Customers of Kansas’ Largest Natural Gas Utility Could Pay Cold Snap Costs For 10 Years


The Kansas Gas Service, which serves more than 640,000 Kansas customers, filed plans with regulators to issue securitized bonds for approximately $390 million in extraordinary costs from the cold snap — plus carrying costs — and recoup the sum from customers over five, seven or 10 years, increasing residential bills by anywhere from about $5 to $11 per month. If the Kansas Corporation Commission doesn’t approve the arrangement, KGS said it would request to recover the costs over three years “to minimize the carrying costs” of the debt.

Its plans come after Black Hills Energy announced in June that its customers bills would increase by an average of $12.23 per month for five years to recover what amounted to a year’s worth of gas charges in one month.

“Compared to traditional regulatory methods over the same period, the company estimates that securitization will save customers from approximately $112 million to $188 million, depending on the recovery time frame approved by the KCC,” KGS spokeswoman Dawn Tripp said in a statement.

February’s deep freeze posed a huge disruption to both gas and electric utilities. In Kansas City, temperatures plunged below 15 degrees for 10 days. At the same time, natural gas prices shot up to record levels. KGS’ filing says, depending on the pipeline, average prices for the company to secure gas in February rose by as much as 10 or 20 times the average over the last five years. A small Kansas town suing BP Energy said in its lawsuit the company inflated gas prices from $2.98 per mmbtu on Feb. 9 to $329.615 from Feb. 13 to Feb. 16.

Now utilities are grappling with how to recover the huge sums they paid for natural gas in February to keep Kansans’ heat and lights on.

Customers may have already paid high bills for extraordinary usage to keep their homes warm. But natural gas rates are set in advance through the regulatory process, and those high prices weren’t immediately passed on. 

The high price of natural gas and lack of supply has been identified as one of the primary reasons electrical utilities were instructed to institute rolling blackouts to avoid the uncontrolled outages affecting millions in Texas. The Southwest Power Pool, a regional transmission organization that coordinates electrical power in Kansas, earlier this week released findings saying that natural gas was hard to come by during the deep freeze.

During the storm, the KCC instructed natural gas utilities to keep service on and defer any extraordinary costs to be repaid later. It then opened dockets to investigate each utility and asked them to present a plan to minimize the crush to customers rather than requiring them to pay the exorbitant gas prices immediately.

Evergy, too, will seek to recover costs from customers. In the Kansas City area, the utility was able to generate more power than it needed and sell the excess to the Southwest Power Pool. But customers outside the metro in Kansas could gradually repay $152.3 million over two years. In parts of Missouri, the company is asking to defer costs from the storm and recover more than $297 million potentially over 15 years.

The figures in KGS’s plan are subject to change, the filing says. The company is disputing $15 million in gas charges from one supplier. Any federal or state relief or findings that the natural gas market was manipulated will be credited to offset the charges to customers, the company said.

David Nickel, executive director of the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board, which advocates for residential customers, said the organization was still looking at the plan, which was filed Friday afternoon. But he said securitization shows promise.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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