In Support of an Evergy Integrated Resource Plan Centered on Energy Freedom and Justice
An Open Letter To:
President and Chief Executive Officer
One Kansas City Place
1200 Main Street
Kansas City, MO 64150
Congratulations on becoming the new President and CEO of Evergy, Inc. We welcome you and your leadership at this critical moment for Evergy and the communities it serves in Missouri and Kansas.
This April, Evergy will submit its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) in Missouri, followed soon after by the filing of its first-ever Kansas IRP. This comes as we all work to recover from the pandemic, and its unprecedented impact on our health, economies, and communities. The pandemic revealed racial inequities and energy insecurity, particularly for our most vulnerable populations. A 2020 study by Harvard University concluded that COVID death rates increase by 15% from exposure to even slightly elevated levels of fine particle pollution, of which coal plants are a major source. These challenges are more difficult as we endure the perils of the climate crisis in the Midwest and across the country.
Our frontline communities are burdened with the impacts of fossil fuel industries. 23% of Evergy customers are below the poverty line in Kansas, and even more are burdened by energy insecurity amid a respiratory pandemic while breathing the pollution of utilities’ dirty fossil fuels. Over the course of the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, utilities all over the country have allowed families to be displaced by utility costs and shut-offs, exacerbating community suffering while increasing utility profits.
In the spirit of freeing our communities from fossil fuel in a manner we can be proud of, we, the undersigned organizations, call upon Evergy to honor its stated goal to put customers first. Evergy can put customers first by eliminating high energy burdens on low-income customers, opening the IRP to the public for meaningful input, and advancing a carbon-free-by-2030 scenario in the IRP. Evergy can and should retire expensive and polluting coal-burning plants in the next few years and use those savings to invest in affordable clean energy, appropriate transmission and distribution, and cost reductions for struggling customers, especially low-income customers.
Evergy should use the IRP process to chart a path toward a carbon free future that will allow the utility to be a true leader in meeting climate goals. Rapidly transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy will benefit the company in the long-term, help mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis, and protect the health and well-being of Missourians and Kansans, freeing us from an expensive, unhealthy, and unjust status quo.
In 2020, Evergy made an important step towards a clean energy future by recognizing the need for a Sustainability Transformation Plan (STP). Evergy acknowledged they have “the potential” to reduce greenhouse gas pollution 85% by 2030 to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of the climate crisis. However, Evergy has, to date, made no commitment to replace its remaining coal-burning plants with cheaper renewable sources like wind and solar on a reasonable timeline. Instead, Evergy appears to be prioritizing a price-increasing investment in IT and distribution to maximize short term returns for shareholders. Evergy can’t miss the opportunity that policy tools like securitization provide to invest in a resilient, renewable grid while providing a just transition for coal workers and eliminating energy burden. The utility must work to reach consensus with stakeholders on securitization legislation in Missouri and Kansas this session.
The decisions Evergy makes this year will be crucial to ensuring we can achieve a better future for the company and the people it serves. In order to address the challenges we face as Missourians and Kansans, we must seize the opportunities we have right now to protect the health and well-being of our communities and work collaboratively to move toward a more prosperous, equitable, and sustainable future.
To honor its commitment to customers and communities, and ensure a future where Missourians and Kansans are free of the health and economic burdens of fossil fuels, Evergy must commit to the following in its 2021 Integrated Resource Plan:
- Closing the door on uneconomic, polluting fossil fuels by closing Lawrence coal plant by 2023, the Hawthorn and Jeffrey coal plants by 2025, and all remaining coal plants by 2030.
- Every year a coal plant stays online is another year that local communities – frequently Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), or low-income communities in the U.S., suffer from elevated rates of asthma, heart disease, and premature deaths. The pandemic has exacerbated these harms on our communities.
- To provide least-cost reliable energy and maximize customer benefits, Evergy should commit to retire all of its coal plants and replace them with pollution-free efficiency, renewable energy and storage.
- Studies continue to find that investment in new fossil fuel infrastructure like methane gas and coal make no financial sense in the near- or long-term. Evergy should not invest in any new methane gas energy sources to avoid saddling customers with stranded assets that threaten public health and the climate.
- Transitioning to renewable energy, storage, and efficiency creates a more resilient grid for Missouri and Kansas communities: reducing negative health impacts and electricity costs for low-income customers.
- A transition to clean, renewable energy like wind and solar can offer tangible economic and public health benefits, creating thousands of jobs in the renewable energy, storage, and energy efficiency fields while eliminating public health impacts.
- As a key element of this transition, Evergy should commit to providing transitional plans that support employees, including training for skills necessary in renewable energy jobs.
- Evergy must improve programs to support low-income communities that experience a disproportionate energy and health burden. Evergy should improve linkages between bill-paying assistance, weatherization and energy efficiency programs. Evergy should support low-income communities by hiring local community organizations to implement these programs.
- Taking steps to increase transparency and collaboration between Evergy and the communities it serves.
- As a regulated investor-owned utility in Missouri and Kansas, Evergy must act in the public interest, and it owes opportunities to the public to influence their own future. Evergy should be transparent in its IRP and STP processes, release assumptions and data, and empower community members to receive value from distributed generation and efficiency, including support of job training programs in Missouri and Kansas communities facing disproportionately high energy burdens.
- Evergy should fund greater opportunities for public engagement and assistance to community organizations, especially those led by the most impacted Evergy customers, BIPOC and low-income communities.
- Hold public meetings and hearings with adequate notice and reasonable times for customers to attend. Create a community advisory board led by members of overburdened and low-income communities, with membership from community-led organizations that work in these communities. Evergy must also provide compensation for advisory board participation.
- Evergy should ensure that its programs and policies do not further disadvantage BIPOC customers and low-income communities, but rather benefit and advance their priorities. Ensure that environmental justice and equity considerations are centered in policies and programs to prevent future harm, with environmental justice concerns guided by the community, not Evergy.
- Evergy must give communities control over shaping their own energy culture by financing resilient distributed efficiency and renewable energy sources.
We all must work together to address the challenges before us. We must ensure a future where Missourians and Kansans are freed of the health and economic impacts of fossil fuel sources. As we recently learned in extreme weather where fossil generation failed Kansans, Evergy must improve early, reliable phone, text, email, and emergency system notifications for all service interruptions including disconnections, which can be serious and life-threatening. In all communication with customers in need of bill payment assistance and facing disconnections, Evergy should link those customers with low-income energy efficiency and weatherization programs to reduce energy burden over the long-term. Evergy should also refer those customers to food, health and housing assistance programs offered by local social service organizations.
Evergy has an important opportunity to become a leader in the transition to a just, clean, and prosperous energy economy. By making real, binding commitments in its 2021 IRPs to close coal-burning plants, eliminate climate pollution within science-based timelines, invest the savings in clean energy, and reduce the burden on low-income customers, Evergy can bring better health and prosperity to customers. Doing so will also add value to the company, benefiting its shareholders. Evergy’s IRP must be a moment where we free ourselves of the burdens of the past, and reshape the status quo for the benefit of all Missourians and Kansans. Grassroots organizations like Build Power MoKan’s members who represent diverse, struggling communities must be allowed a seat at the table outside of expensive, legalistic processes before state regulatory boards. We call on you to create transparent planning processes between our community organizers and your office directly where we can work together towards shared goals. These are the types of solutions that can make our communities more resilient.
Hon. Laura Kelly, Governor, State of Kansas
Hon. Mike Parson, Governor, State of Missouri
Kansas Corporation Commission
Missouri Public Service Commission
Evergy, Inc. Board of Directors
Alphabetical by Organization Name:
Climate + Energy Project
PO Box 1858
Hutchinson, KS 67504
Johnson County Advocacy and Awareness Group
Jana Reever, Executive Director, Teresa A. Woody Litigation Director
Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Inc
211 E. 8th Street, Suite D
Lawrence, KS 66044 (785) 251-8160
1000 9th St
Kansas City, MO 64124-1614
William A. Wallace
Missouri Veterans Endeavor
8410 Engler Park Ct. St. Louis, Missouri 63114
Rui Xu – State Representative 25th District
Room: 174-W Seat: 70
Students for Social Justice at Donnelly College