Jeff Glendening: Eliminate the RPS mandate

05/01/2014 12:00 AM

04/30/2014 5:38 PM

Every time you flip on a light switch, Topeka makes sure it costs more than it should. It’s been this way since 2009, when the Legislature and Gov. Mark Parkinson forced the state’s utility companies to obtain 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the end of the decade. They called this mandate the renewable portfolio standard.

It isn’t working. The RPS law is a case study in unintended consequences. No matter how well-intentioned, it harms our state’s businesses and families every day.

One-size-fits-all mandates like the RPS always come with a high price tag. For Kansans, the costs come from the high price of renewable energy. Our state derives most of its renewable energy from wind power. Yet electricity generated from wind is much more expensive than electricity from other sources such as natural gas or coal.

While wind may seem cheaper at first glance, it actually requires expensive backup from other energy plants. The wind doesn’t always blow – and when it doesn’t, you pay for it in your utility bill.

Yet RPS laws force utilities to choose the more expensive electricity option. Topeka is thus unfairly choosing winners and losers in the energy industry.

This favoritism adds up quickly for Kansas families, who have utility bills higher than they would be without the RPS. States with RPS mandates average 27 percent higher electricity prices.

Before the law passed, Kansas’ average electricity prices were lower than those in most other states. This changed within a year of the RPS mandate’s passage. In 2010, our state’s electricity prices surpassed the average for states without mandates of any kind.

They’ve continued to rise. Already, electricity costs us 16 percent more than the national trend from the past five years. Our rates are now on track to exceed the national average within the next few years.

We don’t have to let that happen. If Topeka eliminates our state’s RPS mandate, both consumers and businesses will benefit. Surely it’s time to give Kansans a break.

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