Kansas customers served by electric utility Westar are facing another rate increase.
It’s a “follow-up” rate increase, coming after several other recent rate increases. The purpose is to pay for “the second phase of its Emporia Energy Center and two Westar-owned wind farms.”
The rate increase is 1.5%. It amounts to around a dollar or so per month for the average residential customer.
Westar has described the Emporia plant this way: As a ‘peaking plant,’ Emporia Energy Center is intended to operate during Westar Energy’s highest customer demand conditions, primarily on hot summer days.” Also from Westar: “Our Emporia Energy Center is excellent for following the variability of wind production.”
This rate increase plus its predecessors are evidence of the fact that renewable energy is expensive. Not only must wind farms be built — that’s the primary expression of renewable energy in Kansas — backup generation must be provided, too.
That’s because wind power suffers from variability, as Westar admits. In particular, the time when when we need it most (hot summer afternoons) is precisely the time when the wind is least available. So we must plan for how much electricity we will want to have available, and then build conventional generating capacity to meet that need. Wind and solar power can’t be counted in this calculation.
So it’s just a dollar a month. What’s the problem?
The dollar per month is just for a residential bill, and just for this rate increase, which is just one of several to pay for wind power. Commercial electricity bills are rising too, which increases costs to business. That means that firms will try to pass along costs to customers. Or firms may look to look to reduce their costs, which usually means layoffs.
Last year Westar proposed a rate increase of $10 per month for the average household in Kansas. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, at that time campaigning for the Kansas Senate, was quoted as saying “When I’m (campaigning) door-to-door, people say they need help with the utilities.”