by Kyle Massey
Monday, Oct. 7, 2019
The sun never sets on Arkansas’ solar power pricing battle, it seems, but a swirl of cases before Arkansas regulators and a major ruling in Louisiana favoring Entergy Inc. suggest a reckoning may be near.
All parties won’t be happy, and nearly three dozen parties and intervenors are involved in the tangle of Arkansas cases, including utilities, solar installers, customers and environmental groups.
The rate issues are complex, involving arcane terms like tariffs (not the trade kind) and net metering, but the nutshell comes down to who pays what when solar customers connect to the grid. To encourage solar development, state rules have until now allowed certain customers a full retail rate for the excess energy they put on the grid, something that Entergy says cannot continue without shifting infrastructure costs to other customers.
On the other hand, cutting the benefit solar customers get would affect how long it takes for rooftop arrays to pay for themselves, and Louisiana solar contractors recalculating the economics of new projects fear the surging industry will suffer.
Jockeying in several Arkansas Public Service Commission cases, known as dockets, intensified after the state’s amended renewable energy law, Act 464, went into effect this summer. It allowed more large commercial solar arrays to go up, and cleared non-taxed entities like cities and schools to partner with independent providers in solar energy services contracts, while requiring regulators to balance all interests and avoid cost-shifting.