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Entegrity’s Flint Richter Discusses Solar Policies Shifting this FallLock Icon

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Flint Richter, business development executive for Entegrity, the Little Rock advanced energy company, was discussing the firm’s new solar array for the city of Fayetteville when he fielded a question about Arkansas’ solar energy policies shifting on Oct. 1.

That’s when legislation sponsored by state Sen. Jonathan Dismang of Beebe will take effect for future green energy projects using net metering, the accounting system that gives utility customers an electric-bill credit for the excess energy they supply to the grid.

The new state policy will cut the credit by about half, from the retail rate utilities charge for power to the wholesale rate they pay for it. Richter disagrees with Dismang’s position that the change is needed to prevent customers with solar arrays from shrugging their cost of service off onto other customers who don’t have solar facilities. The senator and many like-minded folks call that phenomenon a cost shift.

“The cost-shift debate has been ongoing at the Public Service Commission for years, and there was never any evidence shown for it,” Richter said. “And as an industry, we really have to come up with a cohesive way to talk about this so that people will understand.”

Richter said utilities have certainly lost some revenue from schools, towns and counties with deals to buy solar power. “But instead of taking a very small lesser return, [utilities] are arguing that they have to pass that along to the customer. It’s not really a cost shift; it’s a profit or revenue shift. They are not willing to take less profit or less return.”

He said Entegrity is ramping up to educate consumers. “It’s a complex issue, obviously, but once people are educated, it’s pretty simple.”

Just because one electric customer pays less doesn’t mean that others pay more. For example, homes and businesses with energy-efficiency strategies get smaller power bills, but the utility doesn’t make up for that by charging other customers a higher rate.

“Being a solar-only contractor is going to be very challenging in the future,” Richter predicted. “But Entegrity, since we’re fully owned by Nabholz Construction, we have a very broad base of expertise and projects to pursue. We also have a whole division that does operations and maintenance of our arrays.”

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