Trouble for solar rates coming to Missouri and Kansas

Vaughn Prost, CEO of Missouri Solar Applications, displays the solar array his company installed for Grace Episcopal Church in Jefferson City. Prost started his work in the solar industry in California but moved back to his Missouri home. | Photo by Meredith Turk
Vaughn Prost, CEO of Missouri Solar Applications, displays the solar array his company installed for Grace Episcopal Church in Jefferson City. | Photo by Meredith Turk

The fast-dropping price of solar power and cheaper installation methods are making power companies in Missouri and Kansas nervous.

Some utilities want regulators to set steeper rates for consumers who come to the power grid with their own solar-generated electricity. The power companies argue that a solar-powered house doesn’t pick up enough of the cost of all it takes to make energy available around the clock. They contend that if solar homes don’t pay for upkeep, other customers eventually get stuck with higher bills.

As part of a larger request to boost rates, Westar Energy earlier this year asked the Kansas Corporation Commission to make customers with solar panels pay a $50 fixed fee every month — compared with $14.50 for conventional customers. While they would pay slightly less per kilowatt than other customers, the aim was to make their bills go up.

State regulators ultimately set aside that pricing, along with a more complicated formula also intended to raise the cost for solar users, in approving a rate hike. But they’ll pick it up as a standalone issue in December. A study is likely to follow, with possible higher charges for solar customers to follow.

Kansas City Power & Light has no pending proposals for a similar charge, but spokesman Chuck Caisley said the utility will probably press the issue in the next few years.


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