Energy initiatives encouraged

House committee urged to boost wind energy, conservation

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 council has recommended that the Legislature require utilities to provide customers with services that show how customers could 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 listed for sale to come with energy cost disclosures. The council also is encouraging the state to work with cities in developing minimum standards for energy efficiency in construction of new homes.

On renewable resources, Parkinson said the state had yet to live up to its wind-energy potential, adding that the state needed 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.

The state also 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 needed to work toward more wind and other forms of energy production.

“The state needs fuel diversification,” he said.

Although wind energy costs more than coal-produced electricity, he said, it is becoming a more attractive investment because of the rising costs of coal, transportation and materials to build coal plants.

Wind supporters also have noted that with coal-fired plants come health costs.

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.

Sloan said that construction of a transmission line to move power from west Kansas to other areas was crucial.

A new state group, the Kansas Energy Transmission Authority, is considering how to generate placement of a new line, which could cost from $60 million to $100 million.

“The governor’s proposal and KETA are a means of pressuring utilities to look at transmission lines that will benefit the state,” Sloan said.