KCP&L’s energy efficiency forum was a catalyst for community conversation.

Kansas City Power & Light’s commitment to energy efficiency first gained momentum in 2004 during the planning phase for the region’s energy plan. Striking the right balance to manage the issues of increasing demand, economic growth, energy efficiency, affordability, clean air and healthy environment was a delicate process. Through collaboration with several stakeholders, KCP&L came up with a Comprehensive Energy Plan that invests in several areas: new generation, including renewable wind energy; innovative energy efficiency, affordability and demand-response programs; infrastructure improvements; and proactive environmental investments.

The company believes that collaborating with the community and its customers is the best way for all to become more efficient users of electricity and to responsibly manage demand while reducing the community’s carbon footprint. In September 2007, Kansas City Power & Light and partners hosted the Kansas City Energy Efficiency Forum. Partners included the Kansas Energy Council, Missouri Energy Development Association (MEDA), Aquila, Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), Greater KC Chamber, Sierra Club and AARP.

Community-wide collaboration

The forum served as the beginning of a community-wide collaboration on the energy issues facing the region. Stakeholders from across the region came together to explore how to use natural resources in a more efficient, sustainable and healthy way. The invitees included community and civic leadership, government officials, environmental, low-income and senior stakeholder groups, channel partners and utility company employees. Each had a different viewpoint but they shared a common future. Turnout at the forum exceeded expectations, with more than 550 in attendance.

The forum had three objectives. The first was to learn from a series of panelists who engaged everyone in the audience in dialogue. Two distinguished panels of experts addressed energy efficiency, first in the U.S. and later, in the region. Joel Swisher, leader of the energy and resources team for the Rocky Mountain Institute, facilitated both panels. (See sidebar.)

Robert Cox, Sierra Club president, offered insight into what it takes to get a community involved. “I think it’s important to cooperate,” said Cox, “particularly a utility company [with its] residential or commercial users”.If the company wants [them] to engage in a certain program, it requires a certain level of education as to what the benefits will be for the user, but with that kind of trust and the knowledge base that’s built, then the utility company is able to proceed with a program that requires investment on its part.”

The second objective of the forum was to imagine the possibilities for energy efficiency in a world where the public wants ample affordable energy, protection of natural resources and a growing, robust economy. The group’s diverse experience and insights strengthened its ability to identify the needs and challenges facing the region. Imagination can become actionable. Ken Baker, senior manager of sustainable regulation at Wal-Mart, talked about the strides Wal-Mart is making in re-thinking its everyday operations, with LED exterior signage, radiant floor heating or capturing waste heat from refrigeration for use in restrooms.

“I think what we’re seeing here in the region is that ” utility leadership, governors and mayors want to do more,” said Ashok Gupta, program director for air and energy, Natural Resources Defense Council. “Now the question and the debate has been engaged. I think on the policy-making side, you’re also seeing the interest and in the next year or two I’m optimistic we’re going to see real leadership coming from Kansas, Missouri and the whole region in terms of real policies on energy efficiency and the reduction in global warming pollution.”

The regional panel discussed many of the local barriers and successes involved with energy efficiency adoption. Mid-America Regional Council Executive Director David Warm enlightened the group on the need to look at energy efficiency in the long term through sustainable community plans. He believes that with smarter growth techniques, cities can design communities to be much better at conserving energy. Steve McDowell, BNIM Architects, pushed for regulation of how buildings are designed. “We can make hybrid houses,” said McDowell. “We can make hybrid churches. We can make hybrid city buildings if we put our minds to it.”

The third objective of the forum and its subsequent meetings was to build a framework for action. Together the group can create local, state, regional and even federal policies that support energy efficiency. Part of that building process is to find and encourage a positive business model for energy efficiency—one where energy efficiency is treated as a “first fuel” and part of the industry’s future energy portfolio requirements.

And now, the energy efficiency conversation continues in multiple arenas. In December, the sponsors hosted three events at three different locations around the Kansas City metropolitan area. Each event had the same agenda: sharing the information gathered at the first forum, discussing potential legislation for Missouri and Kansas targeted at enabling energy efficiency, protecting consumers and other legislative initiatives, and soliciting feedback and suggestions from participants.

(Visit for more articles on energy efficiency.)


Matt Tidwell is the public affairs director at Kansas City Power & Light. KCP&L delivers power to more than 500,000 customers in western Missouri and eastern Kansas, covering a service territory of 4,600 square miles. The company has more than 4,000 MW of efficient generation assets in operation or under construction.

At KCP&L’s September 2007 energy efficiency forum, Joel Swisher, leader of the energy and resources team for the Rocky Mountain Institute, facilitated two panels.

National panelists included:
Joe Wharton, principal, The Brattle Group
Juan deBedout, manager of electric power and propulsion, General Electric
Robert Cox, president, Sierra Club
Ken Baker, senior manager of sustainable regulation, Wal-Mart
John Coffman, energy consultant, AARP
Ashok Gupta, program director for air and energy, Natural Resources Defense Council

The regional panel on energy efficiency included:
Bill Downey, president and chief executive officer, Kansas City Power & Light
Lewis Mills, public counsel, Office of Missouri Public Counsel
David Warm, executive director, MARC
Commissioner Robert Clayton, Missouri Public Service Commission
Steve McDowell, principal, BNIM Architects
Mark Fogal, executive director, Missouri Votes Conservation
Jim Zakoura, principal, Smithyman & Zakoura

What is a “negawatt”?

Amory B. Lovins, co-founder and chairman of the Rocky Mountain Institute, coined the phrase “negawatt.” Negawatts represent the power saved from one application that is then available for another. For instance, energy efficient light bulbs “generate” negawatts of saved energy use. Negawatts are used to compare the cost of conservation measures with the cost of increasing power production. Lovins has written many books on energy policy including “Soft Energy Paths: Towards a Durable Peace” and “Small is Profitable.”

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