Battle over renewable energy heating up

? The fight over renewable energy in Kansas will likely intensify.

State Sen. Pat Apple, R-Louisburg, and chairman of the Senate Utilities Committee, said Wednesday the committee will likely recommend approval of a bill to repeal the Kansas Renewable Portfolio Standard when it meets Thursday.

“We need to do what we can for renewables but also keeping in mind how this affects our ratepayers in Kansas is important,” Apple said.

Senate Bill 433 would repeal the 2009 RPS that required major utility companies to have the capacity to generate 10 percent of their energy through a renewable source by 2011. It also called for the companies to generate 15 percent of their energy through a renewable source by 2016 and 20 percent by 2020.

Opponents of the RPS say it has increased electric costs and benefited politically favored industries.

During a hearing on the bill, Kansas Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Mike O’Neal said the renewable standards give government the power of “picking winners and losers.”

O’Neal, a former House speaker, said wind energy should compete like other energy sources on the market. “Take the training wheels off,” he said.

Jeff Glendening, Kansas state director of Americans For Prosperity, blamed the RPS for a 22 percent increase in electric rates.

Art Hall, who is executive director of the Center for Applied Economics at the Kansas University School of Business; Kansans for Liberty and the Kansas Livestock Association also testified in favor of the bill repealing the renewable energy standards.

But advocates of wind energy, said the renewable standards have been good for Kansas, producing thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in private investment and helping recruit industries looking for an energy mix.

Repealing the renewable standards “would be kind of like the Legislature telling the Kansas beef industry that we are going to do meatless Mondays,” said Kimberly Svaty, representing The Wind Coalition.

And wind energy advocates disputed the charge that the renewable energy goal has led to significant electric bill increases.

A report by the Kansas Corporation Commission shows that the impact of the renewable energy standards is about one-fifth of one cent of the average 9.9 cents per kilowatt hour electricity cost.

Matt Riley, chief executive officer of Infinity Wind Power, a development company, said repeal of the RPS would send wind energy development to neighboring states, such as Oklahoma.

“It would send a very, very strong negative signal to companies like mine that our business is no longer welcome in this state,” he said.

Numerous business representatives, farmers, economic development officials and environmentalists testified against the repeal bill.