FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 15, 2020
Contact: Katie Laning Niebaum
Arkansans continue to seek renewable energy solutions
State records largest increase in solar facility count ever in 2019;
AAEA business leaders weigh in on potential regulatory changes, current market conditions
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas recorded the largest annual increase in the number of net-metering systems ever in 2019, the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association reported today. As within all industries, local solar business leaders currently are navigating the impact of COVID-19, while at the same time awaiting a highly anticipated ruling regarding customer-financed solar systems.
AAEA’s review of electric utility reports recently filed with the Arkansas Public Service Commission found a total of 2,320 net-metering systems as of December 31, 2019, an 812-net increase over the end-of-2018 number of 1,508 systems (a 53.8% increase). Most systems are solar, with a few solar-wind and wind-only systems. [Chart with specific utility data included below.]
“Advanced energy resources like solar are clear economic winners in Arkansas,” said Katie Laning Niebaum, AAEA Executive Director. “We know these technologies provide careers, local community investment and energy savings in states that deploy them. The solar sector can maintain its role as an important economic driver in Arkansas – with tremendous opportunity ahead – if policies continue to align with solar’s economic benefits.”
Policy & Regulatory Landscape
During last year’s legislative session, AAEA and its members worked alongside a large coalition of partners to secure strong bipartisan support for the “Solar Access Act” (now Act 464 of 2019). The measure enables third-party financing of solar arrays and increases a commercial project’s size limit to 1 megawatt. Act 464 took effect in July of 2019 and already has spurred greater adoption of advanced energy solutions, particularly with a wave of cities, counties and school districts seeking to deploy solar and energy efficiency technologies.
Key deliberations are underway at the Arkansas Public Service Commission, which regulates the rates and services of Arkansas’s public utilities, including electric utilities. The Commission is expected to issue a ruling soon regarding the state’s net-metering rules.
Under current law, Arkansas net-metering customers may generate their own power and receive a 1:1 retail credit for any unused power sent back to their local utility. AAEA has argued that customer-financed solar systems are a net benefit for utility systems and all ratepayers through long-term avoided costs (e.g. alleviating the need to build new transmission lines and power plants).
Analysis presented during the Commission’s net-metering proceeding showed that benefits provided by Arkansas solar customers exceed the costs imposed on a utility or other ratepayers. In other words, there is no evidence of a cost shift on to non-solar customers.
Market insights from AAEA business leaders
Matt Bell, Partner, Entegrity, Little Rock: “The passage of the Solar Access Act has allowed Entegrity to grow to over 100 employees with major projects for public and private clients throughout the state. Thanks to the efforts of the Governor, State Legislature, and Public Service Commission, we have been able to leverage energy efficiency and renewable energy to help Arkansas’s taxpayers realize millions of dollars in savings through reduced expenses for our public sector clients. The Solar Access Act has afforded some of Arkansas’s greatest private sector commercial, industrial, and agricultural businesses a choice on how they can best utilize renewable energy to reduce operating expenses. Arkansas’s private sector businesses are rapidly adopting renewable energy as a way to reduce expenses. The savings realized through renewable energy can be redirected to increase company profitability, job creation, and job retention. The anticipated economic downturn from COVID-19 further highlights the need for our state’s leadership to continue removing hurdles and allow energy efficiency and renewable energy to bring significant benefits not only to the customers deploying them, but also for the state as a whole.”
Josh Davenport, Co-Founder and CEO, Seal Solar, North Little Rock: “The solar industry is on the rise, and we’re proud to be on its front lines. In the last year alone, our nearly 30-person team has completed a record number of projects, including many groundbreaking firsts, to empower Arkansans to achieve long-term energy independence. In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever we support pro-solar policies to give homeowners, businesses, government entities, farmers and others the certainty, and the power, they need to thrive.”
Douglas Hutchings, Chairman, Delta SunEnergy, Little Rock: “What a year for solar in Arkansas. The strong and reliable return-on-investment provided by a well designed solar array continues to add value for Arkansans. We continue to push the boundaries on costs to better serve customers while supporting deployments of world-class technologies like WattGlass developed in Fayetteville. The current policies in Arkansas are effective at spurring investment in local communities and we hope that continues to be the case. We are focused on growing the team and expect even more interest in solar in the years to come.”
Marc Jones, CEO, Sunpro Solar, North Little Rock: “Sunpro Solar has experienced tremendous sales growth in Arkansas and is one of our company’s fastest growing markets. The combination of record low solar prices combined with a wide array of no money down financing options has made it very easy for a consumer in Arkansas to install a solar array on their home or business. In most cases the homeowner or business is simply trading their utility bill for a fixed solar bill that will never increase and when it’s paid off they will have little or no bill for the life of the system where most components are warranted for 25 years. Sunpro has recently expanded to Northwest Arkansas and has grown to over 100 employees. Even in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic we are projecting over 400% sales growth in 2020 and the need to hire an additional 75 employees.”
David Stitt, CEO, The Stitt Group and Stitt Solar, Rogers: “We continue to see strong interest in solar, maybe even a little more now as so many people are at home. While the interest is there, certainly, people are being conservative when considering almost every expenditure. We still believe the future of solar in Arkansas is bright.”
Skip Woessner, Operations Director-Arkansas, McKinstry, Little Rock: “Last year and into the beginning of 2020 was a period of strong growth for McKinstry here in Arkansas. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has caused a majority of our clients, both in Arkansas and nationwide, to hit the pause button on projects. The Commission should be mindful of the impact of any rule changes with respect to interconnection deadlines, as potential changes could jeopardize unforeseen delayed projects already under contract.”
AAEA solar business leaders include AEV Solar, Delta SunEnergy, Energy Systems Group, Entegrity, Excel Energy Group, LightWave Solar, McKinstry, Nexamp, Perihelion Solar, Picasolar, Scenic Hill Solar, Seal Solar, Shine Solar, Solar & Renewable Power Systems, Stitt Solar, Stone Creek Solar, Sun City Solar Energy, Sunpro Solar, Today’s Power, Inc. and Trem Wel Energy, with many more advanced energy companies integral to the state’s solar market. AAEA’s electric utility company members – Entergy Arkansas, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corp. and SWEPCO – continue to invest in renewable energy as well.
Source: Data compiled by AAEA from Arkansas electric utilities’ annual reports detailing existing net-metering facilities, due each year by March 15 (APSC Docket No. 06-105-U).
* 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/