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Kan. Senate backs resolution to make electricity rates more competitive

The Kansas Senate on March 22 overwhelmingly adopted a resolution encouraging state regulators to make electricity rates more competitive.

The Senate voted 30-9 in favor of Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 1612, which urges the Kansas Corporation Commission, or KCC, "to take all lawful action to promptly set rates for retail electric service in the state of Kansas at regionally competitive levels." The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Julia Lynn, also asks the commission to report back to lawmakers about any legislation needed to help or accomplish this goal.

The Kansas Industrial Consumers Group supports the resolution, arguing that it will help provide rate relief and help businesses remain competitive. A representative for Kansas City Power & Light Co. and Westar Energy Inc., the two investor-owned electric utilities serving customers in the state, previously told a panel of lawmakers that things like federal tax reform and the pending merger of KCP&L parent Great Plains Energy Inc. and Westar are already set to bring benefits to customers. The KCC has taken a neutral stance on the resolution.

State Sen. Jim Denning voted for the resolution, saying it is the first step in taking control of electricity rates. Denning said the resolution is not an attack on utilities, cooperatives or municipal providers, but a way to help get better rates.

State Sen. Tom Hawk said he "reluctantly" voted against the resolution. Hawk told lawmakers that they should take a longer view and support more energy efficiency measures, distributed generation and expanded wind and solar investments as ways to reduce bills for customers.