Charlotte O’Hara
Guest columnist
The world of Topeka politics continue to amaze, frustrate, entertain and humor me in my second year of representing the 27th District. Case in point:
On Tuesday last week, during the Republican Caucus discussion of HB 2446 (concerning the expansion of definition of alternative energy to include storage facilities/devices) this fact came to light: the Kansas Legislature, in 2009, passed the Renewable Energy Standards Act (KSA 66-1258), which requires 10 percent of our power companies’ capacity to be from renewable energy sources by 2011, 15 percent in 2016 and 20 percent in 2020.
So, being the conservative that I am, I suggested an amendment that would freeze renewable energy standards to the current 10 percent. Rep. Dennis Hedke carried the amendment on the floor. The amendment received 43 votes.
Only 43 out of 125 representatives voted to stop strangling the Kansas economy and burdening consumers with high energy costs of these draconian requirements. According to the Heritage Foundation, just a 15 percent renewable energy mandate would increase electricity prices for consumers by as much as 11.3 percent!
After the defeat of the amendment, Rep. Forest Knox, introduced an amendment that would tie the freeze to licensing of the Holcomb Power Plant, which currently has been stopped by federal court and another environmental impact study has been ordered. The Knox amendment received 65 votes, a majority.  However, Speaker Mike O’Neal (who voted against both amendments) interceded and referred the amended bill, HB 2446, back to committee (with the approval of the House members) and removing it from final action.
So, why would Speaker O’Neal oppose a freeze at the current 10 percent on the Kansas Renewable Standard Act? Well, let’s see. Could it possibly be that these required increased standards in Kansas law is why Siemens chose Hutchinson (O’Neal’s district) in 2009 to locate a $35 million wind turbine plant?  Is this the type of crony capitalism we want to build our economic future on in Kansas?
Another wrinkle in the future of renewable energy is that extension of federal tax credits is in doubt. Those credits currently subsidize renewables by 2.1 cents per kilowatt. Without the federal, state and local tax incentives, abatements and exemptions, the economics of renewable energy collapses.
Here is a link to Heritage Foundation on this issue of renewable energy subsidies:
http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/07/no-more-energy-subsidies-prevent-the-new-repeal-the-old
It always puzzles me why after the fall of the Soviet Union, government mandated/subsidized/incentivized industries continue to flourish in the U.S. and, in particular, here in our own Kansas backyard.
So, if you would like to register your concerns about the Speaker’s action to circumvent final action on HB 2446, which as amended would freeze Kansas Renewable Energy Act requirement at 10 percent and stop it from going to 20 percent, call his office: (785)296-2302 or e-mail at [email protected]
I’m continuing my research on the governor’s Excellence in Education Act and hopefully will have a newsletter ready on that subject next week.