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Bill aims to rev up solar power in state

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette // January 30, 2019

An update to Arkansas law would help the Natural State increase its solar power output, a lawmaker and stakeholders said at a Tuesday news conference.

Senate Bill 145 by Sen. Dave Wallace, R-Leachville, would amend the definition of "public utility" in Arkansas law, allowing individuals, corporations and public entities easier access to renewable energy sources like solar panels.

Under current law, individuals and entities must own any solar panels providing power to their homes or facilities, but Wallace's proposed tweak would allow them to lease solar panels, for example, and still take advantage of incentives for returning excess power to the electrical grid. The bill would also more than triple the amount of kilowatts an individual or entity may generate without being subjected to greater regulation of a traditional utility company.

"It's another tool in the toolbox to help expand the solar marketplace," said Katie Niebaum, executive director of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association.

Arkansas has the 11th-highest solar potential among U.S. states based on the amount of sunlight the state receives, according to the Nebraska Energy Office, but the state's solar energy output has lagged in the bottom half of states in the U.S. Wallace said that stems, in part, from outdated laws.

An Entergy Arkansas spokesman said the utility didn't have a stance on the bill, but it was watching it.

"Our interest is that non-net-metering customers do not end up subsidizing the costs of net-metering customers without enjoying the benefits of generating their own power," said Kerri Case, a company spokesman.

Net metering is the program that allows solar technology users to receive credits for putting excess power back into the grid.

-- Hunter Field


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