Monday, June 02, 2008

Liveblogging from Windpower 2008: Opening Session

The American Wind Energy Association’s WINDPOWER 2008 conference and expo kicked off this morning with an opening session of top-notch wind power people. The languishing production tax credit for wind (PTC) (stuck in legislation that the president promises to veto) was a big topic of discussion. In fact, chairs in the auditorium had a card on it with all members of Congress' phone numbers.

All the speakers were very good, but one of the most interesting was Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D): She and her state have done great things for renewable energy. She talked about the struggles and successes getting there:

“Five years ago, we decided to change the fact that we were so dependent on coal. But we had a hostile regulatory environment, transmission issues and financial uncertainty. So we had to define 'cost' in a broader sense; when taking into account jobs, environmental and health costs, you get a very different answer than coal.

We don’t have a majority of legislators ready to embrace a renewable portfolio standard [RPS]. So I had to work on the regulatory side. We created a voluntary RPS of 10 percent by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020.

By the end of this year we’ll be at 10 percent wind in Kansas already...We’re only one of two states to have achieved this without a legislative mandate.”

Regarding the coal plants Kansas denied based on global warming concerns (a first in the nation):

“There were two new coal plants cited for Kansas. But the power wasn’t for us, it was for another state; we wouldn’t actually need to build a coal plant for a very long time.

If we opened up our doors to become a coal exporter, that would send exactly the wrong signals to developers, regulators and the public looking to Kansas for clean technologies. [Our denial of the plants] produced a firestorm. They threatened legislation mandating that the coal plants be built. But the legislature adjourned last week and all of my vetoes were sustained…We were told that without new coal plants, we wouldn’t get the transmission needed that would also help wind. A week after I vetoed, a major transmission line was announced by Warren Buffet’s company in Kansas. This myth was debunked. We’re turning a corner in the heartland."

Some say Governor Sebelius is a vice presidential contender.

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