Dorothy Barnett: Don’t roll back RES

01/10/2014 12:00 AM

01/09/2014 5:25 PM

As we approach the 2014 legislative session, outside interests are lobbying Kansas legislators, attacking smart energy policies that have created quality jobs and boosted our state’s economy. These lobbyists want to repeal Kansas’ renewable energy standard to pad their employers’ pockets.

As an Eagle editorial noted (“GOP divided on RES,” Dec. 8 Opinion), this repeal attempt is a part of a nationwide coordinated effort to eliminate state renewable energy standards. All such efforts failed last year, but it seems that won’t stop this cabal from taking another stab, regardless of how harmful it could be to Kansas and other states.

These outsiders’ gain would hurt Kansas energy consumers. The Sunflower State’s investment in homegrown wind energy has already generated more than 12,000 in-state jobs, helped bring world-class companies such as Mars to the state, and injected hundreds of millions of dollars into local economies. Wind now accounts for about 10 percent of the energy that Kansans use, and studies show that it has played a large role in keeping the state’s energy costs down.

Last August, the Department of Energy and Berkeley Lab reported that the price of wind energy dropped nationally thanks to lower costs (turbine prices have dropped 35 percent since 2008) and improved capacity. A Kansas Energy Information Network study shows that wind will offer Kansas ratepayers the lowest costs per megawatt hour over the next 20 years.

Thanks to favorable policies such as the RES in Kansas and the federal production tax credit, wind energy can now compete with natural gas. The only thing holding this industry back from growing stronger and faster is policy instability, manifested in the constant expiration and extension of the PTC and attacks on the RES.

Kansas has been a national leader in developing a competitive wind market for two reasons. First, the state is geographically well positioned to make use of wind energy. Kansas has the No. 2 wind resource in the country, and its place in the United States’ heartland means its wind energy is a valuable, exportable resource. This had led to the wind industry making significant financial investments in Kansas communities, including nearly $8 million in land-lease payments alone.

Second, the state government’s investment in wind sends a signal to the private sector that Kansas is open for wind business. This leads to more investment, more jobs and a larger wind-energy economy.

Were Kansas to be the first state to allow its RES to be overturned, that investment and those jobs would likely go elsewhere. Other states, including Colorado, Oklahoma and Iowa, have all made strong investments into wind energy and would welcome the added industry attention.

Supporting the RES and continuing to help the wind industry grow in Kansas will strengthen our economy, help Kansans’ continue to find good jobs, and open up a renewable-energy-inspired future for the state.

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