Number of net metering systems jumped by 56% in 2017
Largest increase in actual systems ever
AAEA business leaders assess state’s hot solar market
Little Rock – The number of net metering systems increased by a dramatic 56 percent over the past year, according to Arkansas electric utilities’ recent filings with the Arkansas Public Service Commission. That figure is double the rate of growth over each of the previous three years and the largest year-over-year increase in the actual number of systems ever.
A review of the utilities’ annual reports finds 988 net metering systems as of December 31, 2017. That is a 355-net increase over the end-of-2016 number of 633 systems. Most systems are solar, with some solar-wind and wind-only systems.
“These numbers are a clear example of the growing demand for advanced energy technologies and their positive economic impact on our state,” said Katie Laning Niebaum, executive director, Arkansas Advanced Energy Association. “AAEA members report that consumer awareness regarding solar’s affordable price and short-term payback has grown. As a result, companies are adding new positions to meet growing consumer demand and new companies are entering the marketplace.”
The spike in net metering systems was particularly pronounced in Northwest Arkansas. The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal reports an increase of 72.3 percent in the number of net metering facilities in Benton, Washington, Madison, Carroll, Sebastian and Crawford counties, up to 517 in 2017 from 300 in 2016.
The reports come as the Commission is considering possible changes to Arkansas’s net metering policy. Under current rules, net metering customers may generate their own power and receive a 1:1 retail credit for any unused power netted over a monthly billing period.
AAEA, an intervening party before the Commission in the proceeding (Docket 16-027-R), and allies have argued that existing rules provide a fair value to net metering customers and benefits for all ratepayers. An analysis of Entergy Arkansas’ service territory found no cost shift to other ratepayers. In fact, the analysis found that solar customers provide a net benefit to the utility, principally by serving as a stabilizing and additional source of power for the utility.
Market insights from AAEA business leaders
“A combination of intelligent policy, decreasing costs, and tenacious entrepreneurs have helped make solar cost effective in Arkansas. In addition to the rapid expansion of residential solar, we are seeing huge interest from agricultural producers across the state, especially in the Delta. Along with saving the consumer money, the on-site generation has significant advantages for the local community. Every day, a wide variety of Arkansans are choosing solar and they are seeing firsthand the financial benefits. Solar is expanding rapidly in Arkansas, but it is still a tiny fraction of what is possible. The next decade is going to be a huge win for energy consumers as they receive more options for how they choose to generate and consume electricity.” – Douglas Hutchings, PhD, Founder & CEO, Picasolar, Fayetteville
“The level of interest and demand from residents of Arkansas for residential solar has been far greater than we could have ever forecasted. With a rapid decline in solar costs over the past several years, ever increasing utility costs, and the ability to switch to solar for no money out of pocket with savings right away, the decision makes more sense now than it ever has. In two years, Shine Solar has grown from its two original founders to 57 total employees to support this local demand for our product. “ – Caleb Gorden, Co-Founder & President, Shine Solar, Bentonville
“We are installing solar PV on more than 75 percent of the new homes we’re building and are also adding arrays to existing homes and properties each year. It is amazing to see the transformation in how our clients view electricity after installing a solar system. They take pride and ownership in their decision and exhibit a sense of energy conservation not previously realized. A recent partnership with Habitat for Humanity in Benton County allowed us to install a PV system on the new home of a single mother and her special needs children. The energy savings allow this family a little extra margin in their lives for other necessities. The public is more aware now than ever about the environmental benefits and cost effectiveness of solar on residential and commercial buildings.” – David Stitt, CEO, The Stitt Group, Rogers
AAEA solar market leaders: Arkansas Energy Ventures, Community Solar Partners, Entegrity, Picasolar, Richter Solar Energy, Seal Energy Solutions, Shine Solar, Silicon Ranch Corporation, Stitt Group, Sun City Solar Energy, Today’s Power and TremWel Energy.
Source: Data compiled from Arkansas electric utilities’ annual reports detailing existing net metering facilities under APSC Docket 06-105-U, due each year by March 15.
* Cumulative number of net metering systems from electric cooperative members of the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC).
# Data from years 2007-2012 available at http://www.apscservices.info/