KCP&L seeks rate increase for customers; Average bill to increase $9.00 per month

(Kansas City Star) – Kansas City Power & Light is asking to increase electric bills about $9 a month on average for 295,000 of its Missouri customers, mainly those outside Kansas City.

The request for an 8.2 percent increase in rates for its Greater Missouri Operations was filed Wednesday with the Missouri Public Service Commission. Those operations serve customers in the former territories of St. Joseph Light & Power and Missouri Public Service, areas KCP&L acquired in 2008.

The utility said it had been four years since it asked to increase rates in those service territories.

Last September, KCP&L won an 11.7 percent increase, about $12 a month, for its 270,000 other Missouri customers, mainly in Kansas City, and a 9.1 percent rate increase, an estimated $7.73 a month, for its 250,000 Kansas customers.

The new request, if granted in full, would give KCP&L an additional $59.3 million in annual revenue. Given how long rate cases usually take, the utility said, any new rates approved would be expected to take effect in January 2017.

The request also is notable because it would give the former St. Joseph and Missouri Public Service territories the same rates. The Public Service Commission in 2012 asked the utility to look into consolidating those rates, and this request does that.

Part of the 8.2 percent rate hike request is an increase to $14.50 for the fixed monthly customer charge, which is supposed to include the cost to provide service for each customer. That charge currently is $10.43 in the former Missouri Public Service territory and $9.54 in the former St. Joseph Light & Power area.

The utility said the proposed increase was needed “to recover costs associated with additional regional transmission lines,” for pollution control upgrades, and for “infrastructure and system improvements … to maintain the reliability of the electrical system, modernize the grid and enhance customer service.”

The “smarter” grid, in addition to saving energy, should help KCP&L respond to outages more quickly, the utility said.

Such requests seldom are granted in full, and both increases last year in the other KCP&L territories were less than the utility wanted. David Woodsmall, an attorney who frequently represents large industrial electricity users, said Wednesday that his clients were likely to oppose several aspects of this request.

Its rate of return, 9.9 percent, would be higher than the 9.5 percent granted last year, he said. And some of the transmission costs, especially for getting power from far-flung plants, aren’t justified and haven’t been approved in the past, he said.

Also Wednesday, the parent company of KCP&L reported fourth-quarter financial results.

Great Plains Energy said it earned $22.5 million in the final quarter, up from $19.1 million in the same quarter of 2014.

For the year, Great Plains earned $211.4 million, down from $241.2 million in 2014.