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Archive for Wednesday, January 14, 1998

RETAIL WHEELING FACES UPHILL BATTLE THIS YEAR

January 14, 1998

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— Legislative leaders are putting up "go slow" signs on retail wheeling.

Cheaper electric bills and the ability to buy "green power" generated by renewable energy resources could be available to Kansans when the electric industry is deregulated, says Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence.

However, Gov. Bill Graves and legislative leaders prefer to put the measure on hold -- and just use this session to discuss the issue.

"It's not going anywhere," House Speaker Tim Shallenburger said Tuesday. "There's a flat tire on the retail wheeling truck."

Sloan, a member of the House Utilities Committee, said he's not surprised some legislators don't want to tackle the issue yet because they don't know enough about it.

Sloan said Tuesday he wants a bill to bring deregulation, or "retail wheeling," of electricity to Kansas considered on the floor of the House this year.

"I think retail wheeling is the best hope in the future for alternative energy producers," said Sloan, who worked for 17 months on a task force that drafted a bill that was introduced Tuesday.

"We deal with everything from dental hygienists to corporate operations and the impact on the environment," he said. "I think the Legislature will address the major issues related to the deregulation of the electric industry and give customers the choice of lower electric costs."

Last week, Sloan was at the 1998 Energy Institute in Denver, which discussed deregulation issues and took participants to visit federal research facilities for using the wind, the sun and plant material to produce electricity.

"In the retail wheeling bill I have inserted language that encourages the development of alternative energy," Sloan said.

Legislative leaders are joined by the governor in going slow -- Mike Matson, Graves' press secretary, said Graves wants to make sure Kansas studies what happens in other states first.

"Right now we're in a position where there are more questions than answers," Matson said. "The end game needs to be win-win."

Rep. Carl Holmes, R-Liberal, who chaired the retail wheeling task force, agreed the task force's bill, which would bring deregulation in 2001, should merely be used as an educational tool this year.

However, Holmes said he would like a separate bill to be broken out of the tax force bill that deals only with deregulation tax issues.

And Holmes would like to see a third piece of legislation that would allow customers to have a breakdown of their monthly electric bills that shows the electric generation costs, the transmission costs and the distribution costs.

Asked why he wanted to wait, Holmes said that unlike other complicated issues "if we find out we're going down the wrong road, we can't step back."

-- Dave Toplikar's phone message number is 832-7151. His e-mail address is toplikar@ljworld.com.

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