Paragould Light, Water and Cable is sending two proposed ordinances to the city council for action.

The first covers the use of, and interaction by PLWC's electric division with privately owned solar generation facilities through "net metering."

"Net metering is a process to monitor renewable energy generation," said utility operations officer Brett Bradford to the utility board of commissioners at its monthly meeting Nov. 17. He explained that in the case of the proposed ordinance the term "net metering" referred to solar power generation. He told the commission that under the proposed ordinance, a residential customer would be allowed to install solar power generation capability up to their highest monthly demand, or 25 kilowatts (kW), whichever is lower. A commercial customer would be allowed to install the lower of either highest monthly demand or 300 kW.

"Under our policy, a customer installing solar generation on our system would be required to install a separate meter to monitor their generation and production," Bradford said, "and this will provide benefits to both PLWC and the customer by having two meters."

He explained that the given customer will be able to "off-set" the amount of electricity bought from PLWC by the amount the solar panels produce, at the retail rate PLWC charge including seasonal and storm power cost adjustments. "All you're doing is, you're supplying our own energy," Bradford explained Thursday. "So whatever our rate is at the time you're using that energy, you're just not having to buy it from us ... you're saving all of that."

Bradford added that if the customer were to produce more energy than s/he uses, the utility would pay the customer back at the end of the year. "We'll just take our avoided cost," he said, "our wholesale energy that we buy, and that's what we'll pay them back for that."

Bradford said that a PLWC customer wanting to install solar generation capability will have to fill out an application and pay a $100 application fee. "This application will detail the installation and operation process of the customer's generation," he told the commissioners, "and allow PLWC to monitor the interconnection with our system."

The proposed ordinance also provides for "Distributed Generation," allowing larger industrial interconnections for renewable resources. Similar to net metering, Distributed Generation permits the industrial customer to install solar generation capacity up to the average peak kilowatt demand for the previous year.

"This policy's purpose is to assist customers who desire to construct their own renewable energy facilities," Bradford said, "while protecting customers who wish to avoid cost increases that may result from renewable energy subsidies."

Bradford told the commissioners that PLWC is asking customers considering such renewable energy generation systems to contact the utility to discuss rates before they proceed with application and installation. "[In] the sales pitch," he said, "[solar panel vendors] are using the national average energy price, with is about 14 cents a kW."

In Paragould, however, Bradford noted the utility charges about eight cents per kilowatt. "So they're quoting a 10-year payback on a solar [array] installation," he said, "and in most cases we looked at, it's well over 20 years using our rate schedule."

Bradford cited electrical rates across the country, from a statewide low of 9.37 cents per kW in Louisiana to a statewide high of 31 cents per kW in Hawaii. The statewide average in Arkansas is 10 cents, he said. "So you can tell that Paragould is well below even Arkansas' average," he said.

The board also approved a proposal for the utility to buy two acres of land mutually adjacent to both the proposed Southern Timbers development and to the current Carriage Hills subdivision. As explained by utility engineer David Moss, PLWC seeks to build an electrical substation to serve the areas of Southern Timbers and the Central Baptist Church's Paragould campus to the immediate south of Southern Timbers. The land is currently owned by H.C. Lemmons. As PLWC is part of the city of Paragould, the city council must enact an ordinance to buy the land (which is currently outside the city limits).

The council is to consider both ordinances at its Nov. 22 meeting. The council's finance committee is to meet with utility board chair Mark Miller at 5 p.m. in council chambers, while the regular meeting is at 6 in the same location.

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