Morris Jenkins named 2017 Ron Bell Advanced Energy Leadership Award winner at advanced energy industry’s annual gathering.

Little Rock – Changing technology, regulatory models and business models are the “talk of the energy world,” Arkansas Public Service Commission Chairman Ted J. Thomas told attendees of emPOWERing Arkansas 2017, the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association’s 6th annual meeting and policy conference held Tuesday.

The more than 150 industry stakeholders – advanced energy business leaders; utility and regional transmission executives; and government officials, policy makers and regulators – deliberated on topics including the integration of renewable energy resources and opportunities for advanced energy technologies amidst a changing energy ecosystem.

A policy panel featuring representatives from Little Rock-based regional transmission operations MISO and Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and large-scale solar developer Silicon Ranch examined renewable energy growth and grid issues, including infrastructure needs, transmission and resource planning, and the impact of new technologies such as storage.

“The renewables are here, and I think they’re here to stay,” MISO Regional Director Scott D. Hamilton told attendees. He noted that MISO is seeing increased wind and solar capacity in its footprint and the challenge is, “How do we make sure the grid is a fit for renewables?”

Mike Ross, SVP of Government Affairs and Public Relations for SPP, said 25 percent of energy in the SPP region this year is coming from wind. He called solar the next renewable with great potential for the RTO’s members.

“Arkansas is uniquely positioned to take advantage of solar in a big way” with the right policies that allow for market expansion, noted Peter Candelaria, Silicon Ranch’s Chief Technology Officer.

AAEA Executive Director Katie Laning Niebaum echoed that sentiment in her annual membership report: “Arkansas’s advanced energy industry is playing a key role in our state’s economy and AAEA is focused on initiatives that will allow the market to expand as demand and innovation advances.”

In keynote remarks, Chairman Thomas said the regulated monopoly business model is not ideal for innovation for two reasons: first, the regulator does not want to fund speculative investment necessary for innovation; and second, the utility does not want to share profits with ratepayers if it is the business entity that discovers the next big thing.

In asking, “how do we reconcile our desire for innovation while retaining what we like about a regulated monopoly,” Thomas noted the importance of flexible rules and regulations that allow Arkansans to take full advantage of technologies that become applicable, such as smart meters and the data they deliver.

“The right openness to new technology and the right access to data can turn our region’s protracted poverty into an opportunity,” Thomas said. Permitting third parties to use data, subject to reasonable privacy concerns, could help target leaky houses and identify preferred locations for rooftop solar, for example.

Also during the annual meeting, Morris Jenkins, former director of the Arkansas Energy Office, was announced as the winner of the 2017 Ron Bell Advanced Energy Leadership Award. Named after the former chairman of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation, the award was created to recognize outstanding and consistent contributions to Arkansas’s advanced energy industry by an individual business leader or research and education leader who is a member of AAEA or a public servant in Arkansas.

In recognizing Jenkins, Dr. Beth Hood, current AAEF chair, said, “Morris was on the leading edge of energy policy in Arkansas, laboring in the trenches and developing the groundwork for today’s advanced energy industry.”

Jenkins retired in 2015 after 41 years of service to the State of Arkansas, most recently as Director of Strategic Planning and Legislative Liaison for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. He has been at the forefront of energy policy in Arkansas, serving in the Arkansas Energy Office from 1978-1998 and leading the agency as Director from 1987-1998.

In accepting the award, Jenkins said, “Any light that shines on me is a reflection of many of you who stepped up when you needed to step up.”

Ron Bell award finalists included Bill Harrison, Chairman and CEO, Harrison Energy Partners; Chris Ladner, founding partner, Entegrity; and Frank Mayfield, HVAC Efficiency & Controls Specialist, and Chair of Energy Improvement District No. 1. board of directors, which manages Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) projects for the cities of Fayetteville and Springdale.

The association also recognized Entergy Arkansas’ Gerardo Galdamez as the Advanced Energy Rising Star Award winner and Entegrity as the Advanced Energy Business Innovation Award winner, two new categories for the expanded Arkansas Advanced Energy Awards program.

Ygrene Energy Fund and Entegrity were event sponsors.

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, and find us on Facebook and Twitter.