March 28, 2023

Environmental, superior vitality execs discuss photo voltaic, regulatory points

Conservation and superior vitality executives lately highlighted industry-related considerations, financial drivers and focus areas through the 7th annual Arkansas Environmental Coverage Summit in Little Rock, hosted by Audubon Delta and a number of Arkansas environmental organizations.

Ted Thomas, former chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Fee, spoke in regards to the excessive worth of pure gasoline and the way photo voltaic might be an financial driver. He cited Entergy Arkansas’ 250-megawatt photo voltaic farm that’s anticipated to offer electrical energy for the U.S. Metal Corp. plant in Mississippi County.

Thomas, who lately established a consulting firm and began to collaborate with utility software program agency Recurve, additionally famous the challenges the fee has confronted to determine insurance policies when some electrical utilities and cooperatives pack the fee’s agenda with objects that take priority. Consequently, the selections on whether or not to approve new insurance policies go to the again burner, similar to demand response.

Thomas mentioned he hoped the excitement that photo voltaic created would have carried over for demand response, but it surely’s but to take action. In response to Gartner, demand response includes a measure for decreasing vitality load in response to produce constraints, similar to in periods of peak demand.

Heather Nelson, board chair for Arkansas Superior Power Affiliation and president of Seal Photo voltaic, mentioned a few of the objects earlier than the fee, together with grandfathering. She famous the three present commissioners have been appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and governor-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders will have the ability to appoint a brand new member and title the chair.

“That’s actually essential,” Nelson mentioned. “We’re going to should let our voice be recognized of who we need to be in that place as a result of the fee has been nice for our {industry}, have been very reasonable brokers for the final seven, eight years.”

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Relating to grandfathering, she mentioned fee members are “drafting a rule as we communicate” to be accomplished earlier than the December assembly of the Arkansas Legislative Council.

In response to Power Toolbase, grandfathering permits present photo voltaic prospects to keep up the outdated charges or guidelines over the lifetime of their arrays. This enables prospects to protect the financial savings their arrays are anticipated to realize, even when utilities have been to vary the charges and guidelines.

The council’s Dec. 15-16 assembly is to be its final assembly of the yr and comes earlier than Dec. 31, which is when grandfathering would expire if it’s not prolonged.

“They’re both going to go ‘sure’ or ‘no,’ and there’ll be no time or room for debate,” Nelson mentioned. “We desperately want them to say ‘sure’ to regardless of the commissioners put forth in order that grandfathering doesn’t fall off the cliff, and we’re left to debate that within the legislature.”

One other subject earlier than the fee was introduced by Arkansas Superior Power Affiliation and regards points with connecting photo voltaic arrays to the grid. Nelson defined that some electrical cooperatives usually are not following the foundations, and this has affected a few of their members and photo voltaic {industry} shoppers.

“We now have initiatives which can be constructed and within the discipline and never producing due to this, that or the opposite,” she mentioned. “I might go down a rabbit path, and I cannot try this…We now have plenty of superb Arkansans which have invested in photo voltaic and have been out six, eight months in search of decision from their cooperative…that they’re a member of. It’s unbelievable.”

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Additionally, the fee is in search of knowledge from utilities that say that photo voltaic shifts the fee burden onto prospects who don’t use photo voltaic. She added that “there’s somewhat little bit of a battle there” however didn’t go into the small print.

Nelson mentioned on Jan. 9, the brand new legislature will probably be in place, with over 30 new state legislators. She mentioned, “our job is to coach. Our job is to not promote…At Seal Photo voltaic, we don’t promote. We educate.

“That’s the strategy we’ll take with the legislature. It’s the strategy that’s labored very effectively for us the final two legislative periods, and we’ll do it once more. Our job is to coach them on the advantages of photo voltaic, and what’s taking place with photo voltaic. It’s additionally our job to inform the tales of Arkansans: On a regular basis individuals, farmers, enterprise homeowners who’re selecting to speculate their hard-earned cash to empower themselves to have vitality independence and diversify their vitality assets and sources for that.”

She inspired summit attendees to name and write to their legislators and to share tales about their constituents. She mentioned the tales are essential to legislators and might be efficient.

Nelson additionally mentioned the lately introduced $2 million grant that the Arkansas Workplace of Abilities Improvement awarded to the Arkansas Superior Power Affiliation for workforce coaching initiatives. The group will probably be a sponsor for an apprenticeship program offering Arkansas companies with cash for apprentices because the state develops a complicated vitality workforce.

Nelson mentioned over the previous decade the photo voltaic {industry} has skilled its workforce internally, and a few of the skilled engineers work for utilities. She famous a number of packages within the works or underway all through the state to coach the superior vitality workforce, together with at Greenbrier Public Faculties, College of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical Faculty and College of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana.

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“There’s 37 electrical utilities within the state of Arkansas,” she mentioned. “Our crew has designed and put in for 27 of these. A few of these individuals on the opposite facet are our pals. As a lot as battling is going on, we try to construct these relationships as a result of we’re type of all in it collectively.”

Tony Mendoza, employees legal professional for the environmental group Sierra Membership, defined that coal is essentially the most damaging technique to produce electrical energy and the deliberate retirement of Arkansas coal-fired vegetation. He added that the grid wants extra transmission strains and interconnection between the footprints of the regional transmission organizations as extra clear vitality initiatives change into operational. He added that the Inflation Discount Act has some cash out there for transmission initiatives.

Additionally, Mendoza inspired counties and cities with local weather objectives or these enthusiastic about them to use for grants that help their implementation or enhance them, together with putting in photo voltaic panels on metropolis buildings or vitality effectivity initiatives. They will apply for grants from the U.S. Environmental Safety Company. The grant cash comes from the Inflation Discount Act. The act additionally permits cities to offer grants to residents.

“I’d encourage, particularly cities in Arkansas which have local weather objectives already, like Fayetteville and Little Rock, to completely apply for these packages,” he mentioned.

Different packages within the act assist rural electrical cooperatives to repay debt associated to retired fossil gasoline vegetation so long as they spend money on renewable vitality initiatives.