October 14, 2019 Read More →

Arkansas co-op announces plan to cut rates because of savings from solar power projects

Arkansas Business:

The Arkansas Advanced Energy Association examined utility trends, heard from industry leaders and bestowed awards for energy efficiency and renewable innovations Tuesday in Little Rock. But the annual conference’s “mic-drop moment” came when an award winner announced that he’ll be seeking the state’s first utility-wide electricity rate decrease tied to savings from solar power.

Mark Cayce, CEO of Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corp. of Camden, drew a standing ovation from the energy efficiency and solar crowd at Heifer International headquarters when he made the rate announcement after receiving the association’s initial Advanced Energy Pioneer Award.

“I made some pretty bold statements in support of solar power when the Legislature was considering solar policy, predicting that solar could actually bring rates down,” Cayce told the gathered renewable energy entrepreneurs, contractors and utility representatives. “Today I can announce that after our most recent rate study, on Oct. 17 we’re going to be seeking a 4 and 1/2-percent rate decrease at Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corp.”

OECC, which serves about 7,000 members in south Arkansas and north Louisiana, was an early solar adopter as a partner with Aerojet Rocketdyne Inc. in a 12-megawatt array to power defense plant operations in East Camden in 2016. At the time, the array was the state’s largest solar project. OECC later built its own community solar station outside its Camden headquarters, and partnered with Today’s Power Inc. on an array for Southern Arkansas University Tech in Camden.

Cayce has said that solar power saves the cooperative’s members by significantly reducing the amount of power the utility has to buy at premium prices during peak summer usage.

“That was the mic-drop moment,” said Josh Davenport, CEO of Seal Solar Solutions of North Little Rock, describing Cayce’s rate-cut announcement. “We hear about cost-shifting from solar, but this is savings-shifting,” he said, referring to the common utility argument that solar adoption shifts infrastructure costs to utility customers who don’t have solar power. “This is the opposite,” Davenport said.

More: At advanced energy event, solar power fuels a surprise rate-cut plan

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