with solar in Westar/KCP&L Territory.

Original Post: 2/8/2019

Customers of Westar/KCP&L with grid-tied connected solar on their homes are currently subject to distributed generation demand charges* on their utility bills. But recently a bill (HB-2190, SB-124) has been introduced to the Kansas House of Representatives and to the Senate. The bill, if passed, would reverse the ruling made in 2018 and actually accomplish two things:

  1. Revoke the punitive charges that were added to residential solar customers and 
  2. Protect solar customers from being singled out again in the future.

Good Energy Solutions is looking for people who are willing to A) write a letter of testimony or B) testify, in person, in front of the Senate Utilities Committee:

  • Are you a residential customer of KCP&L or Westar and live in Kansas?
  • Has the uncertainty in rates (i.e. the new punitive charges) played a part in your decision to not install solar at your home?
  • Are you a solar customer who has been affected by these charges?
If you answered yes to any of these questions and are interested in helping save Kansas Solar and protect energy freedom, please contact Andy Rondon for further instructions. But hurry, letters are due Monday Feb 11 and Oral Testimony will be held in February at the State Capital Building, room 546-S. We’ll keep you updated if you are interested in providing testimony.
 
*So, what are the demand charges and how did this happen?
During the year of 2018: Vote Solar, The Clean Energy Business Council, The Climate and Energy Project, The Sierra Club, and numerous other solar advocates wrote letters to the Kansas Corporation Commission and spoke at public hearings on behalf of the solar industry and Kansas residents with installed solar. Even though Westar and KCPL are owned by the same company (Evergy), they are still separate utilities with regards to rates and policies. Rates and policies are also different over the state line in Missouri, so these rates due not apply to Missouri customers. Kansas rates are as follows:
 
Westar
The KCC approved the demand fee as part of the rate case settlement with Westar Energy in the Fall of 2018. After approval, the demand charges went into effect immediately. All Westar customers that had a solar energy system installed on their residential property after October 2015 are now subject to distributed rate demand charges.
 
The demand for an entire month is determined by the highest 15 minute interval of usage during the hours of 2-7 p.m. Monday-Friday. Customers with solar are charged $9/kW of demand in the summer (June – September) and $3/kW of demand in the winter (October – May)
 
For Example:
A Residential solar customer’s peak demand is 10 kW on a Friday evening at 6:00. The household is a typical home with two adults and three small children.
June – September
10 kW x $9 = $90 in demand charges each month.
October – May
10 kW x $3 = $30 in demand charges each month.
 
 
KCP&L
The KCC approved the settlement agreement for KCP&L in Kansas in December of 2018. The request was not retroactive, so customers with solar energy systems installed before the active date are not affected by the new rate structure. The agreement said Kansas residential customers would see a decrease to electrical rates. However, customers wanting to install solar or a distributed generation energy system are subject to a 3 part rate moving forward.
  1. Summer and Winter demand charges are $9.00/kW and $3.00/kW, respectively
  2. Customer charge will be $14.25
  3. The energy charge is $0.07688 per kWh
  4. Demand measurement shall be a 60-minute intervals
  5. The demand billing period shall be the daily hours of 4:00pm through 8:00pm Central Time, except for weekends, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day
 
Paying attention to when various electrical machines are running between the hours of 2:00-7:00 PM and 4:00-8:00 PM (depending on utility) can help reduce demand charges. Spacing out use of appliances and ac/electric heat can help reduce the demand peak load. For example, run your dryer and dishwasher at night after 7:00 (or 8:00, depending on utility). Make sure the air conditioning does not turn on when cooking dinner on an electric stove, put a timer on your electric hot water heater, so it does not run during those hours, etc.  In order to minimize the impact of demand charges, we encourage you to take a look at new technologies including batteries, smart thermostats, energy monitoring aps (like Neurio that monitors and evaluates energy use), etc. This article shares stories that Kansas solar owners are doing to minimize demand charges.
 
Visit our Facebook page and/or twitter feed to see more information on utility rate structures in Kansas.
 

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