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


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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Written By

James Ayre'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.


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