Topeka — Republicans in the Kansas Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would repeal the state's renewable energy standards.
"Let's repeal this mandate and allow the free market system to work," said state Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe.
But wind energy advocates said what is called the Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS, has been a boon to the Kansas economy — creating jobs, luring capital investment and providing payments to landowners.
"Wind is paying off," said state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, who opposed the bill. "We can continue to enjoy and benefit from the wind that has been blowing," she said.
The measure was sent to the House on a 25-15 vote. All 25 votes were cast by Republicans, while all 8 Democrats in the Senate and 7 other Republicans voted against the bill.
The bill 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. Utilities have said they are on track to meet the standard.
The measure featured numerous groups, individuals and local chambers of commerce lined up in favor of the RPS against the statewide Kansas Chamber, Kansas Livestock Association and Americans for Prosperity, which financed a long-running ad campaign against the RPS.
AFP argued that since the RPS went into effect, some Kansans' electric bills had increased 15 times.
But those in favor of wind energy said those increases were essentially pass-throughs to comply with federal environmental rules and regulations. They also pointed to a state study that said renewable energy accounts for one-fifth of one cent of the 9.95 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity cost.
Opponents said the renewable standards were an example of government picking favorites, but supporters said no state dollars were expended for the standards, unlike numerous state programs that give tax breaks to business.
Immediately after the vote, AFP's Kansas director Jeff Glendening issued a statement, saying, "Mandates like the RPS disable the competition that ultimately leads to lower costs."
If approved by the House, the measure would go to Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican who is allied with legislative leaders and groups opposing the RPS. But in the past, Brownback has praised Kansas wind development.
The RPS was the result of a controversial deal brokered in 2009 by then-Gov. Mark Parkinson.
In return for passage of the RPS, Parkinson vowed to help clear the way for Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to get a permit for an 895-megawatt, coal-fired plant in western Kansas.
Sunflower got its permit from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, but that plant has not been built, and its future is in doubt.