by Kevin Randolph

Arkansas saw its largest annual increase in the number of net metering systems ever last year, the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association (AAEA) said this week following its review of annual electric utility filings with the Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC).

According to AAEA, whose electric utility company members include Entergy Arkansas, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corp. and Swepco, there was a total of 1,508 net metering systems as of Dec. 31, 2018. This is a 520-net increase from the end-of-2017 number of 988 systems. Most of the systems are solar, with a few solar-wind and wind-only systems, AAEA said.

“These numbers are further evidence of the growing demand for advanced energy resources, which create job opportunities, secure local community investment and generate energy savings for Arkansans,” Katie Niebaum, AAEA executive director, said. “The solar sector is an increasingly important economic driver in our state with tremendous opportunity ahead.”

AAEA noted that the net metering news follows the advancement of legislature at the Arkansas state legislature that will enable third-party financing of solar arrays and increase commercial project size limits up to one megawatt.

According to a recent analysis from the Business Innovations Legal Clinic of the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, third-party solar leasing has the potential to double or triple the number of solar jobs in Arkansas.

2018 was the biggest year of solar installation ever in Arkansas, according to GMT Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s latest market report. Arkansas adding 118 megawatts of solar generation last year, the 18th most among the 50 states.