The Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC) issued ten orders last Friday to promote energy efficiency efforts of Arkansas utilities and to explore advancing technology affecting electric and natural gas utilities.
The ten orders follow more than two years of PSC inquiries in four separate dockets that involved public comments and hearings, sworn testimony, legal briefs, technical conferences, and public presentations by national leaders. Parties of these dockets include: all regulated electric and natural gas public utilities in Arkansas, the Arkansas Attorney General, the PSC’s General Staff, major industrial customers, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Sam’s Club, Kroger Co., Audubon Arkansas, and the Arkansas Community Action Agencies Association. Together, the parties submitted over 250 sets of comments, testimony, and legals pleadings in these proceedings.
One of the 10 orders sets performance targets for energy efficiency programs in Arkansas. The targets are the first statewide energy performance targets established in a Southeastern state. Over the next three years, electric utilities must reduce total annual kilowatt-hour sales, starting with a 0.25 percent reduction in the first year, reaching 0.75 percent in the third year. Goals are slightly less for natural-gas firms.
To prevent utilities from losing money because of lower sales, the commission will enable the companies and customers to “split the benefit” of reduced use. Customers save money by using less energy, and utilities would be able to raise prices to recover some expenses related to infrastructure.
In addition to setting performance targets, the PSC also opened three new dockets to explore emerging technologies. One docket attempts to gain a better understanding of the use of smart grid technology including the deployment of smart meters. A second docket will examine various policies regarding the use of utilities distribution systems for fueling electric and natural-gas vehicles. The third and final docket will explore efforts that utilities may undertake internally to improve the efficiency of their systems.
The PSC released a Sustainable Energy Resources (SER) Action Guide to accompany the ten orders. To read the Guide, click here.
The PSC’s orders are a significant step forward for making Arkansas more energy efficient. More energy efficient the state, less power plants we would have to build. Hopefully, the orders will spur other southeastern states to follow Arkansas’s suit and promote increased energy efficiency efforts by their utilities.