HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Renewable energy development in Kansas could help lure businesses to the state, Gov. Sam Brownback said.
"I want Kansas to be known as the Renewable State," Brownback said. "To get there, we have to balance the three E's: Energy, Economy and the Environment."
Brownback spoke Tuesday in Hutchinson to about 100 people attending the Heartland Transmission Conference at Hutchinson Community College, The Hutchinson News reported Wednesday (http://bit.ly/pJLaEc ).
He said business leaders on recruitment visits in Kansas are often interested in how much renewable energy they can use. When candy maker Mars was considering locating a new factory in Kansas, the company indicated it was "very interested in developing a zero carbon footprint," Brownback said.
"And we can get them a long way to that," he said.
Mars announced in late June it would build the plant in Topeka, employing some 200 people.
Brownback also touted the potential of wind energy in Kansas and expressed strong support for development of an electric transmission infrastructure that will help deliver Kansas wind to other parts of the state and other regions of the country.
"But we can't reach our potential if we outlive our transmission capacity," Brownback said. "We must invest in the grid."
He said half the energy that could be generated in Kansas could be consumed in-state and the remainder exported, which would generate thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment in the state.
"Experts believe wind can provide 90 times the state's current electricity needs," Brownback said. "Everyone realizes how much Kansas wind blows."
Other speakers during the daylong conference included a Federal Regulatory Commissioner, a Kansas Corporation Commissioner, a representative of the Southwest Power Pool, chairman of the Kansas Electric Transmission Authority, representatives of several utilities building high-voltage transmission lines in Kansas and other stakeholders in wind and energy transmission.
Most power-purchase agreements are long term, many up to 20 years, said Mark Lawlor, with Clean Line, a company proposing to build a high voltage DC current line across the state. At the same time, federal production tax credits — which could expire next year — are making the cost of production very cheap, allowing wind energy in Kansas to become some of the cheapest energy now produced.
Building an updated transmission grid is a very costly and complex process, the governor said, "and it needs to be a shared one."
He said parties working in Kansas, including the transmission line developers and regulators, as well as members of the seven-state Southwest Power Pool, which have authorized the cost of line development to be spread across utility users within all states in the pool, "which is critically important to getting lines at a cost we can afford."