Electric rates may be increasing for many Kansas consumers. Why? To pay for a new coal-fired plant?
According to Notice of Public Hearings & Comment Period available at the Kansas Corporation Commission, the reasons Westar Energy cites as creating the need for a rate increase are repair costs from a recent ice storm, investments in new natural gas plants, and investments in wind energy.
It turns out that electricity generated by wind is expensive, even though the federal government pays producers $.015 for each kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by wind. (This payment, made through a tax credit, is set to expire at the end of this year unless the United States Congress extends it.)
In the Wichita Eagle article Residents bash Westar rate plan, we learn that people are angry over the proposed rate increase. Some are suffering a hardship with present rates. According to Rep. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, presently running for the Kansas Senate, “When I’m (campaigning) door-to-door, people say they need help with the utilities.” A rate increase won’t help these people.
As our state, under the leadership of Governor Kathleen Sebelius, moves towards using even more wind power plus other expensive forms of energy, rates will have to increase further. At that time I would not be surprised to see programs put in place where taxpayers subsidize expensive energy costs for low-income households.
Westar probably is getting squeezed some even with the fuel surcharge that is now part of their billing. The cost of many of their raw inputs have risen dramatically over the last few years.
Uranium is up from its $6-7/lb bottom to around $64 currently. Natural gas which was $2-3 around the turn of the century is now in the $7-8 range and has been much higher recently. Everyone knows about oil.
Appalachian coal (eastern) has risen sharply also. Coal sourced from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming/Montana is probably the best value in energy. Too bad the wackos won’t let more coal plants be built that can source PRB coal.
A new nuclear plant would also be a good option for additional generating capacity. Even though uranium has risen 10-fold, the uranium itself is a relatively small part of the costs of a nuclear plant.