My husband and I are working parents of small children. We decided to install solar panels when we moved to a rural property in Douglas County two years ago, because we wanted to put into action our values by doing our part to help promote clean energy and conservation in the state.
This was not a frivolous investment for us. We carefully weighed the pros and cons and researched Kansas’ solar policies before deciding to "go solar," as well as to keep our house all-electric when our heat pump needed to be replaced. That is why Evergy’s ongoing attacks on residential solar power generation feel very frustrating.
Evergy is proposing a new electricity rate just for residential solar customers, the rate includes a monthly fee of $3 per kW of solar. If this proposal is unacceptable to our state regulators, the Kansas Corporation Commission, Evergy’s alternative request is a minimum bill of $35 for all residential customers, including those without solar.
This is a bald attack on customer-owned solar. Solar customers already pay the "customer charge," which Evergy’s own website says is "to cover costs of metering, billing, collection and customer service incurred in servicing your account." Further, we pay the capital and maintenance costs for our solar, in addition to paying the same per-kWh rate as all other residential customers for the energy that we consume in excess of our production. In the winter, this is several hundred dollars for our all-electric residence.
Any excess energy that we produce beyond our consumption is sold to Evergy for a fraction of what they resell it to other customers for. We’re not only reducing the emissions for our own electricity but also others, at no extra cost to those customers and no capital cost to Evergy.
For families like ours that want to do our part to protect clean air and water, Evergy just doesn’t provide the choices we need. Customers have no control over how Evergy produces its power. Evergy’s production mix currently includes 66% fossil fuels, which is not the energy mix we want. Generating our own solar power and supplying the excess to the grid is a direct, efficient, impactful way to help reduce pollution.
Finally, Kansas has already passed legislation in KSA 66-117d supporting solar growth, and the Supreme Court clarified in their ruling No. 120,436 that it is unlawful to apply an extra monthly charge to a customer’s bill just because they have solar. Yet, that is what Evergy is attempting to do, again.
We would support an unbiased, transparent third-party rate analysis to determine what, if any, burden local solar customers place on the utility. Evergy claims that our 9kW solar array incurs costs of $60 per month beyond existing fees. To make this claim without sharing any substantiation is unreasonable, particularly in light of the Kansas laws that prohibit discriminating against solar energy producers.
Adding the proposed monthly charge significantly changes the economics of installing solar and will discourage customers from generating their own power, which despite Evergy’s apparent desire to market themselves as pro-clean energy, seems to be the point of this proposal. The Kansas Corporation Commission should reject Evergy’s proposals and take further action to support local, homegrown solar energy in Kansas.
Kate Gutschenritter lives near Vinland and is a mother of two, a mechanical engineer and a fifth-generation Kansan.