Clean Power

Published on May 8th, 2014 | by James Ayre


Hawaii’s Biggest Utility Company Forced To Help Customers Install Solar Panels

May 8th, 2014 by  


The biggest utility in the whole of Hawaii, the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), will soon be required to help customers reduce their energy costs and install solar energy systems, according to recent reports.

The state’s energy regulator made the strong move early last week, with the intention of addressing some of the many issues that Hawaiians have with the company — huge energy bills and lots of roadblocks to the installation and connection of personal solar systems.

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

ClimateProgress provides more:

HECO has been the target of substantial criticism from Hawaiians lately as customers have grown weary of sky-high electricity bills and difficulty installing their own solar panels to mitigate those costs. A recent poll found that 94% of Hawaii residents support more rooftop solar, and 90% believe that HECO is slowing rooftop solar to protect its profits.

The PUC ruled that HECO was not moving fast enough to address key sources of customer frustration, namely challenges connecting solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to the electric grid. “The PUC is giving Hawaiian Electric up to 120 days to come up with a more comprehensive strategy that can lower energy costs and help connect more PV systems to the grid,” KHON2 News reported.

If HECO is in fact intentionally slowing down rooftop installations, it certainly wouldn’t be the first utility to do so. The relatively fast growth of rooftop solar has surprised many utilities, and sent many of them scrambling to preserve their market share. They have done this through various means, some above the belt, some not. Makes sense of course, the more people produce their own electricity, the less money for the utilities.

Given the specifics of the energy situation in Hawaii, though, the state really should be embracing solar with open arms. As it stands, Hawaii is currently dependent on very expensive imported petroleum for 70% of its electricity generation — making the islands ideal for the implementation of solar. Doing so would greatly reduce electricity costs out there.

“While it should be a point of pride that Hawaii has the highest solar per capita in the country, it shouldn’t give us any reason to slow down,” stated Jon Yoshimura, a Hawaii spokesperson for The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC). “The people of Hawaii clearly want and expect more rooftop solar, and are looking to both HECO and to policymakers to advance policies that help increase access for homes and businesses.”

In related news, the market apparently appears to be so ripe for the taking to some analysts that even wind energy companies are now investing in solar in the island state. See First Wind’s recent development of the 20 MW Mililani Solar Project on Oahu for more on that. A bit strange to see a company named First Wind develop a solar power plant, but whatever works I guess. 🙂

Image Credit: ILSR

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • The headline of this article is misleading. If the author had taken the time to read the actual orders, they would see that the Hawaii PUC also expresses concerns with continuation of net energy metering programs and their cost impacts on non-solar customers. In the Orders the PUC tells the solar industry that it must also change its business model so that solar NEM customers no longer free ride on the backs of those who do not have solar. The PUC says in these orders that it isn’t fair to curtail large utility scale renewable projects that benefit the entire customer based, while NEM customers are not curtailed. Let’s face it, the solar industry is just as greedy as the utilities.

    • Doug

      Everyone is greedy. The problem in Hawaii is that the greedy solar industry is not being permitted to compete fairly with the greedy utilities to offer less expensive electricity to their greedy customers.

      If there is anyone that is not greedy, it’s the huge supermajority of non-solar customers that support solar.

      With 70% of current generation provided by oil, Hawaii should be driving full throttle towards 100% renewables, island by island.

  • CaptD

    Great Solar Aloha news for everyone…

    Every state that wants a clean future must do the same or admit that their Utilities put shareholder profits before doing what is right for ratepayers!

  • MandyREverson

    “The people of Hawaii clearly want and expect more rooftop solar, and are looking to both HECO and to policymakers to advance policies that help increase access for homes and businesses.”

  • Phil McKracken

    Government leaders must find a way to encourage utilities to stop fighting distributed solar power and actually actively participate in its expansion. Our climate can not longer wait.
    Maybe homeowners won’t get quite the payback as some of it goes to the utility, but lower monthly bills AND helping the environment will still prove popular.
    So what is the legislative answer to this current fight?

    • CsabaU

      Time-Of-Use feed in (and use) tariffs, as I see it. Today it is a premium price in the daytime and early adopters will be well paid. In the future with lot of resident roof-tops, the user will be paid badly in the daytime because there will be a surplus. Instead there will be a premium price in the evening. I guess it will be four tariffs, if not by the hour, in the future: Day will be cheapest (instead of most expensive today), night next cheapest (instead of cheapest usually today), then morning and most expensive in the evening. This will pay for peak systems, including electrical storage.

  • jburt56

    Feel the force Luke!!!

  • LookingForward

    Utillity people and there greed….:S

    • anal

      there= at that place
      their= belong to them
      they’re= they are

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