New Kansas/Evergy conservation plan can save you money if you try | Opinion

The state’s dominant power company and the Kansas Corporation Commission have reached accord on a plan that will help Kansans become more energy-efficient.

In the words of pop singer/songwriter Lizzo, “It’s about damn time.”

On Friday, the KCC signed off on an order to establish a smorgasbord of programs to help residents cut their energy usage and their electric bills.

It’s taken almost two years — and last month I criticized Evergy and the KCC for dragging it out — so I’m ecstatic that they finally ironed out their differences and got something done.

The simple fact is, we’re 30 years behind the rest of the country when it comes to energy conservation, which forces us to burn untold tons of coal and cubic feet of natural gas, creating nothing but waste and pollution.

As I pointed out last month, the nonprofit and nonpartisan American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranks Kansas 49th out of the 50 states for energy efficiency, and thank God for Wyoming for being the only state worse than us.

Meanwhile, our bills keep going up.

Evergy is currently requesting a revenue increase in the Kansas Central Division that would hike the average customer bill by a whopping $14.42 a month. In Evergy’s Metro Division, formerly Kansas City Power & Light, a more modest $3.47 a month average increase is proposed.

The KCC staff is advocating for allowing a much smaller increase for customers in the Central Division and a slight rate cut for Metro customers .

But that’s a completely separate case and it won’t be decided for months, so let’s set that aside for the time being and just celebrate that we’ll finally be getting some help with cutting our own bills.

The plan includes:

Energy assessments — Trained Evergy employees will come to your home or business at no cost and identify actions you can take to save energy, and provide you a free kit to take some of the more simple steps.

Equipment efficiency — Will provide money for rebates on air conditioning systems, to help pay for more expensive, but energy-saving equipment; also provides consumer discounts on energy-saving products, like smart power strips that turn off game consoles, cable boxes and home-theater equipment when no one’s using the TV.

Demand Response: Provides free smart thermostats and water heater controllers to help homeowners and businesses tame power usage at peak periods on hot days, when Evergy has to buy more expensive power from other generating companies.

Energy Education — Provides marketing and educational outreach for customers on how to cut their bills.

Pilot Incubator — Creates a mechanism for identifying and evaluating new and emerging energy-saving technologies.

Enhanced incentives — Low-income urban and rural customers will be eligible for higher benefits.

The plan won’t get us from No. 49 to the top 10 overnight, but it’s a start.

The money to pay for the plan is expected to add $1 to $2 to a $100 electric bill.

That’s nothing.

At a minimum, a free smart thermostat and some strategically placed weatherstripping will save you that much and more. So if you don’t end up profiting, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.

It’s kind of funny, but when I wrote about this last month, I got some pushback from free-market ideologues, like this anonymous comment on our website: “Dion keeps saying “We could”? You mean the taxpayers? We=socialist utopia lol.”

Socialist utopia? Who are you kidding? Have you ever been to Kansas?

If saving fuel, lowering electric bills and leaving a slightly cleaner planet for my children is socialism, sign me up. But I don’t really think it is.

It used to be called “conservatism.”

Ask Richard Nixon: “If we permit ourselves to slacken our efforts and slide back into the wasteful consumption of energy, then the full force of the energy crisis will be brought home to America in a most devastating fashion.”

It was true in 1974 and it’s true today.

On energy conservation, the future is calling, Kansas. It has been for a long time.

How refreshing it is to see someone finally pick up the phone.