From the Arkansas Statehouse...

Clean energy? More efficient energy? Not for Arkansas.

In Energy on 1 April 2009 at 5:25 pm

The House Insurance Committee voted today not to recommend two bills that would improve energy efficiency and expand renewable energy in Arkansas. Though the bills had the support of the governor, the attorney general and the public service commission, and though the sponsors watered down the original versions of the bills to suit energy companies, energy companies remained opposed and had the muscle to kill the measures.

Coming into the committee meeting, supporters had little hope for Rep. Joan Cash’s bill to make utilities submit energy efficiency plans to the Public Service Commission. Under the terms of the bill, electric utilities would have  to make a good faith effort to reduce their customers’ energy bills by one percent per year starting in 2013. The utilities would not have to meet the one percent threshold, and there would not be any penalties if they fail to do so.

Sensing that the bill did not have the committee’s support, Rep. Cash pulled it down for interim study before opponents could testify.

A second bill, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Webb, would require electric companies to purchase a certain amount of its electricity supply from renewable energy sources based in Arkansas. Under the bill, a utility would buy from a private producer of solar energy, for example.  The utility would be able to recoup its costs through higher rates on the consumer. Opponents appeared spooked by the possibility that utilities would charge higher rates, though supporters said there would be savings in the long run.

Eddy Moore, a supporter from the Arkansas Citizens First Congress, said opposition to Rep. Webb’s bill came from both large industrial consumers and energy companies. Large industries do not want to pay increased energy bills, he said, while utilities are afraid of future competition from alternative energy sources.

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