HECO announces plan to clear solar backlog - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

HECO announces plan to clear solar backlog

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a plan to eliminate the solar frustrations Hawaiian Electric says thousands of people waiting for solar will be approved by April, but there are still concerns.

Some people have been waiting to get solar panels put on their roof for a year.  It's lead to frustrations from customers and photovoltaic companies losing money, but now there is light at the end of the tunnel.

"This feels like it's finally a break in the log jam," said Colin Yost, Revolusun Principal and General Counsel.

A log jam broken because Hawaiian Electric says most of the 4,800 people waiting for solar will get approved by April.  The rest will get done by December 2015.

"That's still not as good as tomorrow but it's at least some kind of clear timeline," said Yost.

"We have been working diligently with inverter manufacturers, other national technical experts, and the solar industry to address potential safety and reliability issues which no other utility in the nation has yet faced," said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric Senior Vice President of Customer Service, in a written statement. "Applying results of recent inverter testing, over the next five months we expect that we'll be able to approve almost all of the customers who have been waiting for interconnection on these high solar circuits."

"We again apologize for the long and frustrating delay they've experienced," said Alberts.

"We should accept their apology and move on," said Yost.

Tests have shown technology can handle the increase in solar power loads, something photovoltaic companies have been saying all along.  So what took so long?

"Really they didn't apply enough resources and people power to solving this problem," said Yost.

"HECO is struggling to change to competition. For the first time they are having to compete with a product that is out in the market that is producing electricity cheaper. They're going to need to adapt. They're going to need to provide better service to their customers and they need to find a way to let customers do what they want which is create their own power," said Robert Harris, Sunrun Director of Public Policy.

And what about customers who sign up for solar now?  Will there be a new backlog?

"That's not yet clear I think the overall thrust of the filing is that HECO is going to find a way to help those people interconnect," said Yost.

"A utility that is really focused on serving its customers would figure out a way to make sure this is happening and make sure it's working," said Harris.

Meanwhile demand for solar is still high Revolusun says it has 500 more customers in high capacity areas applying for a solar hookup.

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