Cities, Counties, School Districts, Farmers, Water Utilities, Business and Trade Associations Unite to Protect Solar and Net Metering:

Warns Higher Electric Bills and Massive Job Losses Ahead for Arkansas if Utility Monopolies Succeed in HB1370

Little Rock – A massive coalition of over 90 Arkansas businesses, farmers, cities, counties, school districts, water utilities, churches and other organizations representing more than one million Arkansans have locked arms to defend and promote Arkansas’s solar industry and net metering. Industry leaders, business owners, local governments, and other organizations are now uniting to oppose newly filed bill HB 1370 that will raise Arkansas electric bills and kill thousands of solar industry jobs.

“Our large and diverse coalition members have partnered together and issued our joint letter to defend and promote Arkansas’s solar industry because so much is at stake for Arkansas’s economy and ratepayers,” said Arkansas Advanced Energy Association Executive Director, Lauren Waldrip.

“This bill will end the solar industry in Arkansas and will cost us thousands of jobs,” said Pulaski CountyJudge Barry Hyde.

House Bill 1370, filed by State Representative Lanny Fite (R-Benton) and State Senator Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy), seeks to unwind promises made in 2019 by the passage of Arkansas’s wildly successful Solar Access Act. The act, passed with wide margins and bipartisan support, led to thousands of new Arkansas jobs and helped many achieve lower and more stable power costs. The act legalized “1:1 net-metering” that allows Arkansans and organizations that deploy solar power to receive a credit for excess power generated and returned to the grid. Entergy and electric co-ops now want to reduce net-metering credits.

Coalition members are expected to hold a news conference tomorrow at 11:30 am in the State Capitol.

 “After 4 years of development, approval by the Arkansas Public Service Commission, and expenditure of over $40 million on a solar power plant currently under construction, HB 1370 would gut this investment being made by over 2200 farm family members of the Producers Rice Mill cooperative,” said Keith Glover, CEO of Producers Rice Mill.  “This project was ruled by the Public Service Commission to reduce rates for all other Entergy Arkansas ratepayers.  The 20 MW AC solar power plant, 40 MW hours of battery storage and microgrid will allow Producers to export 17 MW of electricity to the grid and to the benefit of Entergy Arkansas when the grid is under stress.”   

“Investing in our own solar power plant has allowed us to generate clean energy that offsets the electricity usage for our new headquarters and 40 of our bank branches throughout central Arkansas,” said Tim Hicks, Chief Financial Officer of Bank OZK. “We would not have made this investment if HB1370 had been in place at the time. Long-term, stable policies are vital to promote and protect business investments in this industry and HB1370 virtually assures that such investments will not be economical in the future. This is the wrong direction for Arkansas.”

 “Our business invested in solar energy because the state’s Solar Access Act made it financially feasible to invest in this clean alternative energy source”, said Jeff Weatherly, Chief Financial Officer of Lexicon, Inc. “We disagree with the argument that we are being “subsidized” by ratepayers who have not elected to invest in solar. We continue to pay significant amounts monthly to the utilities in “demand charges” which are not offset by the electricity generated by our solar investments. If the utilities do not think we are paying our fair share through these “demand charges”, the utilities have the ability to pursue changes to the “demand charge” at the Public Service Commission. In fact, I would argue they have an obligation to pursue such change at the PSC to make sure that cost shifting is not occurring. We have stated from the beginning that we do not want to be subsidized by ratepayers who do not invest in solar, especially our employees. Lastly, businesses must have a level of certainty when making investments. The proposed legislation would dramatically reduce the savings we receive on a retroactive basis, thus changing the economic payback necessary to pay for the investment. As a state, we can’t be known as a state that enacts this type of retroactive legislation. That is not the type of business climate that Arkansas wants to be known for. 

“CAW is not only planning for tomorrow, but also for 2050. A stable legal and regulatory environment is critical to making the complex decisions required to deliver high-quality water at affordable prices for generations to come,” said Tad Bohannon, CEO of Central Arkansas Water. “The electric utility industry made sure it took us years to develop the first project in Arkansas in excess of 1 megawatt by a non-electric utility, and it fought CAW at every stage as it worked its way through the Public Service Commission approval process. After extensive delays CAW and its partner, Scenic Hill Solar, were able to successfully construct and begin operation of a $10 million solar power plant that provides approximately 20% of CAW’s annual electricity demand. HB 1370 would emasculate CAW’s financial strategy for the next 30 years by undermining the contract that Central Arkansas Water has for the generation of solar power and it opens CAW up to additional, unknown, and unregulated charges from Entergy Arkansas. Ultimately, this will result in higher rates for almost 500,000 people served by Central Arkansas Water,” said Bohannon.

 “Passing HB 1370 will have a direct and immediate negative impact on Batesville Schools with higher electricity bills that could impact teacher pay,” said Batesville School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Hester. “The Batesville School District was able to reduce its electricity costs and invest those savings into pay raises for public school teachers. It is very troubling that the Legislature is considering reversing all the tax saving revenue for Arkansas’s non-profit organizations in the name of corporate greed.

 “HB 1370 will increase electric bills for all Arkansas ratepayers and will undermine over $20 million of economic investment that is under contract to occur in Hot Springs.  Hot Springs would lose $30 million of electricity savings that are under contract resulting in higher costs or reduced services for our citizens,” said Bill Burrough, City Manager for the City of Hot Springs. “The solar power industry in Arkansas will be crushed, our state will lose thousands of jobs, and the citizens of Hot Springs will lose $30 million.”

“Our investment in on-farm solar electricity provides my family’s farm with both reduced power costs and power pricing predictability,” said Mark Isbell of Isbell Farms in Lonoke County. “If that goes away, the investment we have made will be undermined and our farm and family will see significant new challenges that jeopardize our future.”

“Legislators need to understand that if they vote for this bill they are voting in favor of even higher electricity bills and to eliminate thousands of recently created industry jobs,” said Waldrip. “If passed, this bill would eliminate the competition that has lead to lower utility rates, taxpayer savings and economic growth all across the state.”

  • Agricultural Council of Arkansas
  • All Seasons Home pros
  • Apricot Solar
  • AR Care
  • Arkansas Advanced Energy Association
  • Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators
  • Arkansas Electrical Energy Consumers – “The Large Industrials”
  • Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation
  • Arkansas Interfaith Power & Light
  • Arkansas Public Policy Panel/Citizens First Congress
  • Arkansas Rice Federation
  • Arkansas Water Environment Association 
  • Arkwest Communications
  • Arrowhead Solar
  • Ashley County
  • ASU System
  • Audubon Delta
  • Bank OZK
  • Baptist Health
  • Bernhard
  • Cal-Maine Foods
  • Camden Water Utility
  • Central Arkansas Water
  • Citizens Climate Lobby–Arkansas Chapter
  • City of Fayetteville
  • City of Fayetteville, Arkansas
  • City of Fordyce
  • City of Greenwood
  • City of Hamburg
  • City of Hot Springs
  • City of Marked Tree
  • City of Nashville
  • City of Rogers
  • City of Stuttgart
  • Clarksville Connected Utilities
  • Delta Solar
  • Delta Solar
  • Enlighten Solar
  • Farmers Bank &Trust (Magnolia)
  • Farmington School District
  • Fastrac Energy Services
  • First National Bank of Fort Smith
  • First National Bank of Northwest Arkansas
  • Fordyce School District
  • Fountain Lake School District
  • GoodLeap
  • Greenbrier School District
  • Greentech Renewables
  • Guy Perkins School District
  • Hamburg School District
  • Hot Spring County
  • Huntsville Water Department
  • Jefferson County
  • Lexicon
  • Little Rock Community Solar Partners LLC
  • Little Rock Water Reclamation Authority
  • McKinstry
  • Nabholz
  • North Little Rock Wastewater
  • Ouachita County Medical Center
  • Ozark Society
  • Ozark Solar, Llc
  • Perihelion
  • Prescott School District
  • Producers Rice Mill
  • Pulaski County
  • Rainwater Electrical Engineering
  • Riceland Foods
  • Russellville City Corporation
  • Saline County
  • Scenic Hill Solar
  • Seal Solar
  • Searcy Water Utilities
  • Shine Solar, LLC
  • Sierra Club
  • Sol Systems, LLC
  • Solar Energy Industries Association
  • Southern Renewable Energy Associaiton
  • Stitt Energy Systems Inc.
  • Stuttgart School District
  • Sunergy
  • That Solar Company LLC
  • The Poultry Federation
  • Twin Oaks Realty/Dan Schweider (Dixie Acres)
  • Union County
  • University of Arkansas Community College at Hope Texarkana
  • University of Arkansas System
  • Walmart
  • Washington County
  • White County Central School District
  • WinTek USA
  • Zero Hour Arkansas