Today, I will continue my well-intentioned but perhaps ill-advised plan to provide you, my loyal readers, with state-by-state updates of recent noteworthy renewable energy stories (seriously, 50 states…what was I thinking?).   Fortunately, today’s state, Kansas, is near and dear to my heart. 

As I’m sure most of you are aware, Kansas is exceptionally windy.  NREL and AWEA have ranked Kansas’ wind resource #2 in the United States, with the potential to generate a staggering 950,000 MW annually from wind alone.  What you may not have realized is that Kansas also ranks in the top 10 states for its solar resource.  Put simply, there is a lot potential for utility-scale renewable projects in the Sunflower State.

Do you know of any Kansas-related news items that you would like me to comment upon or add to this list?  Leave a comment or send me an email at lhagedorn@polsinelli.com and I’ll be sure to add it.  With that background in mind, lets check in with what has been going on in Kansas…

New Kansas Commissioner Sworn In

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback recently named a new Commissioner, attorney Mark Sievers, to the Kansas Corporation Commission.

“Mark’s career began in public service as a police officer in Colorado Springs in 1975, and after receiving a law degree and a master’s degree in Economics, he went on to distinguish himself at the highest levels of the public and private sectors across the country. Mark will bring a wealth of training, experience and knowledge to the commission,” Governor Brownback said.

Commissioner Sievers’ prior professional experience includes time as a collegiate level professor at the Utah State University, the University of Utah and the University of California, an attorney for both large and small f irms, and a Senior Executive at Sprint, SBC, GTE, and Verizon, where he was part of the senior executive team that created Verizon, then the world’s largest merger at $56 billion, with operations in 21 countries and involving 250,000 employees.

Commissioner Sievers was sworn in on May 18, 2011, and will now join Commissioners Ward Lloyd and Thomas Wright.

Kansas Governor Brownback Announces ‘Road Map for Wind Energy Policy’

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback recently announced his “Road Map for Wind Energy Policy” for the state.  This announcement attempts to strike a balance between what Gov. Brownback refers to as the “3 E’s – the Economy, Energy, and the Environment.”  As part of this Road Map, Gov. Brownback sets forth a plan to expand an existing informal moratorium on wind development within a tallgrass prairie area in the Flint Hills region of Kansas.  Under the proposed expansion, the “Heart of the Flint Hills” moratorium will more closely track the geographic area identif ied by the USFWS as a conservation area.

The prior moratorium was established approximately seven years ago by then Governor Kathleen Sebelius to protect development in areas designated as “pristine prairie.” That moratorium was never codified in law.  

In commenting on how this expansion might affect other wind projects within the state, Gov. Brownback stated:

“I do not, however, wish to convey a negative message about the future of wind energy in our state. My administration will continue to work with wind developers and wholeheartedly support their activities in other parts of the state. The Tallgrass Heartland will not prohibit the construction of necessary electric transmission improvements. Wind farms that are currently under power purchase agreements within the protected area, are of course, expected to fulfill those contracts and will have every opportunity to renew their agreements moving forward. However, they will not be expanded.”

Kansas Corporation Commission Approves PPAs for 369 MWs of Wind Energy

On November 10, 2010, Westar Energy, Inc. and Kansas Gas and Electric Company, filed a petition with the Kansas Corporation Commission for a predetermination of the ratemaking principles and treatment that will apply to the recovery in rates of the costs to be incurred pursuant to certain power purchase agreements (PPAs) for the purchase of 369 MW of wind energy. In its petition, Westar indicated the wind farms would become operational in 2012 and proposed that the costs of the purchases under the PPAs be recovered through its Retail Energy Cost Adjustment (RECA).

On March 25, 2011, Westar, the Commission’s Staff, and the Citizen’s Utility Ratepayer Board (CURB), jointly filed a motion to approve a Stipulation and Agreement which supported adoption of Westar’s petition as filed. 

Through a Final Order issued on May 9, 2011, the Commission approved Westar’s recovery of the costs of the PPAs through its Retail Energy Cost Adjustment. In reaching this conclusion, the Commission held that it is reasonable for Westar to enter into these particular PPAs now in order to meet its obligations under the RES Act both in 2011 and in 2016 because the terms and pricing under these PPAs are favorable and execution of the PPAs now will result in benefits to Westar’s customers.

*If you enjoyed these updates, don’t forget to also check out our prior state updates on Arizona, Colorado, and Illinois.

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