KCC Decision Slows Kansas Wind Development

John Davis

westar.jpgA decision by the Kansas Corporation Commission could stymie some wind energy development plans in that state. Westar Energy Inc., Kansas’ largest electric company, had asked commissioners to allow the company to earn higher profits because Westar had invested in 295 megawatts of generating capacity from wind farms in three counties, enough to light up more than 80,000 homes.

This story from the Kansas City Star says regulators have denied the request, and that could keep Westar from pushing for more wind energy projects:

The Kansas Corporation Commission said that the Topeka-based utility’s plans were prudent and that it would be allowed to recover up to $282 million in construction costs through its rates once the wind power starts flowing next year. But the commission refused to increase the profits Westar can earn as a regulated monopoly.

Westar had said it would pursue projects for an additional 200 megawatts of wind-generated capacity. But Bill Moore, the utility’s president and chief executive officer, said Friday that those plans were on hold indefinitely.

“We are concerned about the uncertainty introduced by the commission’s decision,” Moore said. “We don’t see the order encouraging the future development of wind energy in Kansas.”

Westar had wanted to get an additional one percent higher return because of the risk involved in the venture. Ironically, the decision comes after last May’s announcement by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to have wind and other renewable resources account for 10 percent of the state’s generating capacity by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020. In addition, Sebelius’ administration had denied construction permits for two coal-fired plants in southwest Kansas because of the emissions.

So it seems the question for Kansas seems to be: if wind energy is not good enough to give power companies a little more incentive to take that risk, what is?