LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas consumer advocates are recommending state utility regulators reject Westar Energy's request for a $17.2 million rate increase and instead order the company to cut rates.

Employees of the Kansas Corporation Commission and the Citizens Utility Ratepayer Board recommended this week that the commission cut Westar rates for customers by at least $69 million, the Lawrence Journal-World reported . The board, or CURB, is a state agency representing consumers in utility rate cases.

"CURB's evidence strongly supports the need to decrease rates for all Westar customers and we hope the KCC will adopt our recommendations in this rate case," said David Nickel, the board's consumer counsel.

Westar provides service to about 700,000 customers in Kansas. The company filed a rate request that translates to an increase of $2.80 a month for the average residential customer.

Westar also proposed a new mandatory rate structure for people with solar panels and other forms of self-generation systems. The company would charge those people additional monthly fees for the energy they take off Westar's power grid during peak demand hours.

KCC staff and CURB are urging regulators to reject the idea that Westar needs any kind of overall rate increase. The agencies submitted testimony discussing how Westar's costs should be measured and how they should be allocated across different classes of customers.

Both groups also recommended smaller fees than Westar proposed for customers using solar panels.

Westar is expected to submit a rebuttal by July 2. KCC is expected to make a final decision by Sept. 27.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com