About 120 people attended a Kansas Corporation Commission public hearing on Westar Energy's latest rate increase proposal, which would boost rates for residential customers while decreasing rates for major commercial customers.
The KCC, which has to approve the rate increase, is considering the request by Westar for an overall $31.7 million increase in its electric rates. Westar is also seeking to cut big business and industrial users' rates by 9 to 15 percent, while raising rates on residential and small-business customers by 6 to 9 percent, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/14KLPQ8 ).
Home and small-business users would see their bills go up a collective $83.5 million, while big business customers would pay about $50 million less for their power. Westar's plan would increase rates on residential customers by an average $7.50 a month.
Resident Paul Miller was among about 25 people at Monday's meeting who said the increase would harm them and their neighbors.
"I wonder what this means to the single mother that's working part time at Wal-Mart making minimum wage; it's only going to raise her rate $7.50 a month, that's all," Miller said. "But . the big industrial customers, the ones who manufacture big airplanes, the ones who process petroleum and other things, the ones who run the casinos - all these important people - you're going to give them hundreds and even thousands of dollars in decrease, paid by these people who are giving the $7.50 a month increase."
Jeff Martin, Westar vice president of regulatory affairs, said the changes are justified by economic modeling that shows big commercial and industrial users pay more than what it costs to provide them service, while residential and small-business customers pay less.
"Including the increase, it will still cost most of our residential customers less than $3.50 per day to power their home and everything in it," Martin said. "Or said another way, for the cost of less than 1 gallon of gas, you can power your home and all of its devices for 24 hours."