Home Environment & Climate News Kansas Utility Proposes Solar Power Access Fee

Kansas Utility Proposes Solar Power Access Fee

Evergy, Kansas’s largest utility, has filed a proposal with the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC), the state’s public utility regulatory agency, to charge customers with solar panels approximately $25 a month to pay for the cost of servicing the special needs of their homes, which both pull power from and deliver power to the electric grid.

The proposal comes after the Kansas Supreme Court struck down a previous “demand charge” imposed on homes and businesses with roof-top solar hookups, ruling the charge violated the state’s law barring price discrimination.

Ceasing Cross Subsidization of Solar

Evergy says it needs to recoup the costs of managing the two-way flow of power to homes equipped with distributed generation systems such as roof-top solar panels. If roof-top solar households don’t cover the added costs, homes and businesses lacking distributed generation sources unfairly subsidize the costs of the solar power systems, Evergy says.

Under Evergy’s preferred proposal, the utility would charge every customer a grid access fee of $3 per kilowatt of solar panels installed. This would add approximately $20 to $30 a month to the bill of the average house with a typical 7 to 10 kilowatts solar power system.

Because the $3 per kilowatt is applied to installed solar panels, customers without solar panels would pay nothing.

Additionally, because the proposed grid connection fee is charged to every customer, it doesn’t discriminate against solar users, even though it results in the vast majority of customers paying no access charge.

Alternative Plans Charges Everyone

If regulators, or ultimately Kansas’ courts, reject Evergy’s preferred proposal, it has submitted an alternative plan to charge all customers a minimum of $35 fee per month just for accessing the electric grid it maintains. This fee would not be felt by most of Evergy’s customers, however, because it would count against their energy consumption.

For the households that use less than $35 dollars a month in electricity, a class which includes some roof top solar customers, but which Evergy also admits includes poor households, this would mean an increase in their power bills.

Evergy’s filing with the KCC reported in 2016 about 140,000 bills in low-income areas were less than $35 for at least one month of the year.

Someone has to pay for the additional costs roof-top solar systems add to the electrical grid, if not solar customers, then everyone, Bradley Lutz, Evergy’s director of regulatory affairs, said in testimony filed with KCC.

State regulators held virtual public hearing on the proposed rates on November 5. It is currently accepting written public comments concerning Evergy’s proposals until December 21.

H. Sterling Burnett
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

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