- Associated Press - Saturday, June 13, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Westar Energy has dropped plans for three new energy efficiency programs and will not enroll any new customers in a current program after concerns were raised about their cost.

The Kansas Corporation Commission issued an order Thursday allowing the utility to withdraw its request for the new programs and to move its WattSaver program into a “maintenance” phase, meaning it will be continued only for existing WattSaver customers, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1GyOYI8 ).

The proposed programs would have funded energy audits for Westar customers, provided incentives for small businesses to install more efficient lighting and offered weatherization assistance for low-income customers. They were dropped after The Citizens Utility Ratepayer Board and KCC staff raised concerns about their cost-effectiveness and whether some Westar customers would be subsidizing others who benefited from the programs.

The agreement allows Westar to answer some of those questions and possibly resubmit the programs for approval in the future.

The utility also agreed to continue service for customers who have already signed up for the WattSaver program, which installs thermostats that allow Westar to send messages to air conditioners to cycle on and off in 15-minute intervals during peak usage times.

The WattSaver program is used by about 53,000 customers and marketing costs would outweigh savings, said Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig. However, if the thermostats break, customers will receive digital thermostats that aren’t connected to WattSaver.

“We had reached most of the people who are interested,” she said.

Penzig said Westar will listen to ideas about new energy efficiency programs and might suggest new efforts in the future.

Westar also announced Thursday that it was seeking renewable energy proposals. The utility is open to several clean energy options, although most of its previous projects involved wind energy.

“This would be looking at whether there are cost-effective, beneficial projects out there that aren’t on our radar,” she said.


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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