Though Gov. Sam Brownback rightly claims to be a champion of wind energy in Kansas, his position on the state’s renewable portfolio standard seems to depend on which way the wind blows. He should join a strong majority of Kansans in supporting the RPS now and for the future.
The RPS, a step-by-step framework for ensuring Kansas utility companies would get 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020, was passed by the 2009 Legislature as part of the deal meant to allow another coal-fired power plant near Holcomb. Though the plant is unbuilt, the RPS has paid off richly in rural development of wind farms and land-lease income for farmers. Also greatly assisted by the now-expired federal wind production tax credit, Kansas has seen its wind farms multiply from one to 21 in a decade, with more under construction and planned. Wind energy gets credit for 13,000 jobs and $8 billion in investment in Kansas since 2004. More than 1,700 turbines are generating nearly 3,000 megawatts of electricity, already bringing Kansas to the point of seeing 19 percent of its electricity come from wind.
So why have there been eight attempts to repeal the RPS, and efforts by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity to target not only the RPS but its defenders in the Legislature? And why is Brownback waffling on it?
The governor stated his desire in July to see the RPS phased out, hours before his spokeswoman said he had intended to say he supported ending not the RPS but the federal credits. Last week he said he had supported the RPS but would be open to seeing stakeholders agree on a phase-out. And in Saturday’s debate the governor harshly criticized Democrat Paul Davis for voting against the RPS in 2009 (Davis was among Democratic opponents of the coal plant).
Though the Kansas Chamber seeks repeal by claiming the RPS not only picks winners and losers but increases business costs, “the Kansas Corporation Commission is required to annually report on the retail rate impacts of compliance with the RPS,” noted Dorothy Barnett, executive director of the Climate and Energy Project, in a Tuesday blog post, and “the most recent report indicated one-fifth of a cent for each (kilowatt-hour) of electricity can be attributed to the RPS.”
Meanwhile, 75 percent of Kansans polled early this year said they supported the RPS, while two-thirds would support increasing it to 25 percent – even if it meant a slightly higher electric bill. Voters also gave primary wins last month to all of the half a dozen pro-RPS moderate Republicans who had fought off repeal last session and consequently been targeted by Kansas Chamber and AFP mailings.
Brownback should stop equivocating and tell the Legislature to stop trying to repeal the RPS, which has been great for Kansas.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman