Even as a couple of their electric companies plan new coal-fired generating plants, executives from six top Kansas utilities said Friday they’ve agreed to goals from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for developing renewable energy.
The executives also said their companies are committed to helping consumers conserve energy so the demand for electricity doesn’t increase as quickly as it otherwise would.
Sebelius said she wanted renewable resources – mostly wind – to represent 10 percent of the state’s generating capacity by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020, goals she has been pushing since January. She and Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, co-chairman of the Kansas Energy Council, had ongoing discussions with the utilities.
Sebelius, Parkinson and the executives had a Statehouse news conference to announce their commitment to the governor’s goals and to tout collaboration as an alternative to the state imposing mandates.
“‘In the rest of the country, governors, lieutenant governors, legislators are fighting with their utility companies,”‘ Parkinson said. “‘They are creating mandates upon their utility companies to do this or that, but we’re not doing that in Kansas.”‘
Parkinson said later he didn’t know of another state with this kind of cooperative program with utilities.
Some environmentalists have questioned whether Sebelius’ goals are challenging enough, and utilities already have announced plans for wind farms that will meet her goal for 2010.
“‘We welcome these goals because they do set the industry on a path toward growth,”‘ said Sierra Club activist Craig Volland. “‘We could do still better.”‘
The executives represented Westar Energy Inc., the state’s largest electric utility; Empire District Electric Co.; Great Plains Energy; Kansas Electric Power Cooperative Inc.; Midwest Energy Inc.; and Sunflower Electric Power Corp. Together, they provide power to 1.2 million Kansas customers, most of the state’s total.
Sunflower is seeking a state air-quality permit to build two, 700-megawatt, coal-fired plants next to one it operates outside Holcomb. Those two plants would have more generating capacity than all the wind projects now being planned by Kansas utilities.
Great Plains Energy is the parent of Kansas City Power & Light Co., which is planning to build a coal-fired plant in northwest Missouri with a capacity of between 800 megawatts and 900 megawatts. But it signed an agreement with the Sierra Club in March to include environmentally friendly modifications.
The utility executives said renewable energy is part of a broader effort to meet future demands for electricity that will include coal-fired plants that environmentalists oppose.
Earl Watkins Jr., Sunflower’s chief executive, said its new coal-fired plants will lead to new transmission lines that later could be used to carry electricity from wind turbines. Asked why Sunflower just didn’t build the lines and link them to wind farms, Watkins noted that wind turbines in Gray County turn about a third of the time.
“‘If you’re building a transmission line and it’s a million dollars a mile, and you only have energy that’s covering those costs a third of the time, the costs per kilowatt hour, per megawatt hour, are three times greater,”‘ Watkins said.
Volland said having so much new coal-fired generating capacity could create an economic disincentive for other companies to pursue wind farms.
“‘There would be risk that the wind developer would look at that 800-pound gorilla over there and say it’s too risky,”‘ Volland said.
By John Hanna
International Business Times
25 May 2007
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