TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Sam Brownback called Wednesday for a compromise between wind-power advocates and opponents of a renewable-energy law for Kansas utilities to settle the rule's future, but his office later said he wasn't proposing to phase out the policy.
Brownback faced questions about a 2009 state energy law during an impromptu meeting with Statehouse reporters. The policy requires utilities to have wind and other renewable sources account for 15 percent of their peak capacity for generating electricity by 2016 and 20 percent by 2020.
Supporters contend the law has spurred the development of a vibrant wind-energy industry without much cost to consumers. Critics argue it is driving up electric bills and that the government is picking economic winners and losers.
Brownback said he has "a lot of people pushing me" on the issue. He supports wind energy because of its strong potential on the frequently gusty Plains, but his political base includes free-market GOP conservatives who oppose such mandates.
"Get something agreed to between the wind people and the people who are opposed this," he said. "You've got to kind of get the big players to sit and half talk to each other."
Brownback, who served in the U.S. Senate before becoming governor in 2011, compared the state's requirement for utilities — known as the renewable portfolio standard, or RPS — to federal tax credits for ethanol production. He said ethanol credits were important to launching the industry but became unnecessary.
"RPS, you're in a similar position, I think," Brownback said. "You need a four-year phase-out."
But hours later, Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said in speaking of a phase-out, the governor intended to refer to federal energy production tax credits. She noted his comment that he supports wind energy because, "I'm a Kansan first."
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