By Hannah Swank
KU Statehouse Wire Service
Activists wearing green stickers reading, “Wind Works for Kansas,” shuffled into the crowded meeting for the Senate Taxation Committee on Wednesday to oppose SB 433 repealing the renewable energy standards act.
The renewable energy standards require utilities to produce or buy 10 percent of their electricity through renewable resources in 2011-2015. This percentage of electricity from renewable resources increases to 15 percent in 2016-2019 and to 20 percent by 2020.
According to Kimberly Svaty, the Public Policy Director for the Wind Coalition, Kansas utilities have already achieved the percentage standards through 2019 and are just shy of reaching the 20 percent rate.
Mike O’Neal, President and CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, testified as a proponent of SB 433 saying that the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) currently in place is not a free-market concept.
“Wind projects will go where the wind blows. They’re not here because of the Renewable Portfolio Standard,” O’Neal said. “If the renewable energy mandate would go away, the wind wouldn’t quit blowing and the appetite for renewable energy would not go away.”
Jeff Glendening, Kansas State Director of Americans for Prosperity, echoed O’Neal’s testimony and stressed that the opponents of the RPS repeal are not against renewable energy, but instead are opposed to government statutes.
“We are tired of paying higher health care costs because of the government inserting itself into the health care marketplace. Just like that, we’re tired of paying higher energy costs because of edicts that come down from the EPA,” Glendening said. “This is a great opportunity for you all to show your support for the free market and for limited government.”
As an opponent of SB 433, Matt Riley, CEO of Infinity Wind Power, said the signal the legislature sent when the RPS was enacted was very strong and attracted developers like his company to invest in the state.
“The utilities aren’t going to change their behavior since they are pretty much fully subscribed to the RPS,” Riley said. “Repealing it really wouldn’t change anything, except it would send a very strong negative signal to companies like mine that our business is no longer welcome in this state.”
Jason M. Ball, President and CEO of the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce, said from a job-creation standpoint, the repeal of the RPS puts economic development efforts at risk and jeopardizes the state’s ability to recruit new industries.
“If supporting economic growth is one of the goals of this legislature, then the Renewable Portfolio Standards should stay in place,” Ball said. “It does not drive up the cost of energy; it protects jobs we already have; it supports our ability to create new jobs.”