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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
The policy change is found on Hawaiian Electric's web page under the heading Net Energy Metering. The letter states customers and contractors must call HECO before they sign a contract to install or expand a photovoltaic solar system.
"I was very shocked," said Ryan Sumiye of Stealth Solar Hawaii.
He said the change will cripple contractors by adding unnecessary delays.
"Right now we're averaging about five weeks. Now I really can't promise my customers how fast I can get a system up for them," he said.
The old method let a contractor install solar prior to HECO hooking up its metering system. There are 32,000 systems plugged into the utility's power grids and many more people want PV.
HECO spokesman Peter Rosegg said the policy change was made to safeguard the utility's electrical circuits. He said having people call the power company before they install solar gives HECO a chance to figure out if a circuit needs to be modified to accommodate a new PV system.
"If you have too much solar without protective equipment on the circuit it can damage our lines and our transformers, even our sub-stations. And then we all end up paying for it," he said.
Rosegg said the transition will take some adjustment.
But some solar contractors suspect the power company is purposely slowing down PV approvals.
"Obviously, they're losing income," Sumiye said. "For every customer that's installing a solar photovoltaic system in their home, they're losing anywhere from $200 a month of income, all the way up to $900 a month."
Rosegg said HECO is not trying to impede solar contractors or customers. He admits the utility is backlogged in getting PV owners on the grid, but the vast number of people going solar has not cost the company revenue.
"We know solar is growing," he said. "We know toward the end of the year is customarily when a lot more people are going to be adding solar. So we're trying to get the system smoothed out now so that by the end of the year when the really big rush comes we'll be ready for it."
To learn more about HECO's integration policy changes go to www.hawaiianelectric.com.