Growing home foreclosures pinch Kansas utilities

Kansas City StarSeptember 22, 2011 

Kansas City Power & Light Co. officials were optimistic that 2011 would be the year the economy — and electric meters — started humming along again.

But after six months some troubling figures emerged. The utility’s residential customers were using 4 percent less electricity than a year ago, when the numbers were adjusted for the weather’s ups and downs.

Commercial and industrial electricity use also was down, but just 1 percent.

Frugal homeowners’ conservation measures, such as replacing inefficient furnaces and air conditioners, had something to do with the decline.

But a starker symbol of the troubled economy also played a part: A growing number of vacant, foreclosed homes are using little or no electricity.

“These are homes that were getting bills, and now they aren’t,” said Chuck Caisley, a spokesman for Kansas City Power & Light, which has 725,000 residential customers in Missouri and Kansas.

Despite the decline in electricity usage, customers shouldn’t expect rates to drop. Rates are only partly set by supply and demand. Regulators approve rates for utilities that also cover such costs as adding power plants to meet future demand, costs that must be paid whether usage falls or not.

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