Little Rock – The advanced energy business community will celebrate the work of the 92nd General Assembly and recognize legislators for their leadership on policy priorities this legislative session at a May 16 reception in Little Rock hosted by the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association.
During the 2019 Regular Session, AAEA members worked with legislators to secure passage of three advanced energy priority bills now signed into law, the Solar Access Act and two additional bills that will enhance the state’s successful energy performance contracting program. These measures will help spur greater adoption of advanced energy solutions, creating new job opportunities and generating energy savings for Arkansans.
AAEA will recognize the following six legislators as “Champions of Advanced Energy” for their key leadership roles on AAEA priority bills: Senators Lance Eads (R-Springdale), Keith Ingram (D-West Memphis), Jason Rapert (R-Conway), and Dave Wallace (R-Leachville), and Representatives Rick Beck (R-Center Ridge) and Aaron Pilkington (R-Clarksville).
Additionally, AAEA will recognize the following eight legislators as “Friends of Advanced Energy” for their support of advanced energy issues: Senators Trent Garner (R-El Dorado), Bart Hester (R-Cave City), Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) and Mark Johnson (R-Little Rock), and Representatives Jack Ladyman (R-Jonesboro), Vivian Flowers (D-Pine Bluff), Stephen Meeks (R-Greenbrier) and Johnny Rye (R-Trumann).
Senator Wallace was the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 145, known as the Solar Access Act, which will enable third-party financing for those seeking to deploy solar. Thanks to Wallace’s tireless efforts, the bill earned strong support on both ends of the State Capitol building.
“Solar energy means more jobs in Arkansas,” Wallace said during the Senate floor debate in early March.
Senators Garner, Irvin, Johnson and Rapert also spoke in favor of the solar jobs bill during floor consideration, helping secure passage in a 28-2 vote. Additionally, as Chairman of the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee, Rapert played a key role when the bill was first presented in committee.
SB145 was cosponsored by Senator Hester and carried in the House by Representative Pilkington. Representatives Meeks, Flowers, Rye and Ladyman each delivered supportive remarks to their House colleagues, who voted 83-5 to pass the measure.
Third-party solar leasing could double or triple the number of solar jobs in Arkansas, according to analysis from the Business Innovations Legal Clinic of the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
The Solar Access Act will increase the solar array size limit for commercial and industrial net-metering customers from 300 kw to 1 MW, cutting red tape and reducing lead-time for projects. The measure also adds a grandfathering provision to provide market certainty for customers that submit a standard interconnection agreement before December 31, 2022.
As co-chairs of the Joint Energy Committee, Representative Beck and Senator Eads were instrumental in the success of AAEA’s priority bills. Both legislators supported the solar jobs bill when it was considered by that committee and then in floor votes. Additionally, Beck and Eads played leading roles carrying House Bill 1636, which provides public entities with additional flexibility and support utilizing the Arkansas Energy Performance Contracting (AEPC) program. Thanks to their efforts, the legislation passed the House 88-2 and the Senate 34-0.
HB1636 will allow a guaranteed energy cost savings contract to align with energy cost savings measures’ active warranty period or combined useful life, instead of capping a contract at 20 years under current law. The bill also allows school districts to opt into the existing program.
Senator Ingram and Representative Beck served as champions of another AEPC-related measure, Senate Bill 679. The bill amends the Local Government Capital Improvement Revenue Bond Act as it relates to performance-based efficiency projects. It is designed to help municipalities utilize revenue bonds to fund projects under the AEPC program. The bill earned unanimous approval from Senators and House members due to Ingram’s and Beck’s work.
The AEPC program provides public entities the opportunity to utilize guaranteed energy savings to improve the energy and operational efficiency of their existing facilities without the need for upfront capital. Since 2014, 21 projects have been fully executed or are in active development, with total executed contract value worth $102.5 million guaranteeing nearly $150 million in energy savings. Those figures are expected to more than double by the end of 2019. Approximately 9,000 Arkansas jobs are tied to energy savings equipment and services and are directly affected by a vibrant AEPC program.
“Advanced energy technologies are an economic driver for the state,” said AAEA Executive Director Katie Niebaum. “Thanks to the engagement and effective leadership of these legislators, more Arkansans will reap the benefits of advanced energy solutions and advanced energy jobs will continue to grow. AAEA members are grateful to these members of the General Assembly.”
The AAEA priority bills will take effect July 24, 2019, 90 days after the formal adjournment of the 2019 Regular Session.