By - Michael Drost

Kansas set to repeal state RPS

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Energize Weekly, May 20, 2015

A compromise bill to officially lift a renewable energy mandate has passed the Kansas state legislature and will go to Governor Sam Brownback’s desk for signature, just two weeks after it was introduced.

The bill would replace the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which requires electric utilities to get at least 20 percent of their power from renewable sources, with a voluntary goal and reduces property tax exemptions for renewable projects to 10 years instead of the lifetime of the project. The bill was drafted as a compromise between the state’s wind industry, who say the mandate has helped spur investment in Kansas wind energy as well as create thousands of jobs, and a coalition of energy producers, business and free-market groups who wanted to repeal the mandate entirely as well as impose an excise tax on the sale of renewable energy projects.

“Kansas has decided to transition the RPS to a goal in a multi-pronged agreement that gives Kansas a chance to continue to compete for wind investment,” said Susan Sloan, vice president of state policy for the American Wind Energy Association. “The state as a whole already gets more than 20 percent of its power from wind, with more on the way. With this new agreement in place, developers have more certainty as they look to continue growing Kansas’s homegrown resource.”

Dorothy Barnett, director of the Kansas-based Climate and Energy Project, told the Lawrence Journal-World that her group would like to see the state create a higher goal for renewable energy production, but that even if it doesn’t, federal policies such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which should become finalized in July, will provide incentives for more renewable energy development.

The bill is the latest attempt to repeal the Kansas RPS since Gov. Brownback and a Republican majority swept into power in 2010. Free-market groups, including Americans for Prosperity (which is founded by Charles and David Koch, who head major Kansas-based oil and gas producer Koch Industries) and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce have lobbied for years to have the RPS repealed, arguing that the state should not be telling utilities which energy sources they have to buy. Gov. Brownback has for the most part been vocally supportive of the popular wind industry, though also appearing to back the forces that wanted to see the RPS repealed, suggesting once in 2014 that he would like to see the RPS “phased out” over four years before backtracking.

Lawmakers in several Midwestern states, especially those who were elected during the “Tea Party” fueled victories in 2010 and 2012, have been attempting to repeal policies aimed at encouraging the growing renewable energy industry and replace them with the free-market policies they advocated for when running for office, with little success. A bill to repeal the Kansas RPS was shelved in 2013, while another bill failed to win enough votes in the state House of Representatives in 2014.

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