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Friday, 10 July 2015 18:50

Westar Energy rate increases spark controversy for solar energy users

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It's a change that will impact nearly 700,000 people. Westar Energy's new proposal looks to raise energy rates for every customer by eight percent, one specific group of customers isn't pleased with the increase.

"It is designed to penalize folks with solar on their roofs," said Aron Cromwell, owner of Cromwell Solar.

Even those customers who use solar energy to try and avoid high energy costs will be penalized.

"Customers are changing the way they use electricity and the way that they use the power grid," said Gina Penzig, Westar Media Relations Manager. "That is the poles, the wires and all of the equipment that gets power from a power plant to your home or business. More customers are showing an interest in installing their own generation. Now with this, they're still just as reliant on this power grid."

But the question is why change the pricing? According to a local solar expert, people who rely on solar power have no reason to be charged by Westar for something they don't use.

Cromwell started a petition that he plans to present to the Kansas Corporation Commission.

"Someone who is basically offsetting all of their energy needs with solar, they're not really buying anything left from Westar," said Cromwell. "After they get solar, their rates are higher than before they went solar."

And again it begs the questions, why?

"We just believe that anyone who's benefiting in the grid should help share in the cost and not push those costs off onto other customers," said Penzig.

But that's not something Cromwell and the thousands of people in the state who invested in solar power are willing to accept.

"We want to see this issue pulled out separately from the rate case and examined," said Cromwell. "We want an independent study done that will analyze the cost and benefits of solar onto the grid."

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