Entergy Arkansas chief discusses new solar farm, tax cuts and new hires

by Roby Brock (roby@talkbusiness.net) 319 views 

Appearing on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, Entergy Arkansas CEO Rick Riley discussed lower electricity bills that are the result of the recent federal tax cut law, new solar projects, two recent high-profile hires, and what’s at work in the power industry.

Riley, who took the helm as Entergy Arkansas’ President and CEO in early 2016, said that federal tax cuts have lowered residential customers’ bills by about $20 a month. He noted that Gov. Hutchinson’s call to use the tax cuts for bill reduction expedited the process.

“I think the governor’s message was, ‘Let’s do it as fast as we can.’ It really is our customers’ money. We’re refunding the money. We were collecting at the 35% rate. And then, when they lowered the tax rate to 21%, then the future obligations for our tax payments were reduced, so we’re giving that money back, and we would’ve done that anyway.”

Riley discussed a huge new solar project in Arkansas County that comes online this week. The 475 acre, 81 megawatt solar farm officially opens this week. It will feature more than 350,000 photovoltaic solar panels that convert the sun’s energy into electricity.

Another southeastern Arkansas solar project is in the works in Chicot County, and Riley says that more renewable energy projects will come.

“The cost of solar has come down tremendously. And I think, when you look at our service territory, for example, there’s not a lot of optimal areas for wind. However, solar you can put almost anywhere in our state. So, wind is very popular out in Texas and Oklahoma, but not so much in Arkansas, although there may be an opportunity for us,” he said. “We’re looking at an additional 350 megawatts of solar and wind, and hopefully we’ll reach agreement on some negotiations and be able to get that before the commission. And if they improve that, that will increase our portfolio.”

Riley also discussed the hiring of Danny Games, former AEDC executive Vice President who leads business and economic development for Entergy Arkansas, and John Bethel, former executive director of the Arkansas Public Service Commission who was named director of public affairs for Entergy Arkansas. Watch his full interview below.

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