Friday, July 25, 2014

FINCH: Truth about ‘RPS’

By BLAINE FITCH, Kansas State Representative | 5/2/2014

Greetings from Topeka. We are rapidly approaching the end of the legislative veto session and there are a hundred different things I could write to you about. Unfortunately, a funny thing happened on the way to this column.

Some of you began receiving postcards on an issue called “RPS.” Sadly, this is one of those issues where a great deal of misinformation is being thrown around. So, in this column, I’d like to help separate fact from fiction.

Greetings from Topeka. We are rapidly approaching the end of the legislative veto session and there are a hundred different things I could write to you about. Unfortunately, a funny thing happened on the way to this column.

Some of you began receiving postcards on an issue called “RPS.” Sadly, this is one of those issues where a great deal of misinformation is being thrown around. So, in this column, I’d like to help separate fact from fiction.

What is RPS? The Renewable Portfolio Standard or RPS was passed by the Kansas Legislature in 2009. It set forth a plan for Kansas to reduce its dependence on one energy source by incorporating other energy sources like solar and wind energy. Under the RPS plan, Kansas utilities would position themselves to obtain 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by the year 2020. Essentially, RPS is about not putting all our eggs in one basket. If we diversify our state’s energy portfolio — like most other states have done — we can increase reliability and stabilize our utility rates.

How does it affect our utility rates? The RPS helps keep energy prices down so that we don’t see spikes on our utility bills just because the price of oil or coal goes up. Right now, Kansas relies primarily on coal with 70 percent of the power used in our state coming from coal. If and when coal prices increase, then power prices go up as well. By adding other sources of energy to our portfolio, we reduce the risk that price increases in any one sector of the market will have a dramatic effect on our utility bills. In fact, KCP&L estimates RPS will save customers about $1 billion through the next 20 years. They attribute $400 million of that to energy efficiencies and $600 million to the use of wind power over fossil fuels.

So, why have rates gone up? The increases Kansas has seen in utility bills are primarily because of federal EPA requirements for coal plants. For example, the KCP&L coal plant in LaCygne was required to undergo refurbishment in order to comply with federal clean air standards. The cost of that refurbishment was $1.2 billion. It’s true those costs get passed onto consumers like us in the form of higher bills, but those increases have nothing to do with the RPS.

Take those postcards that come to your house with a grain of salt. I thank those of you who called me to discuss this issue and I welcome your input. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in Topeka as your representative.

Blaine Finch is a Kansas House member, representing Franklin County.

comments powered by Disqus