Eagle editorial: Leave renewable energy standard alone

03/26/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:23 AM

Kansas’ 5-year-old renewable portfolio standard is a proven winner in ramping up Kansas as a leader in wind energy – and undeserving of the attack underway at the Statehouse.

The RPS requires that by 2016 the utility companies regulated by the Kansas Corporation Commission get 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar – a milestone already met – and that such generation reach 20 percent by 2020. Having the law in Kansas has helped attract $7 billion in investment and more than 12,000 jobs.

So rather than dispute the impressive track record, proponents of repeal have turned to misinformation, blaming it for a 22 percent increase in electric rates and 15 rate hikes.

In fact, according to Kansas Corporation Commission documents, renewable electricity generation has added only 1.6 percent to electricity rates. (Most of the increases were due to other reasons, including federally mandated environmental upgrades.)

The RPS became law not because of former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius but because of her successor, Mark Parkinson, who crafted the agreement linking the RPS and other pro-renewable provisions to approval of a still-pending expansion of the coal-fired power plant near Holcomb.

“I give him a lot of credit. He took a very practical approach,” then-House Speaker Mike O’Neal of Hutchinson said of Parkinson in 2009.

So it was interesting to see that O’Neal, now president of the pro-repeal Kansas Chamber of Commerce, recently said of the RPS: “I’d make an argument that it never was needed.”

Many others in Kansas would strenuously disagree, including rural landowners who’ve benefited from the explosion of wind farms and the more than $13 million in annual land-lease payments. Siemens Wind Energy employs more than 300 in Hutchinson. Mars reportedly chose to build an M&M’s plant in Topeka in part because Kansas was a pro-renewables state.

And it’s not as if a repeal would lower electric rates, as proponents acknowledge.

Also, the process used to push the bill toward Senate passage was suspect: The repeal language was placed into a House-passed bill in a “gut-and-go” move and approved by the Senate Utilities Committee (without a recorded vote), a move aimed at fast-tracking its trip to Gov. Sam Brownback’s desk.

Speaking of the governor, a long-standing champion of wind farming in Kansas: He needs to speak up and let it be known to Kansans whether renewable-energy capital investment and jobs matter more to him than his close ties to some of the repeal proponents, including not only the Kansas Chamber but also Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

As it is, the rationale for repeal seems unconnected to the reality of the renewable portfolio standard’s success.

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman

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