In a recent news story, the Kansas Energy Council referenced the need for a strategy to generate more electricity in Kansas. In regard to the Holcomb expansion project and the need for generating capacity in western Kansas, several erroneous comments were made that I would like to address.


In a recent news story, the Kansas Energy Council referenced the need for a strategy to generate more electricity in Kansas. In regard to the Holcomb expansion project and the need for generating capacity in western Kansas, several erroneous comments were made that I would like to address.
    Lt. Gov. Parkinson admitted that Kansas will need 600 to 700 megawatts of additional base load power over the next 10 to 20 years and expressed concern over how it will be acquired. Coal and natural gas are considered base load resources because they are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Wind is not considered a base load power resource since the wind does not blow all the time, and therefore it must be backed up by natural gas resources. Together, natural gas and wind are much more expensive than coal, and our studies indicate that by 2015, the high cost of using resources other than coal to meet our base load needs will make it cost-effective to build the Holcomb expansion project.
    Lt. Gov. Parkinson was also quoted as saying that the Holcomb expansion project would not help meet the capacity needs of Kansas since 1,200 megawatts will be exported to Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado. The Holcomb  expansion project will provide base load capacity of 200 megawatts for 500,000 Kansas ratepayers who are served by Sunflower members, Midwest Energy and nine municipal utilities. The structure of the project will allow
us to not only provide power to central and western Kansas customers and generate electricity for other cooperative utilities out of state, but the benefit of exporting this power will result in $750 million coming from these out-of-state utilities to lower costs for Kansas ratepayers. If the total base load capacity need within the state is 600 to 700 MW, the 200 MW needed now in central and western Kansas is significant.
    Moreover, the strength of our state’s economy depends on exports. In fact, in 2007 Kansas businesses enjoyed $10.25 billion in export sales. As the power from the new units is exported to surrounding states, revenues returning to Kansas will help contain the cost of power for those we serve.
    Another assertion made in the article is that Kansas’ need for more energy is gradual, increasing 1 to 2 percent over the next 20 years. We have experienced a growth rate much greater than that during the last three years and would expect a rate much higher if ethanol development resurrects. Even if we agreed with the trend of 2 percent growth the next 20 years, that growth equates to 400 megawatts.
    Additionally, customers in central Kansas are currently receiving 176 megawatts of coal-based power from the Jeffrey Energy Center through a contract that expires by 2019. This contract must be replaced with a base load resource. The need to replace this contract creates a significant urgent need because replacing 176 megawatts cannot be achieved through energy efficiency or investments in wind power, which is not a base load resource.
    Therefore, we must proceed expeditiously since on average, it takes 52 months to build a coal plant.
    With that said, it becomes apparent that our portion of the Holcomb expansion project entails more than 200 megawatts of power. It embodies prosperity and quality of life for all Kansans and puts us in a position to economically pursue other resources our consumers will need in the future.

Earl Watkins
President and CEO Sunflower Electric Power Corp