- Associated Press - Friday, March 18, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas regulators have delayed a vote on a Westar Energy proposal that would raise transmission charges for residential customers and result in a 29 percent hike on one item on bills for local schools.

The Kansas Corporation Commission on Thursday pushed a final vote to March 31 on Westar’s plan to raise its transmission charge by 31 percent for home customers while cutting some business rates, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/1Medjbi ). Commissioners said they have questions about the proposal but didn’t detail their concerns during the Thursday meeting.

The proposed increase would bring Westar about $25 million more a year, in addition to the $78 million the company got in a general rate case in September.

The hike at issue is only for the Westar’s Transmission Delivery Charge, which compensates the company for what it spends to transmit energy to customers. The plan also would rebalance transmission rates, raising the average home customer’s bill about $4 a month, while cutting the average small-business bill by about $31 a month. The charge is a separate line item on customers’ bills.

Midsize businesses would see about a 1 percent increase in their transmission rate, while the largest commercial and industrial customers would get a 4 percent cut. Schools are proposed to get a 29 percent increase.

State approval could come amid an ongoing rate proceeding at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has ruled that Westar is getting too much return for its stockholders for what it’s spending on transmission.

While Westar is entitled to claim its transmission costs, plus a percentage to pay a profit to its shareholders, FERC has ruled that Westar’s current return - 11.3 percent - is excessive. The company and the state commission have reached agreement to reduce that to 9.8 percent, but FERC hasn’t approved the settlement.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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