Sen. Jonathan Dismang (file)

After hours of testimony, largely from opponents of a proposal to end Arkansas one-to-one net-metering policy, the sponsors of the bill and an industry group reached a compromise.

Sponsor Rep. Lanny Fite (R-Benton) then pulled the bill down to amend it, and chair Rep. John Maddox (R-Mena) said he expected to hold a committee hearing tomorrow, likely after the House meets, for what he hoped would be speedy consideration of the amended proposal.

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Around 5 p.m., after about four hours of discussion on the bill, Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy), the Senate sponsor, announced that he and Fite had reached a compromise with the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, which was shortly affirmed thereafter by Heather Nelson, chair of the AAEA and president of Seal Solar.

The Advanced Arkansas Energy Association has been the primary coalition pushing back against the law.

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The amendment would grandfather projects built until Sept. 30, 2024, into existing policy, where customers get a credit from utilities worth the full retail rate of the excess energy they generate. That’s a shift from the end of 2023 in the latest version of the bill. It would also extend the radius of the solar facility (technically net-metering could be wind power or something else, but practically we’re talking about solar) from the physical location of the customer from 5 miles to 100 miles. Also in the amendment: If a customer had a signed agreement with a solar company or an application in with the Public Service Commission as of Feb. 22, 2023, it could exceed the 5 megawatt limit in the bill.

After listening to committee members ask questions for hours, I’m confident that I understand the basics of Arkansas’s solar policy and how it benefits municipalities, utilities, nonprofits, farmers and more and why the regulated monopolies don’t like the existing policy better than at least half of the committee members. But I don’t at all understand the ramifications of the amendment and why the solar industry would concede on so much.

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But perhaps the amendment and experts will explain more.

There was a lot of compelling testimony, but Douglas Hutchings, one of the most successful and knowledgeable solar entrepreneurs in the state, particularly stood out.

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Why is the legislature wading into something so technical when we have dozens of experts at the Public Service Commission with this precise job duty? he wondered.

“You guys have way better things to be spending your time on than trying to decide what a fair rate for electricity in Arkansas is. Why have the Public Service Commission? Why not make up numbers randomly?”

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