PACE Improvements, Renewable Energy Expansion Top List
Improving access to Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing and removing regulatory barriers to renewable energy are among 2017 policy priorities for the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association (AAEA), the group announced today.
Noting that Arkansas’s advanced energy sector will be a key industry for the state’s 21st century economy, Executive Director Katie Laning Niebaum said AAEA is focused on policies that will increase the development, manufacturing and utilization of advanced energy technologies.
“Since our launch in 2012, we have built a strong record of policy achievements to help Arkansas’s advanced energy industry drive economic development and job creation across the state,” said Niebaum. “Working with policymakers, our members and other stakeholders, we look forward to building on this successful foundation to grow our advanced energy economy.”
The Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program and the Arkansas Energy Performance Contracting (AEPC) program remain leading legislative priorities for AAEA. On the regulatory front, AAEA is engaged as an intervening party to two pivotal dockets before the Arkansas Public Service Commission, which will decide renewable energy rules for Arkansas consumers and businesses. In addition, AAEA continues to participate in the Parties Working Collaboratively (PWC) with the state’s seven public utilities and other interested parties to develop a plan to extend utilities’ energy efficiency programs through 2019.
A recent Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation study identified more than 770 advanced energy companies doing business in Arkansas. These companies report annual sales of more than $1.7 billion and employ about 16,000 workers. Another 9,300 advanced energy jobs in related industries that account for $1.1 billion in sales brings total impact of advanced energy on the Arkansas economy to 25,300 workers and $2.8 billion in output.
Click here to read an overview of AAEA’s 2017 policy agenda. Highlights include the following priorities:
1. Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program
– Signed into law in April 2013, the Arkansas local-option PACE program authorizes the voluntary creation of energy improvement districts to fund loans for 100% of the cost of energy savings projects by interested property owners. The loans are repaid via a special assessment on the owner’s property. Loan payments are generally less than the amount of energy savings achieved, so most business owners experience an increase in cash flow. Without access to low-cost financing opportunities, Arkansas property owners must typically bear the upfront costs of energy-saving projects, an obstacle that has stymied many energy-saving projects in Arkansas.
– PACE has demonstrated its value with several projects currently in development but technical corrections are needed to ensure the program reaches its full potential as a robust engine of economic development. AAEA will advocate for these needed changes in partnership with other stakeholders.
2. Arkansas Energy Performance Contracting (AEPC) program
– After two years in operation, the Arkansas Energy Performance Contracting Program is in full stride. Administered by the Arkansas Energy Office, the AEPC program enables taxpayer-funded public entities (state agencies, colleges and universities, and cities and counties) to reduce costs, improve the comfort and quality of public buildings and address pressing deferred maintenance issues at no upfront cost.
– A jobs study commissioned by the Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation found that nearly 700 companies that employ more than 16,000 Arkansans are in the advanced energy economy. About 60 percent of those jobs are tied to energy savings equipment and services and will be directly affected by a vibrant AEPC program.
– Several large Energy Service Companies have made significant investments in Arkansas while home-grown ESCOs are also growing exponentially in response to the AEPC program. Working with the Arkansas Energy Office, AAEA will continue to advocate for AEPC’s future success.
3. Arkansas Public Service Commission Renewable Energy Dockets
– The Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) opened two pivotal dockets in 2016 that will have major impacts on the renewable energy market place in Arkansas. AAEA sought and received intervening party status on Dockets 16-027-R and 16-028-U.
– In 16-027-R, the Commission is exercising its authority under ACT 827 to establish certain guidelines for net metering facilities to exceed current generating capacity limits and to establish a revised rate structure for net metering customers. The revised rate structure issue has been assigned to a Net Metering Working Group consisting of all interested parties.
– AAEA is arguing strongly, along with others in the industry, that existing customers should be grandfathered permanently under current rates.
– The APSC went beyond the requirements of Act 827 to open the second docket, 16-028-U, which represents an historic attempt by the Commission to more broadly consider the full range of issues in order to “consider whether any change is warranted in the Commission’s policies related to renewable DG, beyond those policy changes contemplated in Docket 16-027-R.” AAEA used the opportunity to suggest several policy changes, detailed here.
4. Public Utility Energy Efficiency Programs
– Under the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard adopted by the Arkansas Public Service Commission in December 2010, utility energy efficiency programs have proven to be an important economic driver for Arkansas and advanced energy technologies.
– AAEA has participated for four years in the Parties Working Collaboratively (PWC) with the state’s seven public utilities and other interested parties to develop a plan to extend programs through 2019. In testimony filed before the APSC on August 1, 2016, Dr. Katherine Johnson, Independent Evaluation Monitor for the Utility programs; the Commission professional staff and all parties including the seven investor-owned utilities (IOU) and AAEA stated that “the energy efficiency (EE) programs continue to make excellent progress towards achieving their energy savings and participation goals.”
– AAEA will continue its participation on the PWC and its support of the utility-operated energy efficiency programs for 2017.
The Arkansas Advanced Energy Association (AAEA) is the business voice for advanced energy in Arkansas. AAEA is dedicated to growing Arkansas’s economy through expanded utilization of advanced energy technologies, including energy efficiency, demand response, natural gas electric generation, solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, electric vehicles, alternative fuels and smart grid. These are innovations that make our energy supply more secure, clean and affordable. Visit arkansasadvancedenergy.com, and find us on Facebook and Twitter.