Lawmakers often throw out the, “We need renewables” line when talking of new energy, but Salina Rep. Deena Horst is the first legislator to call for a state deadline in law.
Horst has pitched a bill to require electric utilities to each provide the state’s power grid with at least 5 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2012. The mandate would be gradual, requiring companies starting in 2009 to add 1.25 percent per year to reach the ’12 deadline.
The Republican said Wednesday that her approach differs from that of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who has called for 10 percent of the state’s total power supply to be from renewables by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020, although they aren’t required.
Several states have put standards into law and Horst suggests Kansas should take the approach of mandating renewables as well.
“I have had a number of individuals in Salina ask me why Kansas doesn’t require it,” Horst said.
One environmental group, however, says Horst’s bill isn’t prescriptive enough.
“Colorado passed a (standard) in 2002 that requires 10 percent by 2014 with 4 percent coming from solar,” said Tom Thompson, lobbyist for the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club.
New goals in Kansas could move energy production away from heavy reliance on burning coal to using renewable forms that benefit both the economy and the environment, Thompson said.
Utilities, which now supply about 3 percent wind energy to the state’s power grid, didn’t testify at a recent House Energy and Utilities Committee hearing on the bill. But they have long said the state should rely on market forces, rather than government mandates, and let each company to determine when it is feasible to sell power from new sources of energy.
The Kansas Livestock Association, pressed by high feed grain prices because of increasing demand for ethanol, discouraged lawmakers from placing such a requirement on utilities lest it cause higher bills for consumers.
“KLA is an organization that believes the market should create factors that affect the choices of what an industry provides to consumers, not a governmental mandate,” said lobbyist John Donley.
Horst said she hopes House Bill 2479 would at least spur discussion among lawmakers. The energy committee has not scheduled a vote on the bill.
Some 25 states have set standards that specify electric utilities must generate a portion of power from renewables.
Texas, for example, expects to cut 3.3 million tons of C02 emissions annually with its standard requiring 2000 megawatts of renewable generation by 2009.
By Sarah Kessinger
Harris News Service
8 March 2007
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