By Kyle Massey
As state regulators weigh two years of arguments on what compensation utility customers should pay for self-generated electricity, the lawmaker who helped initiate the process has clarified which side he's on in the case: He's with the utility companies.
Rep. Stephen Meeks, R-Greenbrier, told Arkansas Business on Monday that in his view, utility customers with home or business power-generating systems should get less for the excess power they put onto the grid than the retail rate they pay for the electricity they pull off.
That runs counter to the interpretation solar power advocates had of his testimony in November before a packed house of witnesses, regulators and lawyers at the Arkansas Public Service Commission. Solar advocates and businesses want home-generating customers to continue to be credited at the utilities' retail rate.
Katie Niebaum, executive of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, a trade group, said that as rooftop solar has become more affordable, the companies in her association have been able to tell customers clearly how quickly their systems will pay for themselves. Certainty about rates has become part of a successful sales pitch.
"As a result, companies have added new positions to meet growing customer demand, and new companies have entered the marketplace," she said.
"This is a growing industry that significantly benefits the state's economy by creating good-paying jobs and lowering energy costs for households and businesses. AAEA is urging the Commission to allow the market to continue to grow unfettered by unnecessary policy barriers."
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Rep. Stephen Meeks, R-Greenbrier