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Ark. regulators consider changes to net metering rules

Arkansas regulators are weighing changes to the state's netmetering policy.

Solar firms Oct. 4 urged the Arkansas Public ServiceCommission during a hearing to make it easier for homes and businesses to deployrooftop solar, and eliminate uncertainty about how much money they might saveby doing so, according to the ArkansasDemocrat-Gazette.

The hearing was one of the first steps in a process tocomply with legislation passed by the Arkansas General Assembly last yeardirecting the PSC to require net metering rates to cover a utility's entirecost of service for customers with rooftop solar, and authorizing thecommission to consider approving distributed generation projects larger than300 kW as an economic development incentive.

In August, the PSC approved an order separating rate issuesfrom other net metering questions, including the allowed size of a facility,whether leasing of distributed generation projects can be permitted and whethercustomers who currently have distributed generation can be grandfathered underany new rules. The order also calls for, at the request of PSC staff, theestablishment of a "Net Metering Working Group," made up ofintervenors to make recommendations on rate issues to the commission by Sept.15, 2017.

Though the net metering proceeding is in its early stages,Southwestern Electric Power Co.suggested one area of possible friction, arguing in a filing thatgrandfathering distributed generating customers under current rules violatesstate law.

"The statute is clear that all net-metering customerswould be required to pay the entire cost of providing service to them once therates have been established and approved by the Commission," SWEPCO wrote."While SWEPCO understands the Staff's desire to grandfather existingcustomers, the statute appears to prohibit grandfathering of existingnet-metering accounts as it requires each net-metering customer to pay theentire cost of providing service." SWEPCO is a subsidiary of The utility also recommended net metering facilities be limited to 1 MW in size.

EntergyArkansas Inc. favors grandfathering for existing net meteringcustomers, but proposed grandfathering from new rate structures be limited inavailability only to those who sign an agreement with the utility prior to thePSC's initial order in the proceeding. The Entergy Corp. utility also supports expanding netmetering rules to cover non-residential facilities between 300 kW and 1 MW, butsuggests customer-owned solar facilities bigger than 1 MW should be governed bythe PSC's rules for cogeneration, according to a filing. (Arkansas Docket Nos.16-027-R and 16-028-U)