Kan. wind farm supporters talk renewable energy at the state capitol

Source: By Amelia Arvesen, KU Statehouse Wire Service • Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2015

TOPEKA — Wind farm supporters urged lawmakers Tuesday to retain current laws that require utility companies to generate or purchase renewable energy by the year 2020.

Wind farm supporters opposed Senate Bill 253, which would discontinue the Renewable Energy Standards Act by the end of the year. The act requires major electricity companies like Westar Energy to generate at least 10 percent of energy from renewable sources.

The second part of the legislation would cancel the scheduled Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) increases to 15 percent by 2016 and 20 percent by 2020.

Kimberly Svaty of The Wind Coalition said passing the bill would remove an effective policy. She said the standards attract global investors and new business to Kansas. Svaty also said it would be a missed opportunity to create more jobs.

“The states with favorable environments win capital investment,” Svaty said.

Bruce Graham, Wind Energy Department chair at Cloud Community College in Concordia, said the student employment rate at the college for wind energy technician positions is 100 percent.

Proponents of the bill said the standard creates higher utility rates. Roger Woods with Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group, said the current policy restricts flexibility in the market. He said states with RPS mandates average 27 percent higher electricity prices than states without.

“There is sufficient wind energy production in Kansas for any business to meet their renewable goals without RPS mandates,” Woods said.

Mike O’Neal, chief executive officer of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, is a proponent for the bill. He said he supports the development of market-driven energy technologies, including wind but also urged the committee to consider the costs to counties of investing in renewable energy.

“We don’t need a mandate in Kansas for the wind to blow,” O’Neal said.

In 2009, Kansas became the last of 31 states to adopt the Renewable Energy Standards Act. In 2013, Kansas was the ninth ranked state for installed wind capacity with 1,700 turbines, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

The committee decided to extend the hearing until Wednesday to hear the remaining testimonies.