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Arkansas governor’s order sparks hope of energy conservation

Michael Hibblen
Former state senator and current Arkansas State University Vice President of University Relations Shane Broadway speaks at Wednesday's press conference by the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association.

There are hopes that an executive order by Gov. Asa Hutchinson will lead to reduced energy consumption and costs savings. Members of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association (AAEA) are celebrating executive order 22-01 which was signed by the governor in January. The association is made up of 160 members including public utilities, engineering firms, contractors and solar developers.

Matt Bell, a partner at Entegrity Energy Partners and a board member of the AAEA, spoke at a press conference Wednesday in the Rotunda of the state Capitol. He said the energy saving initiatives could lead to an annual cost savings of over 20%.

“At a time when our traditional energy production methods are at capacity, energy efficiency is a priority that all sectors of our industry can get behind, including our utilities,” Bell said.

He credited former state Sen. Shane Broadway with helping to secure funding which will cover the costs of some initiatives by creating a revolving loan fund. Since leaving the legislature, he is now vice president of university relations at Arkansas State University. Broadway says the university is planning to take steps which could save $40 million in infrastructure expenses.

Members of the association compared the governor’s initiative to similar cost saving measures used by ASU and Broadway’s alma mater Bryant High School. He said the high school’s building was the first Arkansas high school to become LEED certified.

ASU has implemented similar cost saving measures to reduce the university’s large electrical footprint, Broadway said. He suggested that could eventually save taxpayers and students money.

“That’s money we’re not going to have to raise tuition for,” Broadway said.

Simple practices include small energy saving steps like installing LED lights and low flow water fixtures, said Glen Hooks, policy manager at Audubon Delta, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. In an interview, he said the steps are not expensive.

One ideal direction for energy production, Hooks said, is solar power. Companies that switch to solar can “save a ridiculous amount of money,” he said. Other easy steps to save money include weatherization, a process where houses are insulated to keep out drafts. Hooks said that can be achieved by using sealant, patching up cracks and giving buildings thicker windows to keep out sunlight.

“The cheapest form of energy is energy you never have to produce in the first place,” Hooks said.

This winter, Broadway said he noticed his own house lacked full insulation from cold weather. He said he hopes to lower his utility bills by preforming a home assessment. Broadway says he hopes to similar assessments of older buildings owned by ASU will get similar results.

The AAEA says it is ready to help with next steps to make it as easy as possible for state agencies and others to meet the goals included in the governor’s executive order.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for UA Little Rock Public Radio.