By KANSAS COUNTRY LIVING December 22, 2023 –
Advocating for cooperative interests in a variety of public policy arenas is one way in which co-op leaders help ensure the operational environment in Kansas helps advance electric co-ops’ abilities to provide reliable, affordable and safe electricity to consumer-members, day-in and day-out.
The policy positions of Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (KEC) are determined by reviewing bills and regulations through a framework developed by local co-op leaders. KEC’s Advocacy Framework is the product of a strategic planning process that allowed every distribution and generation and transmission co-op an opportunity to help shape priorities KEC should consider when determining our association’s response to public policy matters. Under the framework, KEC’s Government Relations staff evaluates legislation with respect to five member-adopted criteria:
- How does the bill affect electric co-op structure or operations?
- How does the bill affect electric co-op governance?
- What are the cost impacts on member-cooperatives and end consumer-members?
- How broad is the impact/how many co-ops are affected and what is the degree of impact (or risk)?
- What is the effect on rural communities?
That analysis not only guides the position taken on a specific bill, but also helps prioritize matters in terms of overall effort and investment so that KEC’s broader advocacy initiatives are maximized. That investment is not just financial resources, but staffing and political capital, as well. As we look toward the next legislative session, KEC’s member-centric Advocacy Framework will continue to guide our policy actions for the benefit of member-cooperatives.
The 2024 Legislative Session begins early this year, Jan. 8 to be exact. The session is scheduled for 90 days, with sine die adjournment expected on May 2. Both parties have narrowed in on their key goals with Republicans aiming for a “flat” state income tax rate while Democrats are focused on Medicaid expansion and property tax reform. KEC and its member co-ops continue to focus on their main priority in serving electric cooperative members: protecting reliability.
Utility industry-related issues, specifically those potentially affecting electric co-ops and their consumer-members, may be carried over from the 2023 session or presented as a byproduct of the 2023 Interim Committee, which held three meetings last fall in which transmission planning and cost allocation was at the forefront of the co-ops’ concerns. The special committee was chaired by the standing House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications (House Energy) Chairman Leo Delperdang (R-Wichita).
During the Oct. 16 and 17 meetings in Topeka, the special committee studied several issues that could receive further attention by the legislature in the 2024 Legislative Session and beyond. The first day’s agenda focused on transmission planning and cost allocation. Bill Dowling, vice president engineering/energy supply, Midwest Energy, Inc., and Dr. Al Tamimi, senior vice president and chief operations officer of transmission, Sunflower Electric Power Corp., each provided testimony on transmission line builds, rebuilds, and the Southwest Power Pool’s (SPP) transmission cost allocation approach. From those presentations, and with the collaboration of Midwest Energy, Sunflower and Kansas Electric Power Cooperative Inc. (KEPCo), the article, “Correcting Transmission Cost Disparity for Kansas Electric Co-op Members” was published in the November issue of Kansas Country Living.
The second day’s agenda focused on resource adequacy planning, the transmission line siting process, and landowner concerns with utilities’ exercise of eminent domain authority. Suzanne Lane, executive vice president/CEO, KEPCo; Pat Parke, CEO, Midwest Energy; and Corey Linville, senior vice president/chief operations officer of generation and power supply, Sunflower; participated in the panel discussion “Updates, Perspectives, Integrated Resource Plans, Load Forecasts, and Plans Moving Forward.”
On Nov. 6, the committee held its third and final meeting. The agenda included an overview of the Iowa energy plan from the municipal utility perspective, a Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) staff briefing on the state energy office and federal funding opportunities, an update on the Kansas Infrastructure Hub, and presentations on “Energy Futures” from the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association (KIOGA) and the Kansas Advanced Power Alliance.
At the conclusion of the Nov. 6 meeting, the committee provided thoughts on the presentations received over the three days of hearings. There were no recommendations for the committee to forward specific bill language to the 2024 legislature.
At the request of the Kansas House of Representatives Energy Chair, KEC and two different teams of member cooperative representatives have spent many hours since the close of the last legislative session in discussions with solar advocates regarding issues related to customer-owned generation and specifically net metering (HB 2228). These discussions have helped inform our work to update KEC’s voluntary model net metering rider (NMR).
We believe the model NMR provides a workable template for electric cooperatives to build upon in developing their own rate structures without prescriptive, one-size-fits-all mandates that might be imposed under a statutory net metering framework. All distribution cooperatives in Kansas self-regulate rates and rate structures through their respective member-elected boards. In doing so, they must balance the interests of various rate classes, individual consumer-members, and cooperative members as a whole. As we approach this new legislative session, co-ops are committed to working with policymakers to advance the ability of your local cooperative to power lives, hopes and dreams, now and into the future. For additional information on KEC’s advocacy efforts, you may contact Leslie Kaufman, vice president of government relations and legal counsel or Reagan McCloud, manager of government relations.