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Hutchinson gets renewables bill

March 13, 2019 at 4:30 a.m.

The Arkansas House sent legislation aimed at increasing Arkansas' renewable energy to Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 145 by Sen. Dave Wallace, R-Leachville, passed by a vote of 83-5; a spokesman said the Republican governor will sign the bill into law.

The law tweaks the definition of "public utility" to allow individuals, corporations and public entities easier access to clean energy sources like solar, wind and the like.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

SB145 would allow third-party ownership of solar panels, for example, allowing them to be leased. Under current law, individuals and entities must own any solar panels providing power to their homes or facilities. The change, proponents say, will allow more users to take advantage of incentives for returning excess power to the electrical grid.

The bill would also more than triple the amount of kilowatts an individual or entity may generate without being subjected to the greater regulation of a traditional utility company.

Rep. Justin Gonzales, R-Okolona, spoke against the bill, saying that current public utility customers will end up subsidizing those who take advantage of net metering, the program that allows solar technology users to receive credits for putting excess power back into the grid.

No utility companies have publicly opposed the legislation, and a spokesman for Entergy, the state's largest public utility, said the company supported the bill after working with Wallace to ensure cost shifting wouldn't occur.

-- Hunter Field


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