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Meeks Keeps Solar Position as PSC Staffers Switch GearsLock Icon

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A $250 donation or two could never sway state Rep. Stephen Meeks’ thinking on solar power or any other issue, the Greenbrier Republican tells Whispers.

Meeks disappointed renewable power advocates by clarifying his position last month on whether utilities like Entergy Arkansas should charge and credit home solar customers the same rate for power put on and taken off the grid.

That 1-1 ratio is locked in for current customers under state regulations on net metering, the accounting system that tracks home generation.

But state regulators must rule soon on utility proposals that would let them pay new net metering customers less. The rate review was mandated by a bill Meeks sponsored, Act 827 of 2015.

Entergy’s political action committee appears on Meeks’ latest campaign contribution report, which notes a $250 donation on March 19. The PAC had given him $250 earlier in the election cycle. “That wouldn’t influence me at all,” the lawmaker said Thursday. “People who donate to me believe in what I stand for. I ran the bill on my own, and the idea didn’t come from the solar people or the utilities. The purpose was to promote solar and all renewables, but to do it in a free and fair-market fashion.”

Meeks testified before the Arkansas Public Service Commission last year that his legislation did not embrace “two-channel billing,” the utilities’ term for charging net metering customers a retail rate (about 11 cents per kilowatt-hour) and paying them a wholesale rate (about 6 cents).

Meeks said in March that he’d had a different billing system in mind originally, but felt all along that utilities deserve some infrastructure compensation.

Net metering customers who use the grid but end up zeroing out their bill are basically avoiding infrastructure costs borne by everybody else, Meeks told Whispers.

“Well who bears the cost that you’re not paying? It gets spread to the other consumers.”

Do Entergy Jobs Await?
Renewable energy proponents believe that PSC Executive Director John Bethel and rate expert Matthew Klucher are shifting from regulating Entergy Arkansas to working for the power company. Bethel announced last week that he is retiring after leading the PSC staff for 18 years, and he told Arkansas Business he’ll be pursuing career opportunities he’s not yet free to specify.

Klucher is resigning to take another unspecified job, Bethel said.

Klucher, the agency’s director of rate and demand resources, did not immediately return a call seeking comment, and Entergy spokeswoman Kerri Jackson Case said in an email that she couldn’t comment on job searches.

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