Doing away with the Kansas renewable energy standards could have a devastating effect on the state’s growing wind energy industry.
Nonetheless, the Senate Utilities Committee voted last week to repeal those standards and, as one senator put it, “let business do its thing.” The committee gutted an already approved House bill and replaced it with the repeal measure, meaning that the action could be approved by both houses of the Legislature without ever facing a public hearing that might reveal valid drawbacks to the bill.
The renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS) were passed in 2009 and would require major utility companies in the state to generate 20 percent of their energy through renewable sources by 2020. The impact of the standards was almost immediate. Since 2009, according to the Kansas Energy Information Network, at least a dozen wind farms have gone online in Kansas, creating construction jobs and new capital investment in the state. Passage of the standards, which signified the state’s commitment to wind power, also helped attract investment from wind generation industries, such as Siemens, which manufactures giant wind turbine nacelles at its plant in Hutchinson.
Critics blame the standards for increased electrical rates in Kansas, but wind energy advocates cite Kansas Corporation Commission figures that indicate the RPS has almost no impact on the state’s electrical rates, which more often seem to be driven by the need to upgrade or expand coal-fired plants. Kansas electric companies, such as WestarEnergy, are on track to meet the renewable energy standards.
There seems to be little doubt that the standards helped kick-start the wind energy business in Kansas, one of about 30 states with RPS laws. Some state legislators apparently see the RPS as an impediment to free enterprise in the state, but the standards have helped support a growing industry that takes advantage of a clean, renewable and abundant natural resource in Kansas: the wind.
Legislators shouldn’t risk jeopardizing those advances — especially without even opening the issue to public discussion before passing the repeal.