Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, New Energy Economy, preferred energy, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
Unlike Colorado’s failed attempt to provide state oversight to proposed Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan” regulations, Kansas’ legislature has passed requirements for any CPP state implementation plan, including no plan at all, should it conflict with ongoing litigation against the EPA’s power to bring forth the CPP:
Kansas governor Sam Brownback (R) signed a bill setting parameters for how the state complies with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan.
The bill, HB 2233, requires state agencies responsible for drafting a state implementation plan (SIP) to examine potential electricity rate impacts that may arise from complying with the EPA rule to address CO2 emissions from existing power plants. The law mandates that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment identify ways to avoid unreasonable costs under a best system of emissions reductions, which may include emissions trading or emissions averaging across the generation fleet. Brownback signed the bill into law on 28 May.
The law creates an oversight committee of state lawmakers that will track the progress of and vote on the SIP. The Clean Power Plan Implementation Study Committee will run from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2017.
Like other states such as New Mexico, Kansas state agencies have called the EPA’s CPP into question, “citing concerns over its legality, federal overreach into grid reliability and a limited timeline for implementation.”
Those concerns have prompted Kansas to join other state attorneys general in legal challenges targeting EPA’s ability to bring forth regulations like those under the CPP:
Attorney general Derek Schmidt (R) is among 19 state attorneys general who have called on EPA to withdraw its proposed CO2 standards for new power plants, and the state is participating in two lawsuits challenging the Clean Power Plan proposal.
The new law allows state regulators to not submit a plan if the attorney general determines that such a plan would conflict with Kansas’ legal position in current or pending legal challenges against the rule.
In testifying for Colorado’s Electricity Consumers’ Protection Act (SB 258), attorney Mike Nasi outlined possible legal objections to the EPA’s proposed rules.
Colorado’s SB 258 would have tasked the Public Utilities Commission, with input from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as well as approval from the state legislative body, with creating a CPP SIP for the state that considered costs and required a full, public, and deliberative process rather than unilateral executive agency rulemaking from CDPHE under the Governor John Hickenlooper’s direction.
With the defeat of the bill, Governor Hickenlooper announced that, unlike Kansas’ measured approach, Colorado would capitulate to the EPA’s CPP and push forward with state implementation.
Colorado environmentalists and renewable energy advocates enjoy touting other states’ efforts on issues including renewable energy standards and renewable subsidies.
But this year, Kansas modified its RES, making the mandate a “voluntary goal”:
Kansas governor Sam Brownback (R) yesterday signed into law a bill converting the state’s renewable energy standard to a voluntary goal.
The bill, SB 91, replaces the state’s standard, which required 20pc renewable energy use by 2020, with a voluntary target on the same timetable. SB 91 also exempts existing renewable energy facilities in the state, mostly wind farms, from property taxes and gives new renewable energy facilities a 10-year property tax exemption.
Wind accounted for 21.7pc of Kansas’ generation mix in 2014, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
While the bill was supported by some state wind industry and business groups, environmentalists have criticized it, saying it should have at least called for a higher voluntary goal to give utilities “something to aspire to.”
In a free market, utilities and others involved with energy production will voluntarily move to where the market leads–they will “aspire to” serve their customers with an energy fuel mix that best suits the state’s and individual utility’s needs and consumer’s wants.
Government should not be picking energy or electricity winners and losers, and moving from a legal mandate to voluntary guidelines is a step in the right direction for free market energy, as is limiting a property tax exemption from permanent to a sunset at 10 years.
For all the ink that Colorado’s public officials have spilled on the subject of the New Energy Economy, there’s been little discussion of its cost.
Ex-Governor Bill Ritter, for example, recently took to the pages of the New York Times to brag about his energy legacy. While he made an unsubstantiated claim about creating “thousands of new jobs,” he ignored the inconvenient truth that Xcel’s rates increased precipitously during his tenure, despite the fact that electricity demand was down due to an economic recession.
To be sure, it’s difficult to isolate an annual cost figure for the New Energy Economy. For starters, there’s a lot of policies to investigate; as ex-Governor Ritter noted in his New York Times op-ed, he enacted a suite of expensive energy policies (57 laws, to be exact). Moreover, utility accounting is arcane and largely opaque. So discerning the sum cost of these disparate measures is not easy, which is why no one has yet calculated the annual cost of the New Energy Economy…until now.
On February 16, Xcel filed a request with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to reduce its Solar*Rewards payment, a subsidy for on-site solar photovoltaic installations, from $2.35/watt installed electricity generating capacity, to $1.25/watt. The next day, Xcel suspended the program, pending the PUC’s decision on its request.
Last Friday, solar industry supporters descended on the Capitol to protest Xcel’s suspension of solar subsidies. They claim that as many as 3,000 jobs have been jeopardized by the utility’s decision. Tomorrow (Wednesday March 2), the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee will hold a hearing on the subsidy cut.
Clearly, the Solar*Rewards program is now at the fore of Colorado energy policy. This post is a long, dry primer on the matter.
What’s at Issue: Solar*Rewards
Xcel’s Solar*Rewards program subsidizes “on-site” solar power. It was implemented by Xcel in 2006, in order to help meet the goals set by Amendment 37, a 2004 ballot initiative that established a renewable energy production quota. The quota, known as Renewable Electricity Standard, required investor-owned utilities to generate at least 10 percent of their electricity with renewable energy by 2020. In 2007, the General Assembly enacted, and Governor Bill Ritter signed, HB 1281, which increased the production quota to 20 percent by 2020. And in 2010, the General Assembly enacted, and Governor Bill Ritter signed, HB 1001, which increased the Renewable Electricity Standard to 30 percent by 2020.