Kansas energy customers stuck with bill after winter storm

TOPEKA (KSNT)- Kansas energy customers racked by sky-high energy costs during last year’s winter storm are now stuck with the bill.

Kansas Evergy Central customers will be paying back $122 million extra in a settlement approved by the Kansas Corporation Commission. This will reflect on their bills as an additional $2.82 every month over two years.

However, Evergy Metro customers in the Kansas City area are getting refunds. Their bill will be going down $6.60 a month for a year after their system profited by selling power on the open market during the storm.

“In Kansas, if your utility company benefits during periods of market stress like that, and they have a product that people really desire and will pay a lot for, then the customers get the benefit,” Justin Grady said, the chief of revenue requirements for the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC).

The natural gas spike during the winter storm impacted areas across the midwest, driving up energy costs to record highs.

Grady told the Kansas Capitol Bureau Friday that the KCC is now looking at ways to prepare for future weather events. Last year, companies like Evergy, one of the largest energy suppliers in the state, were tasked with navigating rolling blackouts during an unprecedented storm.

“In [the KCC] report we said, basically once in a lifetime winter weather event like that, it’s difficult to execute perfectly,” Grady said.

The Kansas Capitol Bureau also spoke with State Treasurer Lynn Rogers, who said the costs trickling down to customers is only the tip of the iceberg.

A state investigation into price gouging during last year’s winter storm is still open more than one year later. In the case that price gouging is found, some energy customers could see an end to increased energy bills.

Rogers said the open investigation is also standing in the way of the state taking the next steps.

“We are concerned as a state treasurer because we have about $78 million now in loans to 80 different cities and the repayment of those are key,” Rogers said.

The treasurer said he hasn’t received an update on the status of the investigation.

Grady said that he met with the office months ago to share confidential information and data to assist in the investigation, as directed by KCC Commissioners. However, he hasn’t heard back since then.

A Spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office confirmed that the investigation is still active in an email to Kansas Capitol Bureau on Friday.

“The Office of the Attorney General has retained the firm Morgan & Morgan to assist our office with the next phase of the natural gas price investigation. The contract was awarded in January and is publicly posted at https://admin.ks.gov/offices/procurement-contracts/bidding–contracts/contracts. The contract spells out the scope of the investigation. Because this is a pending investigation, we have no further comment at this time.”

John Milburn, Kansas Attorney General’s Office Spokesman

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