Little Rock, Arkansas - The Arkansas Public Service Commission is currently considering recommendations regarding Arkansas's "net metering" rules and regulations (Docket 16-027-R). Net-metering customers refer to Arkansans who generate their own electricity via renewable energy systems like solar power. At a hearing on November 30, the Commission heard from experts and the public about the benefits that net metering provides to all utility customers.
After nearly two years of expert testimony, legal comments, working group sessions and substantive study – Audubon’s efforts to protect the economic viability of distributed solar in Arkansas finally had its day in the Public Service Commission’s hearing room. Throughout the process Audubon Arkansas, as a public stakeholder, advocated for keeping retail net-metering policies which fairly value solar output and have allowed solar capacity in Arkansas to increase by 31% over the last year.
On the other side, the utility companies, public service commission and the Arkansas attorney general produced a plan that would cut solar power valuation by nearly 50% for roof-top solar, and severely limit a customer’s ability to participate in off-site solar gardens – a move that would cripple the economic incentives for residential customers to install solar.
In the weeks leading up to the hearing, Audubon Arkansas rallied our members and supporters to ensure their voices were heard by the Commission. More than 250 of the total 319 comments filed online before the hearing were made through our online advocacy portal. And on the day of the hearing more than 100 supporters of solar power filled a packed room.
Audubon Arkansas’s technical expert Karl R. Rabago, Dean of the PACE University Law School Climate and Energy Center delivered expert testimony to the commissioners. There were also a total of 23 public commenters, all of whom spoke in favor of Audubon’s position to keep the current net-metering policy. Even the legislator whose 2015 bill was being used as the basis for reduced compensation, Rep. Stephen Meeks (R-Greenbrier), testified against the two-channel approach proposed by the utilities and their partners.
The Arkansas Public Service Commission’s hearing closed after two full days of public comments, legal presentations and witness testimony. A decision is not expected before March of next year.
“Regardless of the outcome Audubon Arkansas will continue to advocate for smart energy policy in Arkansas that accelerates our transition to a clean energy economy to reduce the amount of energy we waste and increase reliance on clean, local renewable resources,” said Gary Moody, Public Affairs Manager, Audubon Arkansas. “Climate change is the number one threat to Arkansas’s birds, and the energy sector is the number one contributor of greenhouse gases. Clean energy makes too much sense for Arkansas to miss out because of poor public policy.”