August 5, 2020 Read More →

Midwest utility Evergy proposes new renewable energy investments, faster coal plant closures

Kansas City Business Journal:

Evergy Inc. announced on Wednesday a new five-year strategic plan designed to speed its transition to cleaner energy and — importantly — to do so as a stand-alone company.

The plan results from a review by a special committee put together by the Kansas City-based utility and activist investor Elliott Management Corp. In line with a deal Evergy and Elliott reached in late February, the committee was charged with recommending to increase shareholder value by investing more in Evergy’s infrastructure and increasing reliance on renewable energy — or by seeking a sale.

As part of the plan, Evergy expects to invest roughly $4.8 billion to upgrade its electrical grid, improve customer service platforms and increase access to renewable energy.

Evergy has been on a path to increasing sustainable energy, [Evergy Chief Customer Officer Chuck] Caisley said, “but what this will do is make some investments to accelerate that.” That will mean additional investment in wind power but also adding solar power and battery storage. The price of large-scale solar power generation has come down and will be competitive within five to seven years, he said.

Peak production from solar occurs at midday in Evergy’s territory (much of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas), which doesn’t completely match peak demand times in the summer, he said. The wind generates the most power at night, when demand is lowest. That’s where battery storage comes into play.

A big part of the plan is to ask Kansas and Missouri for assistance in speeding the retirement of Evergy’s coal-fired power plants. Caisley said the company would ask the states to issue bonds to pay off all debt owed on the plants. Evergy would repay the bonds through a line on customer’s bills. Caisley noted that customers already pay the cost of the coal plants. With the bonds, the company will reduce interest owed on the plant debt and free up money to invest in more efficient systems. Also, by relying more on wind and solar power, the company will reduce fuel costs.

[Brian Kaberline]

More: Evergy, Elliott Management agree on a renewable-increasing strategic plan, avert a sale

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