Energy Conference promotes drive to make Kansas 'the renewable state'
The Kansas Energy Conference, held Sept. 25 to 26 in Manhattan, was an opportunity for Kansas officials and leaders in the renewable energy sector to strategize on the best ways to make Kansas "the renewable state." More than 200 participated in the day-and-a-half conference.
In his opening remarks, Gov. Sam Brownback called for the renewable energy industry to play a bigger part in powering Kansas' future. Brownback also called for an all-inclusive renewable energy policy that includes all major renewable components, such as wind, solar and biofuels.
"To keep the renewable energy sector of the economy growing in Kansas we must continue to push the envelope for innovative policies at the state level," Brownback said. "We cannot look to Washington for answers, as Congress continues to struggle with a balanced energy policy. We must keep things moving at home."
Featured speakers at the conference included, John Graham, president and CEO of BP Wind Energy; Kevin Rabinovitch, global sustainability director for MARS Inc.; and David Terry, executive director of the National Association of State Energy Officials.
One issue that was highlighted by several presenters is that the job creators of the future will seek regulatory flexibility for purchasing renewable energy. Additionally, they spoke to the need to ensure that transmission requirements and permitting issues are addressed so that more renewable energy projects can get online in Kansas.
The energy efficiency initiatives of MARS, in particular, were described by Kevin Rabinovitch, who discussed the significant waste reductions and improved efficiency across his company's supply chain. Rabinovitch also spoke of a greater need for cooperation with government and local utilities in order to get their renewable efforts off the ground in Kansas.
John Graham of BP Wind Energy echoed this sediment in his remarks: "The wind industry is constrained by a lack of transmission and needs assurance that it can get on to the existing grid in accordance with fair and non-discriminatory government policies.
The strongest wind resources are often in out-of-the way places and far from the metropolitan areas where the energy would be consumed. This is an opportunity for states like Kansas who have great wind to access nearby markets with new transmission lines."
Graham concluded that regulatory improvements at the federal and state level would help with the development of renewable energy infrastructure, particularly with regard to the permitting process.
These and other participants called for the extension of the federal wind production tax credit, which if allowed to expire at the end of 2012 would negatively impact the wind energy sector. Kansas is currently the No.1 state in the nation for wind farms under construction, and the wind industry either directly or indirectly employs more than 2,000 workers.
The event wrapped up with a tour of the Riley County Public Works that demonstrated the benefits of including energy efficient features to new construction such as geothermal heating and cooling, extra insulation, efficiency lighting and wind and solar power energy systems.