TOPEKA — Wind farm supporters urged lawmakers Tuesday to uphold the requirement for utility companies to generate or purchase renewable energy.
The Senate Utilities Committee heard legislation that would sunset the Renewable Energy Standards Act adopted in 2009 by the end of the year. The act requires major electricity companies like Westar Energy to receive 10 percent of energy capacity from renewable sources.
The second part of Senate Bill 253 would delete the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) increases to 15 percent by 2016 and 20 percent by and after 2020.
Kimberly Svaty of The Wind Coalition said passing the bill would remove an effective policy and deter global investors from considering Kansas. She said it would be a missed opportunity to create more jobs.
“The states with favorable environments win capital investment,” Svaty said.
Bruce Graham, Wind Energy Department chair at Cloud Community College, told lawmakers the student employment rate for wind energy technician positions is 100 percent. In 2013, Kansas ranked ninth for installed wind capacity with more than 1,700 turbines, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Bill supporters said the standard creates higher utility rates for Kansans. Roger Woods with Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group, said the current policy restricts flexibility in the market.
“There is sufficient wind energy production in Kansas for any business to meet their renewable goals without RPS mandates,” Woods said.
Mike O’Neal, chief executive officer of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, said he supports the development of market-driven energy technologies, including wind. However, he also urged the committee to consider the costs to counties when wind farms are tax exempt.
“We don’t need a mandate in Kansas for the wind to blow,” O’Neal said.
The committee decided to extend the hearing until Wednesday to hear the remaining testimony.