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Governor Beebe's Weekly Column and Radio Address: A Renewable Future


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Less than two years ago, Arkansas used nearly $2 million in federal stimulus money to spur private investment in renewable-energy projects. Through a program, dubbed the Renewable Technology Rebate Fund, the Arkansas Energy Office provided tax incentives for the installation of solar- and wind-energy projects. The State received national attention for its successful efforts in partnering with private entities to curb greenhouse gas emissions in a cost-efficient, business-friendly manner.

The attractive incentives prompted businesses and residents to invest $5.2 million in 151 projects. One such incentive is known as net metering, an electricity policy that allows utility customers to offset some or all of their energy costs with self-produced renewable energy. In just over a year, the number of renewable-energy installations participating in net metering is more than 300 percent higher than we saw during the entire last decade. These projects are expected to produce enough energy to power 127 homes annually.

Not all of the 151 projects will power homes, though. This past week, I helped dedicate one such project at L'Oreal's manufacturing plant in North Little Rock. The plant's 60 new solar panels power 100 percent of the plant's outdoor-lighting requirements. The cosmetics manufacturer is already a leader in environmental efforts, and the new panels contribute to its company-wide goal of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions in half by 2015.

L'Oreal's work demonstrates the lasting positive effects that public-private partnerships can have in our State. Arkansas's environment is one of its greatest assets, and we must sustain it so that our State remains a wonderful place to live, raise a family and vacation in now and in the future. But it's not just about the environment. There are economic advantages that make it financially sensible to pursue renewable-energy opportunities that save money for the State, and for our homeowners, consumers and businesses.

While most people recognize the potential benefits of renewable energy, cost often remains an obstacle to wider implementation, but that may soon change. Research is ongoing across the country, including right here in Arkansas, to make renewable energy more cost-effective. Seven of our universities are advancing cutting-edge technologies in the fields of solar, wind and bio-based energy right now. Known as the ASSET Initiative, this research collaboration has already made strides toward producing cheaper, more effective solar cells.

As the costs of renewable-energy projects decrease and the payoffs increase, I hope to see even more cooperation between government and industry in working toward a cleaner, American-based energy system. Such a system will help us financially and environmentally while improving our national security. The Renewable Technology Rebate Fund demonstrates that public-private partnerships can produce impressive results. Coupled with our research capacities and renewable resources, we can be a national leader in renewable-energy efforts, to the benefit of our own people and businesses. Arkansas can once again show that practical policies pay off for our economy, while also improving the future prospects of our environment.

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