Evergy is expected next month to implement a plan that places a premium on electricity prices at times of high demand
By ALLISON KITE, Missouri Independent
Just 10 days after seeking permission to allow customers to opt out of controversial time-of-use pricing, western Missouri's major electric utility withdrew its request with state regulators.
Under an order from the Missouri Public Service Commission, Evergy is expected next month to implement time-of-use pricing, which places a premium on electricity prices at times of high demand.
Citing considerable blowback from both the public and elected officials, the company requested earlier this month that the Public Service Commission grant permission to make the program optional.
But in a pleading filed Monday, the utility — which serves about 640,000 Missouri residents — withdrew its request, citing concerns from the Missouri Office of the Public Counsel, which represents ratepayers in utility regulatory proceedings, and others.
The Missouri Public Service Commission canceled a public meeting about the issue scheduled for Tuesday. The Office of the Public Counsel said in a filing last week that parties weren't given enough time to prepare for the meeting.
The Office of the Public Counsel said in a separate filing with the commission last week that it "strongly opposed" Evergy's request.
Among other issues, the OPC criticized Evergy's request to fundamentally change its time-of-use pricing program just weeks before it is set to go into effect.
The OPC's filing said it understood the public sentiment surrounding the mandatory time-of-use rates.
"However, Evergy itself has presented two studies to the commission that show that a significant portion of its customers will either benefit from the transition to TOU rates or will be unaffected by them," the OPC's filing says.
The rates should go into effect, the filing says, "even aside from the legal and policy concerns that arise with changing the tariff sheets at this late stage."
Clean energy advocacy group Renew Missouri also urged the commission to reject Evergy's request.
"While an understandable fear warrants specific education efforts by the company, customer misunderstanding or political agitation is not a sufficient justification to allow Evergy to reverse course at the eleventh hour, circumventing proper procedure and creating poor precedent for the weight given to commission orders," Renew Missouri said in a filing Friday.
Noting the customer blowback, the Renew Missouri argued that the company should adjust its marketing and outreach efforts "rather than succumbing to negative Facebook comments by reversing course and attempting to upend a binding commission order."
Renew Missouri said while Evergy's filing was purportedly about customer feedback, it was also driven by politics.
Missouri Senate Majority Leader Cindy O'Laughlin, R-Shelbina, railed against the program in interviews with The Independent, claiming the Public Service Commission wanted Missouri residents to ration their energy to compensate for the switch to green energy and threatening to take legislative action if the commission didn't reverse course.
"If the commission decides to reverse course based on this campaign of generating anger through social media posting," Renew Missouri said in its filing, "no commission decision will be safe from political meddling."
Evergy is still asking the Public Service Commission to change the default time-of-use pricing plan from its "Standard Peak Saver," which nearly quadruples the price of energy on summer afternoons, to the "Peak Reward Saver," which has a much smaller price increase at that times and a discount for power used between midnight and 6 a.m.