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Legislators urged to require utilities to use more renewable energy sources

Located along U.S. 400 in southeastern Butler County, the Elk River Wind Project is Kansas' biggest wind farm, shown here in this file photo. Wind energy advocates are urging the state to increase electric generation through renewable sources, saying it would boost the state’s economy.

Located along U.S. 400 in southeastern Butler County, the Elk River Wind Project is Kansas' biggest wind farm, shown here in this file photo. Wind energy advocates are urging the state to increase electric generation through renewable sources, saying it would boost the state’s economy.

January 21, 2009

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— Wind energy advocates and rural officials Wednesday urged the Legislature to require utilities to increase electric generation through renewable sources, saying it would boost the state’s economy.

“Enacting this legislation will foster a boom in wind energy development in Kansas,” Dan Hartman, who was representing the Northwest Kansas Regional Energy Collaborative, said in submitted testimony to the House Energy and Utilities Committee.

House Bill 2013 would establish a renewable portfolio standard that would require that each public utility produce at least 10 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2012; 15 percent by 2016 and 20 percent by 2020.

There is currently a voluntary goal of renewable energy, but supporters of the bill say a statutory requirement is needed to entice wind developers and manufacturers of wind turbines. A majority of states have similar requirements.

Hartman said Kansas has the potential to become the “Saudi Arabia” of wind energy.

Without the renewable requirement, Kansas is losing out to other states in the development of wind farms, supporters of the bill said.

Dan Nagengast, executive director of the Kansas Rural Center, said that the legislation would promote community-owned wind projects.

“I believe a strong RPS (renewable portfolio standard) is the best key we have readily available to enhance our rural economy,” he said.

Tom Thompson, a spokesman for the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, said the group supported the proposal because it would result in a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

But Thompson said if the renewable energy bill was later linked to approval of more carbon dioxide emitting coal-burning power plants, then the Sierra Club would oppose the measure.

“That would defeat much of the purpose of many of these bills,” Thompson said.

The Legislature has been fighting for more than a year over whether to build two 700-megawatt coal-fired electric power plants in southwestern Kansas. The project has been vetoed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who has objected to the plants’ annual emission of 11 million tons of carbon dioxide, cited by many scientists as a cause of climate change.

David Springe, consumer counsel of the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board, spoke against the renewable energy standard, saying it could make energy more expensive for ratepayers.

“Each utility system is different from a resource perspective and from a finance perspective. Arbitrarily dictating the level and time of adding resources, regardless of cost or other considerations, is not in the interest of consumers,” Springe said.

“Every good idea seems to come out of ratepayers’ pockets,” he added.

Mark Schreiber, a spokesman for Westar Energy, which is the largest electric utility in Kansas, said the company supported the proposal and believes it can meet the requirements.

Currently, Westar produces about 300 megawatts of wind energy, which represents 6 percent of its peak load, Schreiber said. To meet the 2012 proposed requirement, Westar would have to produce an additional 200 megawatts of renewable capacity.

State Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, said other issues had to be considered, such as the availability of transmission lines to transport wind-generated electricity, and whether municipally owned utilities should be included in the bill, which as of now they aren’t.

“There are several other issues that are not addressed in this bill,” Sloan said.

State Rep. Don Myers, R-Derby, asked whether it wouldn’t be better to let the market decide how much wind power should be built in Kansas rather than establishing a requirement.

Joe Spease, chief executive officer of Windsohy of Overland Park, said the requirement would help ensure financing for wind projects.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill. A renewable portfolio standard also is part of Sebelius’ energy plan.

Comments

Phillbert 5 years, 11 months ago

The Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board needs to look beyond the relative costs of coal and wind today (which are close anyway) and look at what the costs will be after CO2 controls are inevitably put in place in the near future. Coal will get a lot more expensive and the customers CURB is supposed to protect will foot the bill.CURB needs to abandon the reflexive "no" it says to everything and start looking at the bigger picture. Heck, even Westar and the Sierra Club agree on this, which is fairly remarkable.

Sigmund 5 years, 11 months ago

Phillbert (Anonymous) says… "The Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board needs to look beyond the relative costs of coal and wind today (which are close anyway) and look at what the costs will be after CO2 controls are inevitably put in place in the near future."You're willing to pay more for wind powered electricity, right? I mean you'd be happy if Westar shut down the coal plant outside Lawrence and converted to wind and solar if it meant doubling or tripling your electric bill, correct? I mean as new businesses don't bring their jobs here and existing employers leave for cheaper electric rates, your fine with that?

TopJayhawk 5 years, 11 months ago

But it'll ruin my view....Friggin' nimby's

Kaw Pickinton 5 years, 11 months ago

"I noticed in the picture that none of the windmills are actually turning; they won't produce energy if there is not enough wind to turn them."Pictures don't move, your thinking about movies.

smosit 5 years, 11 months ago

Sigmund,"You're willing to pay more for wind powered electricity, right?"your rhetorical questions, to me, represent the knee-jerk fear-mongering that keeps our society from having a better way of living.i'm pretty sure it's a little more complex than: clean energy = $$$. it's entirely possible to have plenty of clean energy and not have prices go up.for one thing, energy is a commodity. if we all use less, it will cost less too (i know this is a bit simplified); note the gas prices lately. if, as logarithmic implied, we go on a tiered rate system, rather than the current flat rate system, it would encourage better efficiency and put the cost burden on heavy users. being able to sell energy back to the grid from home solar/wind generators would also improve the situation.also, we're sort of talking about wind/solar energy as it exists now. there is much room for improvement in the technology. if alt energy research received as much funding from the government as petro-chemical research, coal/oil/nat.gas energy would be a rare thing to see today.if one looks back 100 years or so, people made these same sort of knee-jerk 'it won't work' arguments about the internal combustion engine and electric lighting and homes. i feel time will show the obvious advantages of wind/solar energy.take care

lounger 5 years, 11 months ago

Great! Now we can join the rest of the country and come to our senses. Kansas was progressive years ago and could be again if attitudes would change. Look to the clean future of energy. A very smart move indeed....

GGP 5 years, 11 months ago

Just read today that North Dakota, is developing the largest wind farm in the US. Over 5,000 megawats, that is, at peak wind conditions, over several times more than the whole state uses. Must be exporting some ot that energy.Where does that leave Kansas?

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