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Some Kan. lawmakers to fight wind power incentives

Published on -12/13/2013, 1:03 PM

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Some conservative leaders in the Kansas Legislature say they will try again during the next session to stop the state from any further efforts to require utilities to provide more wind power.

Supporters of wind power say that would hurt an industry that has grown in the four years since the state implemented the requirements, with more growth planned. A 2009 law, the Renewable Portfolio Standard, requires the state's major utilities to get 15 percent of their power from wind or other renewable sources by 2016 and 20 percent by 2020.

The law nearly was repealed in the last legislative session, falling a few votes short in the state House of Representatives, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/1jWVhcf ).

Since the law was enacted in 2009, wind energy capacity in Kansas has jumped from about 1,000 megawatts to 2,700 megawatts in 2013, with other projects in the planning stages.

Rep. Dennis Hedke, R-Wichita, chairman of the House Energy and Environment Committee, opposes the requirements. He said all energy sources should be on the same level and the top priority should be providing the lowest cost for consumers.

"People are certainly feeling the pinch and the ones hurting the most are those on fixed income," he said.

Kansas Corporation Commission documents show the six major utilities in Kansas subject to the law -- Westar, Kansas City Power & Light, Empire District Electric, Kansas Electric Power Coop, Midwest Energy and Sunflower Electric Power Utilities -- are on track to meet the 2016 goal.

Hedke said last week that he expects to resurrect a bill that would eliminate the 2020 requirement and allow the Kansas Corporation Commission to waive the 15 percent requirement for good cause. Opponents cite studies that contend providing wind power is significantly more costly than conventional energy forms.

"Anybody who wants to continue to build can do so, they're just not mandated to do so," Hedke said.

Wind proponents contend wind power technology improves and reduced the cost of providing energy. They say considerations other than cost support the use of wind power.

"The RPS has been a strong signal to the wind energy industry that Kansas is open for business," Matt Riley, CEO of wind farm developer Infinity Wind Power of Santa Barbara, Calif., wrote in an email. "Repealing the RPS would do little more than send a strong negative signal that the wind industry should focus on investing in surrounding states with strong policies that encourage wind energy development, both for in-state use and for energy export."

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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