Gardner has something in common with the cities of Mulvane, Sterling and Wamego. The ability to generate electric power to be sold back to the power grid during times of high usage, such as the recent cold snap.
Wamego powered their own community during a blackout, and the others sold power back to the grid.
However, Gardner did not suffer black outs and did not fire their generators up.
As to reselling the energy, it’s a matter of economics, according to Gonzalo Garcia, utility director.
Gardner’s five gas turbines and two general electric frames are located near near Cedar Niles and Santa Fe. They were installed to be used to generate power during “peak demands” and sold back to the energy grid. Each turbine is rated at 13MW.
Garcia said Gardner did not fire up the generators because they weren’t asked. “In order to fire them up we need to get a request from SPP. Units are dispatched on economics, the ones with lowest cost are dispatched first,” he said.
The city of Wamego powered their generators up when they suffered a black out and provided power to their community. Sterling and Mulvane sold power back to the grid.
Last year, Gardner only used the generators once, netting $392, Garcia said.
Questions sent to Gardner staff regarding cost to operate turbines; whether they are operational and their value were not answered by press time, but this story will be updated online if the information becomes available.
Gardner was informed on Feb.15, that the price to purchase power from the electric grid would significantly increase due to the energy shortage caused by the prolonged cold weather. The price was fluctuating rapidly, and the full cost to the city will not be known until after this severe cold weather ends, according to the city’s social media page.
To account for changes in the net cost of purchasing wholesale power and the cost of fuel used to produce electric power, a Power Cost Adjustment (PCA) is always reflected in a Gardner utility customer’s monthly utility bill. The increase or decrease shown on the bill is a rolling average for the past 12 billing periods. At this time, Gardner does not know how much of an impact the increase in costs will have on the utility bills.
Steve Shute, mayor, said in a social media post that Gardner was doing everything possible to mitigate energy costs. “As I said, we will do everything we can to mitigate this increase, but we also can’t bankrupt the electric utility.”
Shute characterized the electric shortage as “an unprecedented squeeze that, although temporary, is profoundly impacting municipalities all over the region, not just Gardner.”
The city also issued a statement: The City of Gardner is not on the Evergy grid; therefore, the blackouts will not impact Gardner utility customers. However, we have been notified by our utility partners that there has been a dramatic increase in the cost of natural gas and generation of electric power due to the extreme cold weather. This means Gardner utility customers will experience a temporary but substantial increase in their utility costs for the next several days. During this time, we strongly encourage customers to conserve gas and electricity when possible to try to help mitigate this increase. “
Questions regarding amount in Gardner’s electric reserve fund and any plans for a possible rate increase were not answered by press time, but the story will be updated as information becomes available.
In April, the Gardner Council provided some electric customers with a rate holiday. They provided a one-month holiday to electric residential customers. This option involves not charging electric residential customers for their March charges. The city forgave approximately $733,573, which includes service charges, power cost adjustment and consumption. Gardner also provided a one-month partial holiday to electric commercial customers. This option involves not charging electric commercial customers for the first 5,000 kilowatt hours of March consumption. The city would forego collecting approximately $56,828.
Electric rates were reviewed by the Gardner City Council during their March 16, 2020 meeting, addressing concerns about more than 1,300 total electric residential customers that had seen their bills more than double this year. In February, 2019 the council changed rates and residential electric customers were charged a $6.72 service charge plus $0.1038 energy charge per kilowatt hour. Residential customers do not pay a demand charge. By comparison, both USD 231 and the city receive lower rates per kilowatt hour.
Complete rates are available on the city’s website.