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Published on September 2nd, 2014 | by Guest Contributor

19

Hawaiian Utilities Want To Triple Rooftop Solar Capacity

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September 2nd, 2014 by  

RenewEconomy.

Just months after being ordered to lift their game on distributed, grid-connected solar, Hawaii’s investor-owned electric companies have revealed plans to triple the amount of rooftop solar installed on the island state by 2030.

Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light, collectively known as HECO, announced on Wednesday plans to upgrade the grid and boost solar as part of a broader goal to achieve a minimum of 65 per cent renewable energy generation and to cut electricity bill costs by 20 per cent – also by 2030.

In late April, HECO came under direct pressure from Hawaii’s energy regulator, which ruled the utilities were not moving fast enough to address key sources of customer frustration, namely challenges connecting solar PV systems to the grid.

Hawaiians_Support_Solar_Square_02-600x600

At the end of 2012, Hawaii was importing more than 90 per cent of its energy, making its electricity prices among the highest in the US. And while the state’s utility-scale solar generation increased nearly six-fold in 2013, the number of solar permits issued over the last year had plummeted by 44 per cent.

Backed by the state’s governor, Neil Abercrombie, the PUC put forward a plan to remedy this situation, giving HECO 120 days to either adopt this plan, or come up with a better idea.

“It is now incumbent upon the Hawaiian Electric Companies to use this road map diligently and promptly to move forward,” said commissioner Lorraine Akiba of the Public Utilities Commission.

“Today we are going to turn the corner on the energy transformation,” added Governor Abercrombie at the time. “There’s no turning back. This is the most significant day for Hawaii and its energy future that we have ever had. The time for talk has ended; the time for action is upon us. The energy Rubicon has been crossed.”

As part of the PUC order, the plan outlined “a growing role for non-utility energy service providers that can intermediate the relationship between the utility and the customer” by aggregating distributed resources into virtual power plants.

This was reportedly directed at Maui Electric Company (MECO), one of the HECO companies, which had been curtailing 28 per cent of the output from three wind farms in deference to its own, more expensive, oil-fired generation, wasting almost 16GWh of power a year.

As the deadline for the PUC order, 26 August, came and went, interested parties gathered to see if the message had got through. It had. The new plans for the Oahu, Maui County, and Hawaii Island electricity systems have now been released, and are expected to form a foundation for the Oceania state to utilise more renewable energy and use less fossil fuels.

“Our energy environment is changing rapidly and we must change with it to meet our customers’ evolving needs,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric vice president of corporate planning and business development. “These plans are about delivering services that our customers value. That means lower costs, better protection of our environment, and more options to lower their energy costs, including rooftop solar.”

As PV-Tech reports, HECO plans to open up the planning process so solar customers and companies will know how much PV capacity can be built and added to the grid each year. Utilities and grid firms will publish an annual limit for solar installs to ensure the grid can cope with demand.

HECO also plans grid enhancement and optimised control settings, an open generation docket for fair pricing for all grid customers and energy storage initiatives for Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Hawaii Island by 2017.

Smart grids are being tested in Oahu, Maui County and Hawaii Island, to be completed within then next four years.

New products and services including community solar and micro grids have been announced by HECO as well as transitions from oil to natural gas.

“This plan sets us on a path to a future with more affordable, clean, renewable energy,” said Dick Rosenblum, Hawaiian Electric president and CEO.

“It’s the start of a conversation that all of us – utilities, regulators and other policymakers, the solar industry, customers and other stakeholders – need to be a part of, as we work together to achieve the energy future we all want for Hawaii.”

Up front investments from utilities and solar companies will be required to meet the 2030 goals.

Hawaii uses 18% renewable energy already, higher than its 15% by 2015 state goal, with more renewable energy projects under way including a 12MW solar project, located in Anahola, on the northeast side of the island of Kaua’i, Hawaii being constructed by US-based PV installer REC Solar.

Source: RenewEconomy. Reproduced with permission.

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  • Brian Donovan

    HECO must be de privatized.

    Eletricy and enegy are natural monplies, and wil rule us if we don’t rule them.

  • CU

    Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) is the only coop utility on one of the islands and shows the way for HECO, Plan was 50% renewable in 2023 but the goal will be reached already next year and that paired with decreased electricity rate while HECO has raised it 20%. See http://kauai.coopwebbuilder.com/content/kiuc-describes-renewables-progress-12th-annual-member-meeting-0 and other information.at the site.

    • GCO

      Nice. Funny how those community-owned utilities consistently outdo their investor-owned siblings, isn’t it? http://cleantechnica.com/2014/08/25/one-electric-utility-carbon-neutral-today/

      • jeffhre

        Will other communities take control this way? Follow the KIUC model and usurp HECO authority?

    • Mike Shurtleff

      Good comment. Thanks! Really highlights what can be done. What should be done.

  • Bob_Wallace

    “Hawaii uses 18% renewable energy already, higher than its 15% by 2015 state goal”

    ” part of a broader goal to achieve a minimum of 65 per cent renewable energy generation and to cut electricity bill costs by 20 per cent – also by 2030″

    ” plans to triple the amount of rooftop solar installed on the island state by 2030.”

    You, know, that sounds pretty sweet to me.

    Curtailing wind and using oil. Could be that they had purchase agreements for fuel and no place to store it. There might be some reasonable reason behind that happening. Could just be the action of some dinosaurs that will have to be pushed out to pasture.

    I’m not going to get concerned about this sort of stumble if Hawaii is on route to 65% renewables in 15 years. Would other states do as well….

  • Matt

    Sorry looks like a smoke screen to me
    – UK reaches 5GW, 90% of the capacity has been installed over the past 3 years
    – China install rate grows 500% between 2011 and 2012
    – US install rate experienced 46% growth in 2013 and predicted 26% in 2014 (SEIA)
    – We were on a path of doubling installed capacity about every 2 years.
    – MECO curtains Wind output so it can use oil fire instead.

    And Hawaii utilities wants 3x the rooftop install capacity in 15.5 years? So they are asking for a slowdown! If they followed UK lead it would be 10x in 3 years. Ok they can’t be like UK, but why so much slower that the US, last I heard they were still a US state.
    As we learned from Big Bird, “One of these things is not like the others, one of these thing just doesn’t belong, can you guess which thing …”
    These things are not hard; one simple rule change for DG (less than 80% of your yearly consumption):
    – You apply for connection two weeks before PV will be ready to connect. If connection takes longer 6 weeks from ready date, then electric is free until connected. Cost comes from utility profit, can’t be passed to other users.
    – Likely need to raise NET metering cap, but not sure where HA is on that.

    • anderlan

      Yes. 3X in 15 years is a joke. The rest of the planet will have 30X solar in 15 years, or more.

    • Mike Shurtleff

      Certainly conservative anyway. I like the open book part:
      “an open generation docket for fair pricing for all grid customers”

      I’m not sure what exactly they mean by smart grids and why this should take four years to test. They need a full up bi-directional grid so that excess solar power generated by homes and businesses can be re-distributed to apartment buildings and hotels without enough of their own roof space. Anything less is a stall maneuver by the utilities.

      I don’t know why this isn’t 85% or 95% instead of 65%. I can understand the 15.5 years to allow time to rewire the grid, test and install storage, and simply give the Utility time to change without coming apart financially. This might help avoid some boom and bust in the solar install employment. I noticed they don’t mention the stated transition from oil to NG, as mentioned at greentechmedia.com. NG may be easier to manage as a fill-in for any gaps in renewable power generation. A large oil spill in Hawaii would be an environmental catastrophe. Not at all good for their tourist businesses. They need to get off of oil now! Move to NG with more battery storage seems smart to me.

      “- You apply for connection two weeks before PV will be ready to connect.
      If connection takes longer 6 weeks from ready date, then electric is
      free until connected. Cost comes from utility profit, can’t be passed to
      other users.”
      Spot on! Keep’em honest or kill’em off.

      “- Likely need to raise NET metering cap, but not sure where HA is on that.”
      Yes, but this is not sustainable if the NET metering payout to customers is the same as their retail cost or higher. That sort of thing makes it a cash negative proposition for the Utility. The utility should be purchasing DG Solar PV power at wholesale rates …only when they have other customers to sell it to. They should not need to purchase at all, if they cannot sell it. Solar PV cost is far enough below their grid prices that this would make it beneficial to both utility and customers. This would allow NET metering to thrive and there would be no need to any cap.
      This does need external public over-sight, so the curtailment of wind/solar in favor of more expensive fossil fuels nonsense cannot happen. There should be severe penalties in place if the utilities do that.

      I’m not sure I would be comfortable with a 15 year transition time if I were Hawaiian. Of course I might already be wired for off-grid if I lived there.

      There is a middle road nobody seems to mention. I live in the Seattle area at the end of the grid distribution lines. We have trees that come down in winter wind storms. I have an automated power switch and a generator. If the power lines go down, then we the switch disconnects us from the grid and the generator starts up. If you want to have more solar than the utility will allow then you should just be able to set up two power switches. When you are generating enough solar power, then one switch disconnects from the grid and the other connects to your extra solar capacity. When you need grid power, then the latter switch disconnects from your panels and the former switch reconnects to the grid.
      If the utility can never see power from your Solar PV panels, then how can they prevent you from them and using power from them?
      Solar power is so much cheaper than end-of-grid electricity cost in Hawaii that this would still save the average home owner money.

      The “future’s so bright I gotta wear shades”.

      • Matt

        If you go to a fair TOD pricing, and don’t blow up the “fixed” fees then NET metering can work. Yes, you would have a cap on NET metering, any credit not used in 12 months goes away. Yes somewhere down the line, net metering will need to adjust. Once you get to more then 100% RE at any given moment and have already filled all storage, then you have issue. So long term there will need to be an adjust, and the small islands may get there much sooner that and state.
        – But Hawaii is a special case. No “real” long distance, they don’t have between island transmission do they? So they could take back the transmission lines from the utilities, made a separate public utility for that. The private company already got more than they put into the wires. The the current utilities can see power to the Public service provider (owns the wires). Of course PSP would add storage at spots on the grid to stabilize the current and do load shifting. Use TOD pricing that would update quarterly, but maybe HA weather doesn’t change that much with sessions.
        Take one of the small islands, what is the cost of maintaining the pole/wire? $0.01 kwh? I don’t know but it is a number that could be found. So find that number and charge 2/3 that to anyone would puts power into the wire or pulls power from the wire. Yes, end up with 30% in back as a safety net. Does mean meter must be smarter, need both directions. But I don’t think it is that hard.

        • Mike Shurtleff

          I do agree there needs to be some type of open book compensation to Solar PV owners providing power when needed. (I was amused to read this is not already an open book situation. A utility is a publicly controlled monopoly. Their financial books should be open to anyone they serve, any time.)
          – Yes, taking back the transmission lines seems more than reasonable to me, if the utility is not going to be cooperative and progress rapidly forward with DG Solar.
          Yes, it cannot be that hard. Their distribution lines are short.

      • jeffhre

        Solar is not permitted without the required interconnection studies, how long this will take is anyone’s guess(some had paid for them out of their own pockets). Solar with disconnect switches is not permitted without the required interconnection studies, how long this will take is anyone’s guess(some had paid for them out of their own pockets).

        • Mike Shurtleff

          Understand and agree. That is something that needs to be changed. It needs outside monitoring and oversight. The currently released plan only came after a court order. HECO is stalling and has financial incentives to continue to stall.

          “disconnect switches is not permitted without the required interconnection studies”
          You have circuit breaker box. You already have a disconnect switch. The only difference is automating this disconnect. Why should any study be required. If I want to take my house off the grid by throwing all the breakers, then I should be able to do this. It is the same as my turning off all my electricity during the day when I head to work. I should be able to permit a double disconnect switch within a week or two. Anything else is nonsense.
          If I’m living in Hawaii, then I’m taking this one to court. You don’t need a grid study for a disconnect switch.

  • Kyle Field

    This is crazy talk: “curtailing 28 per cent of the output from three wind farms in deference to its own, more expensive, oil-fired generation, wasting almost 16GWh of power a year.”
    I can only see this making business sense if the wind power is contracted at a higher rate than they can internally generate power. Otherwise, it would be saying that they are taking on more internal responsibility to generate power vs just buying what’s available from a presumably non utility provider. I could also see this as possibly being related to wanting to keep their people working, which internal to the company generation would, vs purchasing external power and curtailing their employees which would be internally negative.

    • jeffhre

      “This was reportedly directed at Maui Electric Company (MECO), one of the HECO companies, which had been curtailing 28 per cent of the output from three wind farms in deference to its own, more expensive, oil-fired generation, wasting almost 16GWh of power a year.”

      Should MECO face charges of dumping toxic materials into the environment, fraud, misallocation of the funds of a regulated authority, by using more expensive, polluting fuels over wind energy? Should the communities take over for HECO if they do not integrate customer installed solar?

      • Kyle Field

        Yeah, I read the article… My point was that this move must have somehow made business sense (financially). I’m not saying it’s ok…just trying to understand why it happened vs just assuming they’re idiots and charging forward. I was under the impression that Hawaii was very pro-renewables, especially given the ridiculous prices of fuel.

        • jeffhre

          All true. I just hope that I will always work for an immediate supervisor as patient and understanding :)

  • Will E

    the only way for utilities to survive is
    stop the fossil steam machines and produce only clean cheap Solar and Wind.

    or the communities take over and they go bust.
    Change is too fast prices of Solar and Wind are too cheap.

    • Larry

      I hope the greedy Utility Companies take it in the shorts

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