After the high-profile merger between Kansas City Power & Light and Topeka-based Westar Energy, energy giant Evergy is making headlines again. This time, it’s for something that really hits home for us at KC Solar: proposed extra charges for solar panel users.
A quick Google News search shows no shortage of opinions when it comes to the new plan. From local articles to national coverage by media companies like U.S. News and World Report. With so many opinions, it can be hard to cut through all the noise and learn what it really means for current or potential solar customers.
At KC Solar, we’re committed to sharing the facts about Evergy’s solar plan and helping you understand how it could impact you. Keep reading to learn more.
Solar Customers Could Pay More
Last month, Evergy proposed adding charges to solar users to help offset the costs of providing solar energy. Under the proposed plan, they would charge customers about $25 based on the number of solar panels they use. But if that plan doesn’t pass, they have a backup: Charge all customers a minimum of $35. Even if they don’t use solar panels.
While that change may not affect some customers because it would only count against their energy consumption, others could really feel the hit. That includes lower-income households that don’t use that much electricity. Under the new plan, these customers would end up paying more.
It comes on the heels of a Kansas Supreme Court decision stating that Evergy’s old plan, where solar users paid a special demand charge in addition to standard feeds, was discriminatory and against the law.
But those familiar with Evergy’s new plan are concerned. It could be just the beginning of additional charges on Kansas energy users.
Dorothy Barnett, director of the Kansas-based Climate and Energy Project, pointed to Evergy’s testimony stating that the actual minimum bill to meet Evergy’s needs would be about $77 per month — in which case, $35 doesn’t even cover half. This could mean Kansas energy customers continue to see increased bills.
Stifling Solar Energy Growth in Kansas
Though Evergy is the energy provider in the Kansas City area, straddling both sides of the state line, only Kansas customers would be impacted by these changes.
Based on the differences in solar energy incentives between the two states, it can be seen as another way in which Kansas fails to stimulate the growth of solar power in the sunflower state. And not only is it failing to stimulate it, but it’s actively stifling the efforts to make solar more widespread.
For example, many states offer government rebates for solar customers. Solar rebates are one-time payments that help finance the installation of solar panels and can help decrease the amount of time needed to see the ROI, or return on investment.
In Missouri, solar customers are eligible for a rebate after Senate Bill 564 was passed in 2018. Part of it mandates that electric corporations make solar rebates available for systems that become operational through December 31, 2023. A 25-cent per watt ($0.25/W) rebate is available for solar systems that became operational after June 30, 2019 and new systems that are installed through December 31, 2023.
In Kansas, however, no such state rebate exists. While customers are still eligible for federal tax credits, the state provides no extra benefits for homeowners looking to go solar in Kansas.
Evergy’s proposed additional charges on Kansas solar customers would only further impede the growth of the state’s solar industry and associated job market.
Understanding Evergy’s Solar Subscription Program
Evergy also has recently begun a new solar subscription program for customers in the Kansas City area.
“Our Solar Subscription program lets you offset a portion of your average energy usage with solar energy from our local solar array that will be built at Kansas City International (KCI) airport. This program is great for individuals who want to support solar, without the major financial or infrastructure investment of installing panels on your own home.”
While it may sound nice on the surface, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Hunter Hoss, from our KC Solar team, explains why this program could end up costing customers more:
“It preys on their customers’ ignorance of solar. And by ignorance, I simply mean lack of knowledge regarding solar and the options in general:
1. They state that you can lock in your electrical rate for 20 years.
Yet, they are locking you into a higher rate initially than you currently pay. The whole point of owning your solar array is to lock in a lower rate permanently. And that rate eventually should go to zero.
2. ‘Support renewable energy without the need for a rooftop. Perfect for homeowners that don’t have the space or sun exposure for solar panels, or renters in apartments or condos.’
This is true. But again, they are charging customers more, not less, for the “convenience” of solar. Basically, they are allowing their customers to feel good about supporting renewables, while paying more than they normally would pay. So customers that cannot otherwise get solar are literally bearing the cost of Evergy’s solar array expenses.
This, while Evergy owns a generation station where their expenses quickly plummet to zero. It’s a double win for Evergy. They are outright doing the very thing to these new subscription customers that they say current solar panel owners do to people who don’t own solar. They’re shifting the burden of infrastructure costs to others. (Energy companies often argue that solar owners create additional costs for non-solar owners to justify additional fees for solar owners. The argument is regularly debunked by studies.)
3. One of their final selling points with the subscription program is that there’s no pricey install cost or maintenance cost.
Let’s be clear. Most solar arrays don’t (or shouldn’t) cost anything up front to install. They are typically financed and the return on investment covers the financing costs. And maintenance costs are negligible, at worst. Most solar panel installations are warrantied for 25 years and there’s little else to do, other than the occasional panel washing. Most people won’t and don’t install their own system unless it makes financial sense, i.e. saves them money. We’re in the business of saving people money. The electric company is in the business of making money and covering the cost of its large infrastructure. The more, the better.
Most residential customers would be better served working with an independent solar energy company, such as us, or other reputable companies in town.”
Why Us: KC’s True Solar Company
At KC Solar, we’re your hometown team when it comes to solar energy. But also when it comes to helping you understand the changing regulations on both sides of the state line.
We’re committed to finding the answers you need and helping you design a solar system that works for you. And we’re here when you need us.