PSC Sets February Public Hearing on Net Metering


PSC Sets February Public Hearing on Net Metering

The Arkansas Public Service Commission, under pressure to complete a yearslong review of net metering and the rates solar energy-producing customers should be compensated for the power they put onto the grid, has scheduled a public comment hearing on the issue at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 19.

"The parties are excused from having to be there, but it's for the purpose of gathering more public comment," said William Ball, owner of Stellar Sun in Little Rock and an intervenor in the solar rate case, which has dragged on for nearly four years.

Solar development in Arkansas has surged for several years under a system that gives solar customers an equal credit for the power they put on the grid as they're charged for the energy they take off. The commission regulates the state’s utilities.

The 1-to-1 credit helps solar systems pay for themselves quicker, and is a boon to the solar installation industry, which fears its momentum will be snuffed by a lesser credit, which is favored by some utilities, including Entergy Arkansas, the state's biggest utility with more than 700,000 meters.

While solar advocates preach the environmental and cost benefits of solar power, utilities argue that solar customers getting the 1-to-1 return are paying less than their fair share for the grid infrastructure and thus shortchanging other customers who lack solar generation.

Public commenters packed the PSC hearing room Dec. 5, speaking unanimously in favor of solar power and a robust credit for solar customers. Parties to the case, including utilities and big commercial power customers, offered alternatives. Both sides pressed for a quick resolution, calling certainty a key to business strategy.

"This gives a little insight into how fast or slow a decision might be forthcoming" from the PSC, said Ball, author of Arkansas' original renewable energy development act, "because there's still yet another hearing coming up."