State News Highlights


Kansas Bill to Defund Transmission Authority Raises Alarm with Wind Energy Advocates
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
21 January 2016
Dive Brief:

  • A plan to cut funding for a Kansas transmission authority has caught the attention of wind advocates, who say it is simply a move to slow the development of renewable energy, espcially wind farms, which depend on transmission lines to move power from far-flung generation. 
  • A bill in the Kansas Senate, reportedly introduced at the urging of Americans for Prosperity, would cut funds for the Kansas Electric Transmission Authority. But as Midwest Energy News reports, the agency spends only a fraction of its $75,000 annual budget, and wind supporters credit it with helping build out the state's infrastructure.
  • The Senate Utilities Committee is scheduled to vote on the measure today.
Dive Insight:
The chair of the Utilities Committee, state Sen. Robert Olson (R), told Midwest Energy News that the authority has outlived its usefulness, with most transmission planning now performed by the Southwest Power Pool. And he said the state is  “in a financial crunch," so eliminating KETA makes sense.
But on the flip side, the agency is only budgeted at $75,000 annually and typically spends a quarter of that. Almost $300,000 in unspent funds would flow back to the general fund. And while the agency is no longer the chief planner for transmission, it does get involved when it sees a need in Kansas – often for wind resources.
“I'd say that Americans for Prosperity is trying to reduce transmission, and that they see transmission helping a lot of the renewable energy,” Kansas Sierra Club legislative director Zack Pistora told the news outlet. Americans for Prosperity lobbied last year in favor of a bill that changed the state's renewable energy standard from a mandatory to a voluntary standard, Midwest Energy News reported. 
Pistora said KETA has helped create momentum for projects the agency deemed necessary for transmission, which resulted in about "10 times as much wind on the grid, and a lot of it goes to Alabama, Arkansas and the Tennessee Valley Authority." 
The bill, SB 318, is described as "abolishing certain funds and transferring the balances" related to KETA. The measure was introduced Jan. 12, referred to the Utility Committee and a hearing will take place at 1:30 p.m. Central Time on Thursday, Jan. 21.
Recommended Reading
Midwest Energy News: Critics say Kansas bill could undermine wind energy distribution


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