Westar customers speak out against rate hikes on solar customers

TOPEKA, Kan, (WIBW) -- Every day from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. customers who generate electricity through wind and solar say they make drastic chances to manage their energy use.

“So I have to turn my heat down from two to seven. I have to turn off my water heater from two to seven. I make sure that we don’t do laundry, we don’t vacuum, we don’t use the desktop computer, we don’t watch DVD’s. We don’t do anything that’s going to take more electricity to keep our bill down,” customer Chris Miller said.

Miller and others said they do that because of a three dollar per kw based on the highest hour of energy use during that time. In the summer months the fee will triple to nine dollars due to a higher demand.

That is why Senator Tom Hawk introduced and presented the Energy Fairness Act to the Senate Utilities Committee which would rollback these charges.

“I personally do not believe that we should have a policy here in the legislature or at the KCC that discourages the use of renewables by private citizens and businesses,” he said.

However, Westar spokesperson Gina Penzig said the monthly fee levels the playing field for all users of the power grid.

“They are dependent on it 24/7 and we wanted to make sure that the price structures were set in such a way that customers were paying their part for that power grid and not being subsidized by others,” she explained.

She said the demand charge isn’t meant to penalize those who choose wind or solar energy.

“It’s meant to encourage folks to think about how they might even their usage,” Penzig added.

Both sides of the bill weighed in today during the Senate Utilities Committee Hearing. No further action was taken.

More information on how the demand charge works can be found here.