Library filed under Energy Policy from Kansas
The Senate last week passed by a veto-proof majority a bill opening a door to the 1,400-megawatt expansion of the Holcomb facility owned by Sunflower Electric Power Corp. A roll call vote today in the House would determine if 84 votes exist in the chamber to protect its version from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' veto pen. After a three-hour debate Monday, the House gave tentative approval to its energy bill 73-45. Approval by a mere majority of House members would send the measure to a Senate-House conference committee to work out differences in the legislation.
The Senate this afternoon passed with a veto-proof majority a controversial energy bill that would allow an addition to a coal-fired power plant in western Kansas and would strip the state's top environmental regulator of the power to limit carbon dioxide pollution. ..."We want economic growth, inexpensive energy and yet a clean environment and better health for our children," said Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, who voted in favor of the bill. "Solutions require elected officials to recognize those competing goals, to be frank about them and the tradeoffs they require."
A House committee endorsed a bill Tuesday to allow two coal-fired power plants in southwest Kansas, adding a mandate that utilities generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable resources such as wind within two years. The Energy and Utilities Committee's unanimous voice vote to send the measure to the House stood in sharp contrast to the strong divisions over energy policy that emerged during a four-hour debate. Members rewrote a bill drafted by the committee's Republican chairman and top Democrat and their Senate counterparts. Three times, the House committee rejected proposals for what would have been the state's first limits on carbon dioxide emissions ...Not only would utilities be required to generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2010, the figure would climb to 25 percent in 2025. But there's no punishment if a utility fails to meet the standard
While I am a strong supporter of wind generation as a supplemental source of energy, it cannot replace additional baseload generation. Because wind is intermittent, it must be accompanied by baseload generation of some sort and currently is paired for the most part with natural gas because it is more efficient to power down and power up a gas-fired generator than to do so with a coal generator. However, to have the capacity to produce much more wind generation, Kansas will need additional transmission lines from west to east and south to north. ...For transmission lines to be financially viable, they need to move energy from baseload generation as well as wind generation. ...The bottom line is Kansas is short of baseload generating capacity, and we are short of transmission capacity in the larger region. We no longer can rest on the assumption that yearly transmission service will be available even if the utility has a power supplier.
The governor now says her voluntary standards for renewable power in Kansas aren't enough -- they should be law. At a press briefing in her office Friday, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said she'd like to see legislators codify goals for power companies to invest 10 percent in green energy by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020. Her statement comes as 27 states have mandated renewable standards, and the federal government is discussing doing so as well Kansas utilities traditionally have opposed such mandates. Instead, Sebelius and executives of the state's power companies agreed last year to voluntary goals.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius zapped a coal-fired power plant bill with harsh criticism Thursday and said she'd sought to compromise with two western Kansas utilities on the issue but was rejected. "Kansas would be the coal capital of the country," Sebelius said in response to the bill, introduced Wednesday by lawmakers upset at her administration for rejecting a permit for two $3.6 billion plants near Holcomb. ...Emler said the legislation was unique nationally because it would let Sunflower mitigate its carbon emissions by investing in research, wind power or other green initiatives. It also imposes a $3-a-ton penalty tax on carbon emissions for failure to meet the bill's standards. Sebelius scoffed at the provisions, noting the bill offered no realistic change in emissions limits, and a $3 tax was far lower than the $20- to $30-a-ton estimates that utility companies, financial analysts and Congress are now considering as a potential federal carbon tax.
Construction on the state's largest wind farm to date will begin next week near Concordia, signaling another step in the growth of renewable power in Kansas. But a coalition of wind energy and turbine companies told the state Senate Utilities Committee Tuesday morning that Kansas needs to signal greater desire on several fronts if it wishes to become a major player in the wind energy industry. ...Margy Stewart said the state needs to approach the issue with caution and carefully regulate where wind farms build. "These developments that are unthinkingly promoted will destroy native prairie," said Stewart, who represents the McDowell Creek Tourism Association in the Flint Hills. A bill to put state guidelines for wind-farm siting into law is expected to be considered by legislators sometime this session. However, developers are bullish on the prospects for thousands of new megawatts of wind power to flow from Kansas transmission lines.
Visionaries who believe America can -- indeed, must -- change its power consumption habits through lifestyle changes and increasing reliance on renewable resources such as wind met up with the harsh realities of long-entrenched utilities Monday night. While an energy consultant and wind developer extolled the benefits of wind power, ... vice president for Westar was declaring as myths the idea that energy efficiency could prevent the need for new power plants, or that renewable sources can replace fossil - or nuclear power plants.
Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson is laying out an ambitious agenda for Kansas to export thousands of megawatts of wind power to southeastern states and make Wichita a center for manufacturing windmills. Parkinson outlined his proposals last week to the state Wind Working Group, a commission made up of about 40 government and utility officials and alternative-energy advocates. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius appointed the group to work through the details of implementing her goal of getting 10 percent of the state's power from renewable sources by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020. Parkinson, the group's chairman, said he selected Wichita as the site for the group's first meeting last Friday because of the city's potential to become a manufacturing hub for the burgeoning U.S. wind power industry.
Wind energy and coal plants are two buzz phrases seeing plenty of play in Kansas newspapers lately. The perception seems to be wind and solar power are the cleaner alternative over coal, but coal, according BPU General Manager Rick Anderson, is what makes BPU's rates the lowest in Kansas. "BPU has a contractual arrangement with Westar Energy to provide electricity from our turbine generators and in turn Westar provides us with our energy," Anderson said. The arrangement has kept BPU's average rates to 3.8 cents per kWh, well below the average of 8.1 cents for nationally publicly owned utilities and 7.6 for Kansas publicly owned utilities. ...House of Representatives Speaker Melvin Neufeld touched on the need for a sound energy policy in his 2008 Republican Legislative Vision speech. "Alternative energies like wind and solar power can play an important role in our state's energy portfolio, but the simple fact is wind turbines and sunshine alone cannot meet our growing demand for electricity," Neufeld said.
Supporters of Sunflower Electric's plans to build coal-fired power plants near Holcomb on Friday criticized a poll released earlier in the week that showed a majority of Kansans back the denial of a state permit for the plants. "As you know, a poll's outcome can be determined by the way you ask the questions," said Senate President Steve Morris, whose district includes Sunflower's plan for the new coal complex. Bob Williams, a Garden City businessman and Sunflower backer, agrees. "I'm naturally suspicious when people who pay for the poll end up getting the answers they're looking for."
A decision by the Kansas Corporation Commission has led Westar Energy, Inc. to suspend plans to develop 200 MW of wind power by the end of 2010. ...The company said the order also indicated that in the future wind generation could be subject to "undefined operating standards" and "potential financial penalties" that have not been imposed on other forms of generation. ...In its order, the commission said it concluded the circumstances do not justify allocating to ratepayers the cost of an additional 1 percent return on investment in light of the uncertainties inherent in wind generation and the narrow margins as to whether purchased power agreements or ownership is more costly. The commission also said an incentive mechanism to maximize wind energy output is not necessary at this time. It plans to revisit the issue in two years.
Westar Energy said today it was disappointed in the Kansas Corporation Commission's order on the company's wind energy expansion because the KCC denied an additional 1 percent rate of return and left uncertainties about future regulatory requirements. ...The order, released Thursday by the KCC, also indicated future wind generation could be subject to undefined operating standards and potential financial penalties that have not been imposed on other forms of generation. ..."We are concerned about the uncertainty introduced by the commission's decision, particularly the indication that it may impose harsher operating standards for this new wind generation than it has imposed on other types of generation in Kansas," added Moore. "We don't see the order encouraging the further development of wind energy in Kansas."
[T]he Kansas Corporation Commission issued its order on Westar Energy, Inc.'s (NYSE:WR - News) request for the commission to determine the rate treatment for its proposed investment in wind energy. While finding the utility's proposal to invest in wind energy prudent, the order declined to approve Westar's request for an incentive rate of return allowed by Kansas law. ..."We are concerned that the KCC's decision introduces uncertainty as to how wind investments might be regulated in the future, increasing their risk and inhibiting such development. ..."
State regulators are saying Westar Energy Inc.'s plans to invest in wind power are prudent but aren't allowing the utility to increase its profits. The Kansas Corporation Commission's decision created uncertainty about Westar's plans to invest in 295 megawatts of generating capacity from wind farms in three counties, enough to power 88,000 homes. ...Construction costs and the fact that wind doesn't blow consistently means that electricity from wind turbines more expensive per kilowatt hour in the short term than power from coal-fired plants. But commission spokeswoman Rosemary Foreman said Westar shareholders' risk was lessened because regulators will permit the utility to recover its investments in wind farms through its rates. "The commission just didn't think it justified, the ratepayers paying an additional cost," she said. "The risk to the company is minimized."
Whether Kansans will get electricity from wind power was up in the air late Thursday after state regulators ruled that Westar Energy won't be able to make an extra profit for developing wind farms. The Kansas Corporation Commission rejected a key part of a proposal by Westar that would have added 1 percent to the company's rate of return for developing wind energy. Westar has said that it wanted the premium to compensate for the increased risk of developing wind power compared to fuels such as coal and natural gas.
Some of the state's top utility lawyers battled Wednesday over whether Westar Energy should get a chance to earn extra profit for adding wind power to the electric system that serves 674,000 customers. At issue is a law-- passed during the energy crisis of the 1970s -- to allow state regulators to boost the profit potential for utilities that develop alternative energy and conservation programs.
The cancellation of a proposed coal-powered generating plant in Holcomb might delay the construction of some new transmission lines, but demand for wind power is growing so fast that, sooner or later, the lines will be built, a state board was told Monday. ...The cancellation of a proposed coal-powered generating plant in Holcomb might delay the construction of some new transmission lines, but demand for wind power is growing so fast that, sooner or later, the lines will be built, a state board was told Monday.
With hearings on a wind power case set to begin Monday in front of the Kansas Corporation Commission, a complication is developing. One of the three commissioners already has recused himself from the case, and now a watchdog group wants the other two recused, suggesting they may have been improperly influenced by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. The governor's office says she did no such thing but has no idea how the matter would proceed if there was nobody to hear it. ...But even if Moffet and/or Wright wished to recuse themselves at this point, they could not, according to the office of Attorney General Paul Morrison. Citing a legal principle known as the Rule of Necessity in Administrative Law, the office said that commissioner who may be subject to disqualification for "bias, prejudice or prejudgment of the issues" are not disqualified if their absence prevents a decision from being made.
... Westar's proposal [is] to add 300 megawatts of wind energy -- about enough to power 90,000 homes -- at a cost of $830 million over the next 20 years. The Kansas Corporation Commission is expected to rule by year's end on how to allow Westar to recover the cost. If approved, Westar's plan would add about $2.25 a month to the average customer's bill. ..."Something tells me there are going to be cost overruns and the capacity they're expecting won't be there and we'll get stuck with the bill,"