What would our Kansas coaches tell us about energy efficiency?

Zack Pistora
Zack Pistora
Dorothy Barnett
Dorothy Barnett

Kansans are team players, proud of our coaches and sports teams. The KC Current made it to the finals in 2022. The University of Kansas won the NCAA Basketball Championship in 2022. Kansas State University won the Big 12 NCAA Football Championship in 2023. And the Chiefs won Super Bowl LVII.

We are honored by all of these accomplishments.

Now, compare those accomplishments to Kansas’s rank of 49th out of all states and the District of Columbia in the definitive energy efficiency study in the industry conducted by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. Kansas has endured a low ranking for more than a decade. It would be comparable to our favorite sports team finishing nearly dead last every year. It is an embarrassment.

Thankfully, Evergy wants to change our score by investing in energy efficiency for its Kansas customers.

Energy efficiency is the safest, cleanest and importantly, the most affordable energy resource available. Yet, staff at the Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities like Evergy, continue to oppose energy efficiency as a least-cost energy resource even though it would greatly benefit customers.

Kansas needs to reorder its priorities from continued reliance upon expensive supply-side energy sources like new power plants to low-cost energy like insulation or new windows and doors that are incentivized through energy efficiency programs.

The Kansas Corporation Commission and stakeholders started getting serious about investigating energy efficiency in 2007, followed by a proposal in 2015 by Evergy that never came to fruition. Now Evergy is back with a plan that is supported by consumer, justice and environmental organizations. Even the commission staff agreed to the programs, but in the final hour, pivoted to a massively downsized plan that wouldn’t do much of anything.

Our state cannot afford to miss out on this opportunity.

There is still hope the Kansas Corporation Commission staff will finally embrace cost-effective energy efficiency. Efficiency investments will lower utility bills and delay reliance on more expensive resources like coal and gas. Every state in the nation sees the benefit of this low-cost energy, but Kansas has remained oblivious for over a decade.

What would our coaches say about Kansas’s energy efficiency rank? No team ever won a championship trophy if its goal was merely to win a couple of games. Likewise, Kansas cannot elevate its efficiency ranking if it only adopts meager energy savings. Reaching our maximum potential is possible.

The Kansas Corporation Commission staff must fully dedicate itself to the proposition that meaningful energy efficiency can reduce Kansans’ energy costs and act accordingly. The commission staff cannot hold itself out as favoring energy efficiency but continually reject utility applications that propose lawful and reasonable energy efficiency programs.

Like sports teams that seek to continually improve, Evergy will need to make adjustments, and we will be there to motivate them along the way. But it is only after these energy efficiency programs begin that ratepayers’ benefits and costs can be accurately measured and verified so that refinements to these programs can effectively be made.

Consistent with the excellence demonstrated by the teams we cheer on, Kansas can become respectively ranked among states on energy efficiency implementation.

Zack Pistora is the Kansas state lobbyist for the Sierra Club, and Dorothy Barnett is the executive director of the Climate + Energy Project. The Sierra Club and the Climate + Energy Project are joined by Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board as independent parties advocating for robust energy efficiency programs before the Kansas Corporation Commission.

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Energy efficiency is winning proposal, but Evergy needs KCC support