Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oped: Don't Roll Back Renewable Portfolio Standards

This piece originally appeared in the Wichita Eagle on February 12, 2013

People of faith are called to be responsible stewards of God’s Creation. That’s why Kansas Interfaith Power and Light is one of a number of business, agricultural, energy, environmental and faith-based groups supporting the most effective state policy we have for the development of clean energy in Kansas: the renewable portfolio standard. Adopted in 2009, the RPS requires that certain utilities generate or purchase 20 percent of their electricity load from renewable sources by 2020.

The RPS is a market-based mechanism that is intended to unleash the development of renewable-energy sources until they are at a competitive par with fossil fuels – and unleash them it has. It has led to an explosion of wind-energy development in Kansas, including more than 2,800 megawatts of installed wind energy equaling about $7 billion in investment since 2001, as well as the creation of 13,000 jobs directly or indirectly related to the wind industry in Kansas.

A report released in August by the American Wind Energy Association showed Kansas leading the nation in the number of wind turbines under construction. Kansas is on track to more than double its installed capacity and ranks seventh in the percentage of power derived from wind – 8.3 percent, equivalent to powering 430,000 homes. Add to this the development of manufacturing that supports wind development, such as the Siemens plant in Hutchinson that assembles nacelles and hubs for wind turbines, and we can see why Gov. Sam Brownback is such a strong supporter of wind. He noted recently: “Wind-energy development has created thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent operation and maintenance jobs in Kansas. And we are nearing 2,000 jobs in wind-component manufacturing.”

The benefits of the RPS include increased diversity and security of our energy supply; reduced volatility of power prices; local economic development resulting from new jobs, taxes and revenue; and environmental improvement as we move away from polluting forms of energy toward cleaner and safer ones.

That’s why it’s so disturbing to see efforts in Topeka to roll back this sensible and successful policy. An effort in the Legislature to overturn the state RPS was rebuffed last session, but the issue has come up again, driven by the huge influence of fossil-fuel money on our political system.
Some claim that the RPS drives up the price of energy, but according to a March 2012 report by the Kansas Corporation Commission, compliance with the RPS thus far has had a “de minimis” impact on rates – in the zero to 1.7 percent range. In fact, by helping to make renewables more competitive, the RPS protects consumers from fluctuations in the price of fossil fuels. That’s why more than half of the 29 states with renewable portfolio standards have strengthened them – on a bipartisan basis.

On behalf of Creation, clean energy and good jobs for Kansans, it’s worthwhile to ask your legislators if they support a policy that helps develop one of the most successful economic sectors in Kansas over these recent difficult years; that provides jobs, economic opportunities, and tax revenue all across the state, including in areas with few other opportunities for economic growth; and that incentivizes the development of clean, homegrown and unlimited sources of energy.

The RPS is good for Creation, and it’s good for Kansas.

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