Westar solar customers see spike in bill charges

Westar solar customers see spike in bill charges
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Mark Gregory invested in these solar panels a couple years ago, thinking it would cut down on his utility expenses, but he’s still seeing rising rates.

“I spent the extra money to try to get my bills to be lowered down, but every time I turn around it seems like the bills keep going up,” said Gregory.

Despite solar energy savings, his bills have been increasing based on Westar’s recent demand charge, which bills solar customers specifically on their usage between the peak hours of 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

“In that time period, even though we’ve generated extra power part of that time, we still, if the meter goes forward, we still get hit with that demand charge,” explained Gregory.

The Kansas Corporation Commission and Westar Energy Company approved a private generation customer rate in 2015, claiming the price mechanism was unfair to customers without renewable energy sources.

“They would reduce their bills considerably, and they still can save a considerable amount of money under the new rates, but what was happening is they were actually being subsidized by customers who didn’t have solar panels,” said Gina Penzig, Manager of Media Relations with Westar.

Still, Gregory says these demand charges are adding up and going unexplained.

“I’d like to be able to understand what it is they’re taxing me for because they’ve made it to where you can’t understand the bill. And, if I’m reading my bill right, I get an actual demand kilowatt, an adjusted demand kilowatt, and a billing demand kilowatt of three each, plus a $100 power factor percent,” said Gregory.

If Gregory could afford to go off the grid completely, he would, but in the meantime he feels cheated.

“I feel I’m being penalized for having solar,” said Gregory.

The Kansas Sierra Club has filed a case against Westar with the Kansas Court of Appeals to make changes to the charges solar customers are facing.