Bill changing renewable energy standards moving on

WICHITA, Kansas — For Kansas, the winds of change could soon be coming, if a bill repealing renewable energy mandates passes. More than a dozen people spoke in front of the Senate Utilities Committee in Topeka about the proposal Wednesday.

Among them was Craig Gabel of Wichita, speaking on behalf of Kansans for Liberty in support of the repeal.

“Let’s stop subsidizing something that will take care of itself, we are a wind-rich state they’ll build them the winds going to blow,” Gabel says.

The RPS requires utility companies to generate 15% of its power from renewable energy in the next two years, pushing it up to at least 20% by 2024.

State Sen. Pat Apple supports the bill. Apple is the chair of the Kansas Senate’s Utilities Committee and he points to expiring federal tax cuts as one reason to repeal the renewable energy mandates.

“Once the industry gets up and going then it’s time to phase out the incentives or the mandates,” said Sen. Apple.

Opponents of the bill are calling it part of an anti-wind energy agenda. They point to state documents showing the RPS has only added 1.7% percent to energy rates since its inception. The wind industry fears repeal will drive wind jobs out of the state and slow growth.

In Hutchinson, economic leaders say Siemens Wind Power employs more than 360 people, making up $20 million in annual payroll in the region. County leaders say repealing the RPS will hurt economic growth across the state.

“It’s a step in the wrong direction in terms of the message it sends Siemens. But I think more importantly it sends a bad message to the rest of the world that we are not looking at renewable energy standards as a way to bring jobs here,” said Jason Ball, President of the Hutchinson/Reno Chamber of Commerce.

The bill is expected to make it out of committee Thursday, according to chair of the utilities committee. If that happens, the bill would go to a full floor vote early next week.

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