January 31, 2014

Survey Shows Support for Renewable Energy Law

More attempts to repeal standards expected but advocates say voters against it

Environmentalists and wind energy advocates are touting the results of a recent survey that shows bipartisan support among Kansas voters for renewable energy standards passed in 2009.

Attempts to repeal the standards fizzled last year, but are expected to resurface during the current legislative session, with House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, and the Kansas Chamber, a powerful lobbying force, speaking in favor of repeal.

But a survey commissioned by the Wind Coalition, Climate and Energy Project, Kansans for Wind Energy, and the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club shows strong support for the law that requires the state's utility companies to draw 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

“Kansas voters overwhelmingly support the energy bill that passed in 2009, and you’re looking at 73 percent support among Republicans," said Kimberly Svaty, of the Wind Coalition. "So, very big numbers.”

The poll, which has a margin of error of four percentage points, was conducted by phone in January by North Star Opinion Research, an Alexandria, Va., firm that also does research for Republican candidates for office.

North Star's pollsters asked 600 registered Kansas voters: "In 2009 the Kansas Legislature passed a comprehensive energy bill that requires Kansas utility companies to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the year 2020. Do you support or oppose that law?"

The majority, 75 percent, said they either "strongly supported" or "somewhat supported" the law. Only 16 percent said they opposed it.

Of the survey respondents, 45 percent were registered Republicans, 20 percent were registered Democrats, and the rest were either unaffiliated or a third party.

The poll also found that a majority of respondents would support increasing the renewable energy standards rather than repealing them, even if it resulted in a $5 per month increase in their utility bills.

“Kansas is traditionally a red state, and it’s a fairly conservative red state," Svaty said. "Interestingly enough, you’ll find not only do the voters support keeping the current renewable energy standards, they favor increasing them.”

Mike O'Neal, president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber, said his organization's position in favor of repealing the renewable standards is "but one of several planks of the Chamber’s Energy & Environment policy, which has consistently promoted market-driven vs. government-mandated solutions to address energy costs."

"The Kansas Chamber supports efforts to maintain a comprehensive energy policy that balances a diverse portfolio of energy sources and technologies, including wind," O'Neal said. "That policy must avoid government picking winners and losers among energy sources and technologies, something the Wind Coalition poll admits is supported by 63% of those surveyed."

O'Neal said a recent poll his organization commissioned showed that rising energy costs are one of business owners' greatest concerns and said that informed the Chamber's position on repealing the standards.
He said the position is ultimately not about wind energy, but about government mandates.

"Wind energy as a renewable energy source is here," O'Neal said. "We welcome its producers to our marketplace. It’s time that it stand on its own as a part of a market driven versus government-mandated energy policy."

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