Winners of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Awards also announced
Little Rock – The level of activity at the Arkansas Public Service Commission is “exciting, bordering on chaos,” the Commission’s Chairman Ted J. Thomas jokingly told attendees of emPOWERing Arkansas 2019, the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association’s 8th annual meeting and policy conference held October 8th at Heifer International.
The Commission is currently overseeing multiple regulatory proceedings with significant market implications for Arkansas’s advanced energy industry. In his remarks before the crowd of nearly 200 industry stakeholders – business leaders, utility executives and other government officials and staff members – Thomas described his vision of the “rules of the road of a new competitive market.”
“We need a market-based process where new technology is phased in according to the price,” Thomas said. He also noted, “Entrepreneurs won’t play in a blind spot. We need visibility into the distribution system.”
In addition to Thomas, AAEA’s annual conference featured several speakers addressing timely policy topics.
Karl R. Rábago, a former Texas Public Utilities Commissioner and regulatory consultant for AAEA, served as the keynote luncheon speaker. He called on Arkansas energy stakeholders to help “modernize the grid because we can get more out of it.”
In separate remarks, Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment Becky W. Keogh noted that 32 projects have been executed or are under development through the Arkansas Energy Performance Contracting program, managed by the department. The total contract value of $350 million will save $20 million in taxpayer funds this year alone, Keogh said.
Additionally, attendees heard from a panel of speakers examining the “game-changing” impact of the Solar Access Act, a top legislative priority for AAEA that earned strong bipartisan in the 2019 legislative session. Bill sponsor Senator Dave Wallace, Walmart Senior Manager of Energy Services Lisa Perry and Searcy Water Utilities General Manager Daniel Dawson participated in a panel discussion led by Gary Moody, Director of State and Local Climate Strategy for the National Audubon Society.
Attendees also heard from utility executives – SWEPCO’s Brian Bond, Entergy Arkansas’s Kurt Castleberry and Arkansas Electric Cooperatives’ and Today’s Power’s Michael Henderson – about the growing use of a wide range of advanced energy technologies within their respective companies.
The winners of the 2019 Arkansas Advanced Energy Awards also were announced at emPOWERing Arkansas.
Senator Dave Wallace was named the recipient of the Ron Bell Advanced Energy Leadership award, recognizing an individual with a strong record of outstanding and consistent contributions to Arkansas’s advanced energy industry, whose work is having a significant, sustainable impact on the industry.
Senator Wallace served as the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 145 (now Act 464), and secured its wide bipartisan support in this year’s legislative session. Senator Wallace’s Solar Access Act enables solar leasing for all solar customers and creates a needed avenue for third-party purchasing for non-taxed entities. The legislation has had a positive impact on the state’s solar market. From the drafting process to the bill signing, Senator Wallace’s steadfast commitment to improving Arkansas’s solar landscape and his exceptional personal leadership was critical to the ultimate success of the Solar Access Act.
Gary Moody, Director of State and Local Climate Strategy for the National Audubon Society, was announced as the Advanced Energy Rising Star for his contributions and growing industry impact.
Gary has been a tireless advocate for improvements to Arkansas’s advanced energy policy on both the efficiency and renewable energy fronts. Gary played an instrumental role in engineering the success of Senate Bill 145 during the 2019 legislative session. Thanks to his coalition leadership and strategic insights, the bill passed with strong bipartisan support. Additionally, as an active member of the Parties Working Collaboratively, the working group examining Arkansas public utilities’ energy efficiency programs, Gary consistently has advocated for stronger and fairer valuation for energy efficiency and pushed for additional savings.
Today’s Power, Inc. was honored with the Advanced Energy Business Innovation award, which recognizes a member company for courage, savvy and innovation to expand the market for its products and/or services.
TPI serves clients interested in solar and emerging technologies including electric cooperatives, municipalities, school districts and companies of all sizes. One of TPI’s most recent projects, the solar power system for the City of Fayetteville, is groundbreaking for its onsite utility-scale storage. Overall, electric consumers will save more than $2.5 million annually as a result of TPI’s solar projects.
A surprise award, the Advanced Energy Policy Pioneer award, was given to Mark Cayce, CEO of Ouachita Electric Cooperative based in Camden, Ark. Mark was recognized for his extraordinary contributions during the legislative debate on the Solar Access Act.
Following a standing ovation, Cayce announced a “mic-drop moment,” as Arkansas Business’ Kyle Massey reports:
“I made some pretty bold statements in support of solar power when the Legislature was considering solar policy, predicting that solar could actually bring rates down,” Cayce told the gathered renewable energy entrepreneurs, contractors and utility representatives. “Today I can announce that after our most recent rate study, on Oct. 17 we’re going to be seeking a 4 and 1/2-percent rate decrease at Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corp.”
Later, in an interview with PV Magazine, Cayce said, “When you can add solar and add jobs and lower prices, everybody wins.”
Audubon Arkansas, Energy Efficiency Design & Development, Entegrity, Stitt Solar and Today’s Power were emPOWERing Arkansas 2019 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 ArkansasAdvancedEnergy.com, and find us on Facebook and Twitter.