We are at a critical crossroad in planning for Arkansas’s energy future. Rapid changes are underway for our energy system in Arkansas and across the country. The old model of centralized power from a single source is being challenged and transformed. Change is being driven by many factors, including market competition, advances in technology, public demand, public policies and new business models.
Increasingly, changes are also driven by the need to address the risks of climate change. We need energy policies and an energy system that supports energy efficiency and renewable energy that will reduce carbon pollution, create jobs and is fair and just for all Arkansans.
In August of 2015, President Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the Clean Power Plan, a historic and important step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants. Arkansas began discussions to develop a plan on how to best reduce carbon pollution in our state. However, in February 2016, the Supreme Court halted implementation of the Clean Power Plan. We continue to advocate for Arkansas to develop a carbon reduction plan in order to maintain a safe, secure, reliant and affordable energy system that shifts our energy reliance away from fossil fuel based sources.
We are making progress pushing for policies that reduce haze, particulate matter and noxious gases to provide health benefits to Arkansans, improve visibility in our natural areas and protect our tourism industry. The Sierra Club Arkansas Chapter has been leading the charge, along with numerous other groups and individuals, to ensure EPA implements the Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze Rule. The Regional Haze Implementation Plan is set to be final on August 31, 2016.
We are promoting a diverse set of policy options to reduce carbon emissions, including a market based solution that would place a fee on carbon emissions and return the dividends to energy consumers. A carbon fee and dividend mechanism on emissions is an equitable way to share the cost of carbon pollution reduction. Such a policy would provide money back directly to all Arkansans to offset energy cost increases. The Arkansas Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL) has been gaining supporters and informing decision makers of the impacts of placing a price on carbon and their campaign is building momentum.
"I decided to join CCL after one of my chapter's leaders visited my school and talked to my class about climate change. I was fortunate enough to attend the CCL conference and lobby day in Washington DC. The conference was an empowering experience. One of my favorite parts of the conference was getting to meet the people and to see how passionate and hopeful they all are.
While at the conference I got to attend different workshops my favorite workshop was how to get the youth involved in our environment... It helped me to get inspired. I am hopefully going to start a student chapter at my school this next school year.
My biggest take away from the conference is my realization that I am not too young to be involved in making a difference in our world."
- Brandy Molz, High School Student
CCL funded an economic impact study of a carbon fee and dividend policy for the state that returned positive results. It found CF&D could add tens of thousands of jobs while reducing air pollution and improving quality of life across the state.
Under the plan, electric power plants that burn coal or natural gas would be charged a fee for each ton of carbon pollution they emit. The fee would be distributed monthly to every Arkansan.
CCL members presented the findings to several state agencies. They are working on a campaign to push for the policy during the 2017 legislative session and building public support. You can learn more about CF&D in Arkansas, or learn how to join the campaign at www.arkccl.org.
Enacting policies that support energy efficiency and renewable energy sources will assist in diversifying our energy sources, create jobs, increase reliability and improve public health. New and expanded policies that encourage and incentivize energy efficiency have been enacted and are beginning to take root.
Programs such as PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy), the Guaranteed Energy Cost Savings Act and the Energy Revolving Loan Fund are reducing energy consumption, saving money and creating jobs across the states. Over the past two years numerous renewable energy projects have been announced by utilities, commercial entities and community based initiatives, including a solar garden and solar co-op developed and promoted by the Arkansas Renewable Energy Association and Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light.
However statewide policies are still needed to encourage harnessing the full potential of renewable energy available to Arkansans. The Arkansas Public Service Commission is currently considering two dockets to determine the cost and benefits along with the impact on utilities and their customers if rules were adopted to make it easier for consumers to generate their own electricity, commonly called distributed generation.
Bills have been proposed the past three legislative sessions to promote distributed generation but have not gained the support needed to pass. The outcome of these dockets could either create a boom in the renewable energy economy, or discourage growth and limit consumer options for renewable energy.
We must continue to push for energy policies that improve public health, promote job creation and diversify our energy sector to protect our Natural State.
Sponsors: Arkansas Citizens' Climate Lobby, OMNI 350, Arkansas Renewable Energy Association, Arkansas Climate Advocates, Arkansas Interfaith Alliance & Sierra Club Arkansas Chapter