KCP&L will increase wind power and energy conservation

Source: BY DIANE STAFFORD, The Kansas City Star • Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2014

Kansas City Power & Light Co. announced that it intends to expand two of its energy-efficiency programs, one of which doubles its wind-generating capacity to serve 124,000 homes.

Under the other program, the utility will open the rebate programs under the Missouri Energy Efficient Investment Act to all of its Missouri customers. That counters environmentalists’ criticism that an earlier conservation-incentive plan wasn’t comprehensive enough.

KCP&L said it plans to buy 400 megawatts of power from two new wind turbine facilities, increasing its wind energy portfolio to 939 megawatts. The company said that will make it the largest provider of renewable energy generation of any investor-owned utility in Missouri or Kansas.

The two new wind facilities — expected to produce power by early 2016 — will be built in Coffey County, Kan., and in Holt County, Mo.

The wind announcement was hailed by the Sierra Club, which had criticized the utility for not moving faster to increase its wind-generated power.

KCP&L “deserves credit for seizing the opportunity to build its clean energy portfolio,” said Holly Bender, deputy director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. The utility becomes the regional leader on wind energy, she said.

Houston-based EDP Renewables will build and operate the Kansas wind turbine facility; Element Power, of Portland, Ore., will build and operate the Missouri facility. Each is expected to produce up to 200 megawatts of electricity under a 20-year agreement.

“These investments continue our commitment to move toward a more sustainable energy future in an affordable way,” said Terry Bassham, KCP&L president and chief executive, noting that the wind facilities will nearly double the amount of “clean,” or renewable, generation by the utility.

“This addition will be another step in diversifying our generation mix, which has already seen significant reductions in emissions from recent environmental upgrades made at several of our power plants.”

Wind turbines are an environmentally friendly option that reduce fuel and other costs.

There is no rate increase associated with the announcements and the utility said it has no plans for increases in the next two years.

Along with adding more renewable energy, KCP&L said it is filing with the Missouri Public Service Commission to expand an energy-efficiency program designed to “improve lighting, provide rebates for recycling older, inefficient appliances and for replacing inefficient heating and cooling systems, among other programs.”

The commission has 120 days to review and rule on the filing. Affected customers will receive detailed information after the plan is approved.

The new filing follows up on an energy-conservation program first announced in December 2011 that would give rebates to commercial and residential customers who buy energy-efficient equipment, appliances and lighting.

The utility had intended to commit $25 million a year to reducing energy demand and passing eventual savings along to customers. But within months, KCP&L pulled back on the plan’s availability for about 270,000 Kansas City customers, saying it would have to raise electricity rates too high to justify the program and that it had enough electricity generation for its Kansas City customers.

In late 2012, regulators approved KCP&L’s intent to offer the conservation program to about 300,000 Missouri customers outside of Kansas City, basically covering customers acquired when it bought Aquila Inc. That included customers in Lee’s Summit and Raytown.

Ameren, the St. Louis-based utility, has a similar energy-conservation program approved by the utility commission.

Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, were disappointed when KCP&L pulled back on its original plan and have continued to call for the utility to expand it. Bender said the club would review specifics of the filing before commenting on the rebate aspect of the energy efficiency announcement.

Katie McDonald, KCP&L’s director of communication, said the new filing contains various programs that require commission review and approval before being offered to relevant customers.

“We believe the total benefit for our customers over the next 20 years is that rates and costs will be about $1 billion lower than they would have been if we hadn’t been investing in wind and energy efficiency,” McDonald said.

The benefits would come from about $400 million from energy efficiency and about $600 million in savings due to wind power that reduces the need to use other kinds of fossil fuel.