SOURCE: Westar Energy, Inc.

Westar Energy, Inc.

August 04, 2009 18:17 ET

Westar Energy Applies for Smart Grid Funding

Company Plans Concept Project Called "SmartStar Lawrence"

TOPEKA, KS--(Marketwire - August 4, 2009) - Westar Energy (NYSE: WR) today announced it has applied with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for up to $20 million in funding under the Smart Grid Investment Grant program.

The company's application calls for development of a smart grid concept town in Lawrence, Kansas. Called "SmartStar Lawrence," the project will include installation of "smart" meters, interactive Web access, technology enhancements and improved service in Lawrence. The project is estimated to cost a total of $40 million and is contingent on DOE approval of funding for half of it, about $20 million. Approval could take as long as six months.

Westar Energy has researched smart grid technology for more than two years. The company chose Lawrence as the concept town for this technology due to its size and its wide range of customers, including a mobile student population, commercial and industrial customers and educational institutions. While Lawrence customers will be the first to receive smart meters, the systems and equipment the company plans to install will enable the same technology throughout Westar's service territory.

"We think SmartStar Lawrence is a responsible yet meaningful approach to initially deploying smart grid technology," said Bill Moore, Westar Energy president and chief executive officer. "We'll see what works for our customers, prior to expanding to other areas. This should also give us, our regulators and public officials valuable information to see how smart grid technology fits into a smart Kansas energy policy."

Smart grid technology is a state-of-the-art approach to managing electricity systems. In the event of a power outage, for example, Westar will more easily determine the cause and restore power more quickly. Customers with smart meters and internet access will be able to daily monitor how much electricity they use and how much it costs.

"This technology may be the essential factor in giving customers better choice and control over their energy usage, as well as allowing Westar to introduce programs to help curb demand and costs during times of peak usage," said Moore.

Once underway, Westar expects SmartStar Lawrence will take two to three years to fully implement.

"A project that brings smart meters and real time data to Lawrence consumers is the exact connection we need to help us make wise use of our natural resources," said Rob Chestnut, Lawrence mayor. "When households can monitor and adjust their energy uses, Lawrence will be able to make a larger impact in the arena of energy conservation. I appreciate Westar's work to create a smart grid and to select Lawrence as the first community."

Today's application filing meets the DOE's deadline of August 6 for consideration in the first round of Smart Grid Investment Grant funding. The DOE plans subsequent rounds late this year and in early 2010.

Westar Energy, Inc. (NYSE: WR) is the largest electric utility in Kansas, providing electric service to about 681,000 customers in the state. Westar Energy has about 6,800 megawatts of electric generation capacity and operates and coordinates more than 35,000 miles of electric distribution and transmission lines.

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