Archive for Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Power politics

Some people are sure to be upset by Gov. Mark Parkinson’s compromise to allow construction of a coal-fired power plant, but the plan also will allow the state to ramp up its alternative energy efforts

May 6, 2009


The very nature of a compromise is that neither side is entirely happy with the results.

That is the case with the surprising compromise Gov. Mark Parkinson announced Monday with Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to allow the construction of one coal-fired electric power plant near Holcomb.

The timing of the announcement, only a week after Kathleen Sebelius left the governor’s office to join President Obama’s Cabinet, was particularly surprising. An agreement coming so soon after Sebelius’ departure is an indication of how much of a political standoff this issue had become. Sebelius had attempted to negotiate an agreement about a year ago to allow the construction of one coal-fired plant, but to no avail. Whether it was a matter of substance or personalities, Parkinson obviously had a different experience.

The agreement will allow the construction of one 895-megawatt coal-burning plant instead of two 700-megawatt plants and will require Sunflower to step up its development of wind energy and construction of transmission lines that can help move wind energy produced by Sunflower and other developers.

Parkinson has made the agreement contingent on passage of comprehensive energy legislation that includes renewable portfolio standards, net metering and other provisions that are essential to the state becoming a player in the alternative energy industry. It also includes a new restriction on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s use of CO2 levels as justification to deny a permit to build power plants. The legislation will require KDHE to rely on federal clean air standards in its decision-making process. That is a significant issue now, but it may not be for long if, as expected, federal CO2 standards are set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

It’s a tradeoff. Sunflower officials are elated because they will be allowed to build what they say will be one of the cleanest coal-fired plants anywhere. Assuming they can meet the financial and regulatory requirements to start construction, they have an obligation to the people of Kansas to do just that.

Alternative energy proponents also have reason to be pleased that the state now can move forward on additional wind power and transmission lines, as well as finally having regulations in place to help the state attract additional power developers and manufacturers of alternative energy equipment.

No one got everything they wanted, but the state now will be able move this troublesome issue off the legislative agenda and push ahead on efforts to take advantage of alternative energy opportunities.


devobrun 8 years, 11 months ago

tumbilweed: It will push ahead alt energy opportunities by building infrastructure that will be useful for wind turbines.

It will encourage development of those wind turbine generators.

It will push forward alternative energy while providing backup for the unreliable wind. I see this as a reasoned proposal that includes all the parts and pieces needed for alternative energy development.

Furthermore, the development of wind with a modern high efficiency coal backup will give engineers data for comparison so that energy systems can be designed even better in the future.

However, if the argument here is just about political power, then the Sierra club lost. If the argument is about who makes decisions about electric power generation not how or what, then engineers won.

Sorry if you lost. Maybe you should have studied calculus and physics instead of political science.

myvotecounts 8 years, 11 months ago

It is refreshing to see a successful legislative compromise that is truly about energy policy and based on science. Now, if we could just recover what this political battle has cost the state over the last two years.

Chris Ogle 8 years, 11 months ago

Parkinson stated something to the effect that carbon emissions could be less than zero.... How does that happen? (serious question)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 11 months ago

Yes, devo, this was about politics-- and in this country politics is really about money, and Sunflower and the coal industry bought off our government, and held sensible measures on things like net metering and expansion of transmission lines hostage till they got their coal plant.

Ogallala_Kid 8 years, 11 months ago

Bozo, "bought off our government?" Shame on you. Nobody bought me out.

But someone must have bought you out, since your energy costs are one half of mine, and still come from a stinky polluting plant.

Come "buy me off" with some of your cheap power. Ha!

If someone got "bought off," check with Mr. Obama and the Demos in Illinois, who has been front and center of the new multi-billion coal demonstration plant in Illinois.

Why are Obama's jobs for coal development good, and those in SW Kansas bad? And I'm paying for his plant. And he isn't paying for mine. I'm charging those nasty out-of-state consumers who you care for even less than me.

Bill Griffith 8 years, 11 months ago

A state RPS is a hollow victory. The feds are going to pass an RPS soon that will take most of the benefit (if not all of it away) of a state RPS away. As far as net metering goes, KCPL and Westar had already indicated they are going to move forward on this issue and make it an option for their customers. Under Parkinson's agreement, cooperatives do not have to take part in net metering-nor will they. By the way, natural gas is the best choice by far to back up wind. Coal is known within the utility industry as a poor choice because of the ramp up time.

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