LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Several Arkansas professionals gathered at the state capitol Tuesday to speak against a bill that would eliminate a solar policy passed four years ago. The bill’s sponsor said he is pro-solar but thinks the policy is unfair to most consumers.
House Bill 1370, filed by Sen. Jonathan Dismang and Rep. Lanny Fite, would amend a policy that allows solar energy owners to be paid at a regular retail rate for excess power generation. That program has benefitted numerous nonprofit organizations, schools, banks and other industries, according to several people who spoke against the newly proposed bill Tuesday.
“With the money it credited us back, we were able to take that money and pay for not only the loan, but then we had money on top of that to pay for teacher raises,” Batesville School Superintendent Dr. Michael Hester said.
Hester was one of several to speak. He said he fears people could begin paying more in taxes and other costs if the program ends.
“We have less budget, so we have to start asking for taxes,” Hester said. “Your insurance premiums go up for the hospitalization. Your tuition goes up for higher education.”
Hester and others accused energy companies of trying to monopolize the industry through HB1370.
“We think this is just corporate greed,” Hester said.
Dismang said this is to benefit consumers, not energy companies.
“What we’re doing is not going to have an impact on utilities,” Dismang said. “Who it will impact are our ultimate consumers, and that’s who I’m looking out for.”
Dismang said the intent is to make the process fair for all energy consumers, even ones who do not use solar.
“People who have solar are passing costs down to those who don’t,” Dismang said.
The bill will go before committee Wednesday, and it will go through the normal legislative process if it passes.