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Ark. lawmakers pass bill to expand renewables access under net metering

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Ark. lawmakers pass bill to expand renewables access under net metering

The Arkansas House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill March 12 that would boost solar power installations and other distributed renewable energy sources under net metering.

Senate Bill 145, sponsored by Republican state Sen. David Wallace, changes the state's Renewable Energy Development Act of 2001 to allow nontaxed entities such as schools, government agencies and nonprofits to deploy solar projects.

Moreover, the bill allows third-party financing for customers who install solar panels and increase the limits on solar arrays' size that qualify for net metering to up to 1,000 kW for customers of investor-owned utilities. Customers' distributed generators can also include an energy storage device.

The bill now heads to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is expected to sign it into law. According to clean energy advocates, schools, churches, cities and counties, colleges and non-profit organizations would particularly benefit from third-party financing for solar because the organizations can take advantage of federal incentives and lower the cost of a solar array.

"Advanced energy technologies provide jobs and energy savings in states that deploy them," Katie Niebaum, executive director of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, said in a statement. "By enhancing access to these resources, as Senate Bill 145 does, solar development can play a greater role in Arkansas' economy."

The Arkansas state House also adopted House Bill 1636. The bill, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Rick Beck, would allow a guaranteed energy cost savings contract to be extended if it has either an active equipment warranty period or a combined useful life in excess of 20 years. Current law sets a maximum term of 20 years. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

According to the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, the contract length extension would put Arkansas in line with federal government standards, allow for solar systems to become a driver of projects, and allow school districts to opt into the existing program.