Sister Vicki Bergkamp and Stu Dalheim: RPS is right for our future

03/26/2014 12:00 AM

03/25/2014 7:20 PM

In 2009, Kansas adopted a renewable portfolio standard, which set a goal for utilities in the state to produce 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy resources by 2020. In the five years since then, Kansas’ RPS has succeeded spectacularly.

The 19 wind farms operating or under construction in the state have created more than 12,300 jobs for Kansas citizens, $13.7 million in payments to landowners annually, and $10.4 million in contributions to communities each year. And this has been achieved without any significant increases in electricity costs for customers.

Given all that, it’s not surprising that recent polling found that 91 percent of Kansans support renewable energy, with the 2009 Kansas RPS law supported by an overwhelming 75 to 16 percent majority. Backing for the state’s RPS is not a partisan issue either, as 73 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of independents support it along with 82 percent of Democrats. In fact, 68 percent of Kansans actually support increasing the RPS to 25 percent.

It’s not just voters who understand the benefits of renewable energy. A recent study by Calvert Investments and partners found that a majority of Fortune 100 companies have set a renewable energy commitment, a greenhouse-gas emissions reduction commitment or both.

Another advantage to renewable energy is that it removes the painful price volatility we so often see with fossil fuels. Wind and solar fuel costs are essentially zero, while fossil-fuel prices can increase because of weather, geopolitical unrest and a variety of other factors. Meanwhile, the cost of solar power has fallen 99 percent since 1977, and it’s continuing to plummet.

In the end, despite false information to the contrary, renewable energy represents an enormous economic opportunity for Kansas, with its tremendous wind and solar resources. It’s also the right thing to do from a public policy and social responsibility perspective.

Kansas lawmakers should reject the fossil-fuel interests’ disinformation efforts and do what’s right for our future.

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