By Jim Mendoza| September 19, 2014 at 9:07 PM HST - Updated July 2 at 2:30 AM
Hawaiian Electric Company told lawmakers Friday the utility has approved 5,200 solar interconnections this year, but 4,500 applications are still pending.
"We know there are still many customers waiting for their applications to be approved, and we understand delays of any length are frustrating. And for that we apologize," said Jim Alberts, HECO's senior vice president of Customer Service.
Solar industry representatives told the legislative panel that HECO's delays have cut installations in half and harmed solar companies.
"We estimate about half the work force, skilled work force, has lost its job, probably hundreds, thousands of employees that are looking for work elsewhere," said Leslie Cole-Brooks of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association.
Energy attorney Kevin Fox of the Alliance for Solar Choice told Hawaii News Now the utility's new energy plan focuses too much on infrastructure and not enough on saving customers money.
"I would say overall though it just does not offer the sorts of low-cost, near-term solutions that their customers are looking for," he said.
"I want policy makers such as yourselves to stop accepting the HECO company's repeated assertions that they're the technical experts on the issues that are facing their grids today," Hawaii PV Coalition chairman Mark Duda testified.
HECO told the panel of senators and representatives that it's testing ways to increase circuit capacity for PV.
"What we found from our analysis is that it really requires a very specific operation of inverters, which is the device coupled with the PV system that allows it to connect to the grid," said Colton Ching, HECO vice president of Energy Delivery.
The company reiterated its goal of tripling distributed solar power by 2030, but reminded lawmakers it will do it carefully and cautiously.
"We're also working collaboratively with the solar industry and inverter manufacturers on new inverter standards that we believe will allow us to interconnect more customers in the very near term," Alberts said.
In the meantime, more than 4,000 HECO customers are waiting for the go-ahead to install PV and energize their systems.