Taxpayers take hit as utilities run coal plants year-round

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June 21, 2019 - 4:23 PM

Westar's Lawrence Energy Center coal-fired power plant. BRIAN GRIMMETT / KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

The way Westar Energy runs its coal plants in Kansas unnecessarily costs consumers millions of dollars a year through an obscure, if common, practice known as self-committing generation.

The company essentially runs its coal plants year-round, even during the winter months when it’s not cost-effective. An analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which advocates for reduced reliance on coal, says that’s been costing Westar customers $20 million a year in added fuel costs.

But market operators including the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) — Westar buys and sells wholesale electricity through the organization — worry that the practice hurts the market.

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