In Kansas, the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is under attack. Two bills, Senate Bill 82 and House Bill 2241, would weaken or repeal the RPS.
As background, in 2009, Kansas legislators approved House Bill 2369, the Renewable Energy Standards Act, by a 5-1 margin. The standard provides that Kansans are to receive 10 percent of their electricity from renewable resources like wind and solar energy between 2011 and 2015, 15 percent between 2016 and 2019, and 20 percent by 2020.
Kansas is doing a standout job hitting the targets of the standard. Kansas utilities have already achieved the 10 percent goal and are incredibly close to the 15 percent goal – three years ahead of schedule. Utilities are already more than three-fourths of the way to achieving the 20% goal too.
Notably, the American Wind Energy Association just announced that in 2012, wind energy was the number one source of new U.S. electric generating capacity, providing a whopping 42 percent of all new electric capacity. Kansas was ranked an impressive third in the nation for new wind installations. With the continuance of the federal production tax credit and the implementation of the RPS, along with a phenomenal wind resource that could provide the state's electricity needs 90 times over, Kansas has positioned itself to be the wind energy leader in the coming years.
And the RPS has been integral to encouraging renewable energy projects, spurring job growth and keeping Kansas businesses competitive. A November 2012 Kansas Energy Information Network report found that the 19 wind farms currently 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, according to the Kansas Corporation Commission (Kansas’s public utilities commission), all this has been achieved without any significant increases in electricity costs for customers.
The benefits of the RPS go beyond the local job creation, lease payments, and revenue for local communicates. It also comes into play with corporations conducting site selection. The RPS is one visible way Kansas demonstrates its sustainability efforts to companies looking at several states for building energy-intensive projects such as manufacturing plants or datacenters. Specifically, Mars, the candy maker, expressed interest in creating a “zero carbon footprint” to Kansas's Governor Brownback when choosing Topeka as the site of a manufacturing plant. Mars has a strong commitment to using renewable energy.
So, knowing all this, it’s frustrating and alarming that both the Senate and the House are considering bills that put this economic development at risk. Senate Bill 82 puts off the years to achieve the 15 percent and 20 percent targets by two and four years, respectively. House Bill 2241 would delay the 15 percent target by two years and completely repeal the 20 percent benchmark. These bills are unnecessary steps backwards for Kansas.
The RPS plays a critical part in bringing and keeping the wind industry in Kansas, and Kansas has done a great job implementing the standard so far. Instead of bills weakening or repealing the RPS, Kansas should look to make their RPS goals even more aggressive to encourage even more homegrown wind energy for Kansans.