Westar Energy Announces Settlement for 11% Rate Hike

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Westar Energy announced a settlement agreement Friday in its case for a rate hike. The company says it would bring in an extra $130 million annually.

Westar said the deal works out to an 11 percent rate hike, compared to its original $178 million request for a 15 percent increase. The agreement is subject to the approval of the Kansas Corporation Commission.

KCC spokesperson Rosemary Foreman says parties included in the settlement include the Citzens' Utility Ratepayers Board, KCC staff, USD 259 Wichita, the group Kansas Industrial Consumers, WalMark and Kroger. A KCC staff proposal in September called for a $95 million increase, or 8 percent. CURB, a state agency, wanted a $74 million increase, or 6 percent.

Westar had said the higher rates will help it pay for new power plants and wind farms and repair damage to its system from winter storms. The release said, however, that the settlement would not allow Westar to provide incentive returns on investments in wind energy.

Foreman says the KCC is scheduled to begin technical hearings on the rate case Wednesday. She says the commissioners could opt to convene, then recess the hearings for a time while they go over the settlement agreement. They could also go ahead with hearing testimony as planned.

Foreman says the KCC has until January 23rd to issue its order in the case.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)