KCP&L’s energy efficiency plans again plugged in

Kansas City Power & Light’s plans to help customers save energy in Missouri and reduce carbon emissions are back on track.

At the time, the move was harshly criticized by environmental groups. But a settlement Wednesday among the utility, environmental groups and state regulatory staffers would allow the programs to finally become a reality as early as July.

“KCP&L has taken a huge step in improving Missouri’s stature as an energy efficient state,” P.J. Wilson, director of the clean energy group Renew Missouri, said in a statement.

The Missouri Public Service Commission still has to give its approval, but such settlements like the one reached Wednesday usually smooth the way for that to happen.

For the last year and a half KCP&L has been offering energy efficiency programs, including the rebates for cooling equipment, to customers in western Missouri who were once served by Aquila Inc. in suburbs like Raytown. Those programs will continue and the settlement will for the first time offer them instant rebates when purchasing more efficient lighting.

But the big change is bringing those programs, which were once offered as a pilot, to KCP&L’s traditional service territory, including most of Kansas City. The utility in 2012 said it wouldn’t proceed with its energy efficiency plans in that area because there was more than enough power to serve those customers and spending money on energy efficiency was not cost effective.

The utility now wants to proceed, believing that eventually demand will outrun supply and it will take a while for energy efficiency to grow and displace enough demand to start making a difference.

“We believe now is the time,”’ said Katie McDonald, a spokeswoman for KCP&L. “We’re excited about making the Kansas City region a leader in the state.”

KCP&L doesn’t offer energy efficiency programs in Kansas, but the state recently approved legislation that will make them possible in the future.

The environmental groups involved in the settlement said that even with the utility’s energy efficiency programs, Missouri will continues to lag behind the rest of the country.

But their relationship with KCP&L has clearly improved with the settlements and an announcement in January that the utility will use more wind power.

“For the second time in less than six months, KCP&L has demonstrated that clean energy can deliver significant savings to its customers,” said Holly Bender, deputy director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

The settlement reached Wednesday sets a goal to save enough electricity through 2015 to power more than 5,000 homes. That will be enough to eliminate 101,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from a coal-fired plant, or eliminate the same amount of emissions produced by 21,000 cars on the road for a year.

“Programs like these represent exactly the kind of win-win solutions we’re hopeful Missouri will place at the center of its energy policy and emissions reduction plans under the carbon standards for power plants we expect EPA to unveil next week,” said David Weiskopf, sustainable energy fellow for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

By The Kansas City Star

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