FOX 16 Investigation: State Investigating Unauthorized ‘Solar Hookup’ Charges by Utility Companies | KLRT

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SHIRLEY, Ark. – A Van Buren County man thought he would save money by switching to solar power, but scrapped that plan when he claimed the utility company’s demands had become financially impossible.

David Cook said his monthly utilities for his circuit at Shirley were between $250 and $300.

“I live in a century-old house,” Cook said. “It is very expensive to heat and cool. »

If he were to ditch the grid and rent solar panels instead, he said he would save $200 to $250 a month.

“It would have completely offset the costs to go ahead and sign the rental agreement,” Cook said.

After a call to Cook’s power company, Cooperative Petit Jean Electric, his big projected monthly savings were turned upside down.

“Petit Jean says we need to have this insurance in order to protect their workers because we are actually connecting our solar panels to the power grid,” he explained.

Cook said Petit Jean required him to purchase a million-dollar business insurance policy, pay a $500 application fee and also purchase other equipment.

“Because of insurance, additional requirements from Petit Jean, I’ve heard quotes anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 upfront,” Cook said. “It just shuts you out of the market.”

Arkansas Advanced Energy Association executive director Lauren Waldrip said there are a handful of co-ops in Arkansas that require insurance coverage and application fees, which she believes the Commission of the Arkansas civil service never approved.

“Arkansas is really designed to be the leader in advanced energy. These people are having a hard time taking advantage of that,” Waldrip said.

In a written filing to the Arkansas Civil Service Commission, Petit Jean confirms that there is an application fee.

“The $500 filing fee was determined by the co-op’s board of directors in the good faith exercise of its management duties,” the company’s filing said.

Little John points to federal rules requiring insurance coverage, but the co-op hasn’t set a specific coverage amount, only that it’s an appropriate amount.

The utility company told the state it did not need Arkansas Public Service Commission approval because it was following federal guidelines.

Back in Shirley, Cook’s plan to switch to solar power is on hold for now.

“We realized we were shooting at a moving target,” Cook said.

He said “going green” is different depending on who you ask.

“I think co-ops are great for rural Arkansas, but in this case they’ve forgotten their customers and are ahead with their profit margins,” Cook said.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission has launched a formal investigation into alleged unauthorized net metering practices by electric cooperatives. The commission receives complaints and comments from the public, which can be submitted to the commission online or by calling 501-682-2051.

FOX 16 Investigates reached out to Little Jean for comment and was told the CEO would be the person to release a statement. At the time of publication of this article, no comments had been made.

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