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Arkansas bill would make solar energy more expensive


The recently filed bill plans to undo the accessibility of solar energy in Arkansas by making it more expensive.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Two Arkansas legislators have proposed a bill that the solar industry says would make it harder for cities, counties, school districts and others in the state to invest in their own solar power systems.

Since 2019, the solar industry in Arkansas has boomed after the legislature passed a bill that made solar energy more accessible in the state. But now, the recently filed bill plans to undo that and make investing in solar too expensive for most people.

Lance Turner with Arkansas Business is following the story and answers a few questions surrounding the possible effects the bill would have.

How would the bill affect the solar industry in Arkansas?

House Bill 1370 was filed this month by two Republicans — Rep. Lanny Fite of Benton and Sen. Jonathan Dismang of Searcy.

The big thing the bill would do is eliminate the 1-to-1 net metering compensation that solar power users currently receive.

It works like this: If you — as a homeowner, or school district, or farm, or whatever — have a solar array — you generate your own electric power. And the power that you don’t use gets put back onto the electric grid, and the grid operator pays you for that power.

The rate at which you are compensated is *equal to what utilities charge for that power — 1-to-1.

This proposal would eliminate that 1-to-1 rate, and instead, institute what’s called two-way billing — essentially providing solar power users with a lower compensation rate for the power they add to the grid.

So why make this change?

Utilities have long argued that 1-to-1 net metering is unfair to people who don’t use solar.

They say that, as utilities, they have to make enough money to maintain an expensive electric grid, and that 1-to-1 net metering shifts those costs away from solar users and onto everybody else.

But Arkansas’ solar power industry argues that this would make the installation and upkeep of solar systems more expensive — and less attractive — for solar power users — which could stop the industry’s growth, costing jobs and raising the cost of electricity in the long run.

They also say it would give an unfair advantage to utilities, which are building their own solar arrays.

Who opposes this bill, and what’s next in the debate?

The Arkansas Advanced Energy Association is leading the effort against the bill.

It distributed a response naming 90 cities, counties, schools, farmers, water associations, and business and trade groups that all denounced the plan.

That list includes some big names — the Arkansas Farm Bureau Association, the Arkansas Rice Federation, the Arkansas State University System, Baptist Health, Riceland Foods, Lexicon, Bank OZK.

They held a news conference this morning against the bill, which was scheduled to come up in the House Insurance and Commerce Committee this morning.

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