Clean Power

Published on February 14th, 2014 | by The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC)


HECO, will you be my Valentine?

February 14th, 2014 by  

Interconnect Me Heart Dear HECO,

The sun is golden,
The sky is blue,
I want my system
To interconnect with you

Hawaii Solar Customers

Hundreds of HECO customers will be left heartbroken this Valentine’s Day. Having waited by the phone for months, they’ll spend another night (and likely many nights thereafter) without getting to experience the benefits of their solar systems.

Hawaii’s love for rooftop solar started years ago.  Each year for the last five years the amount of rooftop solar in Hawaii has been doubling.  With the highest electricity rates in the country, consumers are increasingly looking to their own rooftops to control their energy bills.

But then last September, HECO broke things off.  It changed the rules.  In essence, HECO said it didn’t want to see rooftop solar anymore.  Hawaii solar customers didn’t see it coming, and now they are heartbroken, with solar systems sitting idle on roofs all over the state.  HECO is making unsubstantiated claims that in some areas, rooftop solar is creating technical problems for HECO’s grid.  In other words, “it’s not you, it’s me.”

Even though solar has been popular with HECO’s customers for years, HECO hasn’t developed a plan to modernize its grid so that its customers can have what they want:  more rooftop solar.

And now customers who invested their own money to generate clean power on their roof have to continue paying the same high rates for dirty power from HECO while they wait for permission to operate their solar systems.  Customers who hoped to ask HECO to go solar with them don’t know if HECO will say yes.

This Valentine’s Day, we’re looking for a little love for these sunny-eyed hopefuls. Grab a dozen roses, a box of chocolates, the boombox from Say Anything, and send a Valentine’s Card to HECO saying you want to connect.  Ask them to make it work.  Let’s help HECO see that more rooftop solar on its grid is the key to mending their customers’ broken hearts.

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About the Author

advocates for maintaining successful distributed solar energy policies, such as retail net metering, throughout the United States. Retail net metering (NEM) provides fair credit to residents, businesses, churches, schools, and other public agencies when their solar systems export excess energy to the grid. The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) was formed on the belief that anyone should have the option to switch from utility power to distributed solar power, and realize the financial benefits therein. The rooftop solar market has been largely driven by Americans’ desire to assert control over their electric bills, a trend that should be encouraged.

  • Dave

    Renting your electricity from HECO is far cheaper than having an off grid solar electric system, unless you consider the investment over a period of time. Unfortunately a great majority of the population could care less about where they will be 10 years from now. This is why companies like HECO thrive. Sure the electricity is cheap, but ultimately you’re still sucking on the big government nipple, you’re not helping yourself, and you’re contributing to a system that can be manipulated. Believe me when I say absolute power corrupts absolutely, raising the cost of electricity up one penny yields a lot of money if you consider how many utility rate payers there are. If you truly believe in freedom, you must stop contributing to companies that do not have your best interest at heart, no matter how economically enticing it is. There’s one more thing I would like to add and that is that as long as Americans think horsepower is a good thing, they will continuously be at the mercy of the energy companies. So basically we Americans enslave ourselves with our wants and our needs. This is actually okay to do as long as you are the one who is in control, so you’re going to have to get smart and eliminate the outside influence on your lives, unless you want a really big government to run your life for you. I would prefer to be independent no matter what it costs because I believe the majority of Americans would be much happier without a monthly electric bill, sheesh, its like chinese water torture. Who wants to live their life always worrying about how much electricity they use worried about whether or not they’ll be able to pay for their electric bill !

  • Dave

    Forget HECO already, i have been off the grid for a long time. Its totally affordable, and it really works! But only if you have the technical skills and Knowledge to make it so… If you need to hire someone to install a system because you have no education, then FORGET IT, you can’t have one! And thats the way it should be. There will be no charity cases with this technology until the government is forced to change, and thats NEVER going to happen with cheap oil. Not many wonder why oil all of a sudden went bust, not many people understand how a lightbulb works, and its over 100 year old technology “now obsolete”. Get with it people, nobody is going to tell you where the path is, you’re just gonna have to educate yourself and take charge of your electrical needs. If not, then you’re just gonna have to keep renting your electricity whilst hoping and praying the prices don’t rage. Owning your own off grid solar electric system should be as important as owning your own home and car. YOU NEED IT!

  • James Van Damme

    I spent a week on Molokai (the most “Hawaiian” of the islands) in January. They don’t need heating or cooling systems but they pay outrageous amounts for propane, gasoline, electricity. Seems to me that a decent solar DHW system on every house would be a good start. Electric cars would be good: you can’t drive more than 30 miles in one direction anyhow, and gas is over $5. There are plenty of mountain valleys to build pumped storage reservoirs, and lots of rain to fill them. And the wind is steady and predictable, yet there is a lot of opposition to them. There is a lot of potential there, but it needs to be carefully thought out.

  • Jonny_K

    An article explaining the 10% or more is trouble stance of HECO would be great. Something with more detail than “the grid was designed for power going one way” but perhaps less intense than a graduate course in electrical engineering. I posted this question on some HECO article and got various answers which couldn’t all be right.

    Here are just some of the answers I was given: Over voltage; Can’t tell what’s going on so can’t control the grid; jumpy because inverters are trying to sync with the grid but instead are talking to each other; Noise (EMI) on the line from the inverters or from other appliances; not enough reactive power (this baffled me since I thought that was what you don’t want, bad power factor power. Shows what I know); wear and tear on traditional, inertial generators; HV transformers aren’t like ordinary transformers — they really are one way; transformer overheating.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Some sound right and some sound wrong.

      Transformer overheating could be a problem if many of the buildings on the transformer start feeding back power. If one is generating 24 hours of power in five hours then they would be pumping back a lot when the Sun was shining.

      “Can’t tell what is going on” sounds very bogus. The utilities have excellent information about how much sunshine to expect hours ahead of time. There won’t be hundreds of new systems coming on in a single day.
      “Wear and tear on traditional, inertial generators” sounds bogus. Distributed solar doesn’t constantly flip on and off.

      The whole HECO thing sounds to me like “This is how we’ve always done it and we’d rather play golf than work out a new plan”. HECO better get busy or they will find a lot of their customers installing both solar and storage. HECO will end up running backup generators.

  • Will E

    KC and the Sunshine Band, aha aha

  • Will E

    sell stock buy solar and an electric EV car as back up battery and let go of HECO, and use your own solar energy for your house and riding Hawai. Must be fun. that s the way aha aha I like it aha aha

  • driveby

    I wonder why Hawaiian’s not just use hybrid or off-grid systems then?
    Must be that HECO’s power is still more economical vs getting a battery backed-up/stand-alone system over there..
    But if they can safe some 60-thousand dollars over how many years.. 8?..10? it will be worthwhile, as stand alone systems with some 10-15kWh (peak 10kW supply) are available in Australia for less than that and they’re supposed to last that long.
    Anyone from the area/locality care to comment?

    • driveby

      That’s one of the companies in Oz that do this kind of stuff:
      Prices are on their website. And if they can do this in Oz they can certainly do it in the US.

      I just read over in the other article the replies that show the mindset.. GRID-CONNECT = only way.

      People need to get off this!
      In places where electricity prices exceed 0.37AUD/kWh its already economical to go off-grid.

    • I’m curious about that. Know some people there. Will ask around.

      • driveby

        Would like to hear that.

        Personally I don’t have time to chase things (too much going on) I would also suggest some article/series on hybrid/off-grid stuff.

        • Tom G.

          My son lives on the island of Kauai. As a solar advocate I have talked with him numerous times about the advantages and value of going solar. His response is always the same. “My electric bill for my family of 3 is only about $50/month”. It doesn’t pencil out.

          It might just be that the people who live in Hawaii are very conservative. High electric rates over a long period of time would have a tendency to change individual behaviors. Much like $5.00/gallon gasoline prices do. And things we consider as really important like air conditioning are really not needed except for maybe a small window unit for sleeping. Other times you just open your doors and windows and enjoy the trade winds; no AC required.

    • Michael Faust

      Why spend an extra $20k if you dont have too…and deal with occasional problems of batteries / genset backup, fuels, hydrogen risk, noise, etc.

      Getting the utility to “play nice” save many millions for the consumers.

      • driveby

        batteries are LiFePO4, no hydrogen.. those are the best since sliced bread 😉
        You would need to talk to some people who have those systems installed and their experience with it in regards to gen-set-running, noise, occasional problems.
        But with a potential of 30-40k saved over 10 years might be worth the ‘troubles’?

        PS: my utility here says the pole transformer is full, can’t grid connect.. options for me: stand alone PV or install a new transformer (cost > 30k)..
        So I’ll go stand alone PV then and keep the grid as long as it’s economically feasible.

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