In early June, Kansans overwhelmingly expressed support for more renewable energy as long as it is part of a commonsense approach that balances energy sources, avoids needless expense and doesn’t punish those who can’t install solar panels.
Asked if renewable energy should be developed as part of a diverse energy mix (wind and solar combined with traditional sources like coal, natural gas and nuclear), 85 percent of Westar customers were supportive as long as it didn’t increase prices more than 10 percent.
With discussions in Kansas and across the country about renewables, electric reliability and concern about shifting costs onto customers who can least afford it, Westar Energy asked True North Market Insights to survey Westar customers to find out their views.
Focusing on home-based renewable energy, like solar panels, many respondents – almost 40 percent – said they didn’t realize that solar panels have to be connected to the electrical grid (the system of poles, wires, substations and other power plants) to function properly. Homes and businesses with solar panels also use the electrical grid to buy power when it’s cloudy, dark and any time the solar panels aren’t producing enough electricity to meet their needs.
Almost 90 percent of customers surveyed said they thought that everyone who uses the electrical grid should pay their fair share. When asked if customers without solar energy on their home should pay more to incent others to add solar, 80 percent said no.
“This matters today because we all need reliable electricity and we all benefit from the electrical grid 24/7. We can’t have a system where customers who can’t have solar panels pay more to ensure reliable power for those who do,” Jeff Martin, vice president, regulatory affairs. “We are not talking about customers unplugging from the grid. We are talking about customers who still have all of the benefits of the grid but might avoid paying their share, and that pushes those costs onto their neighbors, some of whom can least afford it. Accordingly, Westar is proposing pricing plans for all of its customers that keep the playing field level.”
Westar has proposals before the Kansas Corporation Commission that would introduce two pricing options for residential customers who install solar. The plans are open to all residential customers, but specifically designed to make sure customers who cannot install solar panels don’t have to pay more. About 300 Westar customers have already installed solar panels to provide some of their own electricity. Westar’s proposal wouldn’t change anything for them.
True North Market Insights conducted research June 5-8, 2015, commissioned by Westar Energy to understand viewpoints of its Kansas customers regarding renewable energy. The sample was pulled from Westar’s service territory and then screened by several factors to ensure statistical validity. More than 500 online surveys were completed, to deliver a margin of error of +/- 4.7% at the 95% confidence interval.
The full survey and results are available at www.westarenergy.com/2015SolarSurvey.