Photo by MaxPixel.net, licensed by Creative Commons Zero - CC0
BY TY GORMAN, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Kansas
Sierra Club's Dirty Truth Report gave Evergy an "F" because its energy transition plan lags behind those of other utilities. This is a failure to plan to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Evergy could lower bills, improve public health, and create jobs in Kansas by retiring expensive coal plants, tripling equitable clean energy investments, and allowing business and residential customers to contribute distributed resources to the grid.
As a monopoly which provides electricity to more than 60 percent of Kansans, Evergy is regulated by the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC), the rate-setting agency which is responsible for making utilities meet reliability standards with maximum affordability for customers. Sierra Club regularly intervenes in KCC proceeding so that we can challenge Evergy's proposals and push them to adopt a better plan for Kansas ratepayers and our environment. We asked you recently to demand that the KCC insist on improvements to Evergy’s first-ever energy efficiency plans in Kansas.
While we wait for that KCC decision, here's the latest on Evergy’s recently updated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), its long-range energy plan to meet customer needs, which is also subject to KCC approval. Evergy’s recent IRP update included no significant increases in clean energy which would reduce prices for customers and accelerate coal plant retirements. No options or power purchase agreements (PPAs) were included. PPAs would allow the utility to buy electricity from companies that build wind or solar farms. Evergy receives a higher return on its investment if it owns the means of producing the energy it sells - a wind or solar farm, coal plant, or transmission line - and that means more money for its shareholders. Not including PPAs in utility modeling is a critical omission. Evergy didn’t consider purchasing power from third party clean energy producers because competition would be less profitable for Evergy investors even though it would be cheaper for customers.
Including PPAs in energy planning is an easy way for Evergy to accelerate coal plant retirements and provide more reliable and affordable power generators than the expensive and polluting coal plants it owns. KCC regulators finally recognized what Sierra Club has been saying for years, that Evergy should include PPAs in its utility modeling, but denied Sierra Club's petition to require it. Evergy admits it can retire coal plants, move to clean energy, and reduce harmful climate pollution 85 percent by 2030, but they refuse to commit to moving away from fossil fuels quickly. So far, KCC is not forcing their clean energy transition.
Money from our power bills should not be used to destroy our environment and shovel money into the pockets of utility and coal corporation shareholders. The KCC refuses to exercise its power to make sure Evergy puts its customers first. We must keep up the pressure to make KCC do its job. Please volunteer with us and share your personal experience when Sierra Club reaches out by email and phone. Watch for future actions, and learn how to get more involved by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.