Officials urge rise of wind energy, conservation in Kansas

Utilities would be given chance to recover costs

State energy officials Tuesday urged lawmakers to adopt measures to increase wind energy and promote conservation.

“We believe there are tremendous opportunities for the state,” said Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, who serves as co-chair of the Kansas Energy Council.

Ken Frahm, the other co-chair, told the House Energy and Utilities Committee, that conservation alone in Kansas could erase the need for a new electric generation plant.

The Energy Council has recommended that the Legislature require that utilities provide customers with services that show how they can conserve energy.

In return, the utilities would be allowed to recover from customers the cost of conservation similar to the way they recover costs of building new plants.

The council also wants homes on the real estate market to come with energy cost disclosures, and it is encouraging the state to work with cities in developing minimum standards for energy efficiency in new home construction.

On renewable resources, Parkinson said the state has yet to live up to its wind-energy potential.

He said the state needs to promote the construction of transmission lines to move wind-generated electricity.

“We need to get started on that right now,” he said, noting that it usually takes four to five years to construct a line.

And he said the state should guarantee that utilities can recover their operating costs in developing wind.

Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, a member of both the Energy Council and the Utilities Committee, said the state needs to work toward more wind and other forms of energy production.

“The state needs fuel diversification,” he said.

He said although wind energy costs more than coal-produced electricity, it is becoming a more attractive investment because the costs of coal, transportation and materials to build coal plants are on the rise.

In her budget proposal, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has recommended that the state spend $1 million to spur construction of a transmission line for wind-generated electricity.

In addition, Sebelius said the state should produce 10 percent of its electricity needs from wind by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020.