HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Despite having the highest electricity rates in the country, Hawaii's solar industry is losing jobs. So says a just-released report from the Solar Foundation.
It shows a net loss of 400 jobs in the solar industry since 2013.
Advocates are pointing the finger at Hawaiian Electric.
"HECO's actions clearly are trying to stop or kill solar" said Robert Harris, spokesman for The Alliance for Solar Choice.
HECO rebuts his stance. In a statement to Hawaii News Now, HECO states in part: "we're committed to tripling today's level of distributed solar in Hawaii by 2030". The full statement is below.
Harris is skeptical of their claim. "We know specifically that a lot of people who want to install solar can't install solar and there's companies that actively want to sell a product but can't".
Statistics kept by the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism show how dramatically residential PV permits issued in Honolulu have fallen through the first month and a half of each year from 2014 to now. In 2014, the number was 965, in 2015 it's 433. That's a 55% drop.
"Businesses tend to start or stop, either you're succeeding or failing, there's no middle point in there. Slowing down isn't an option. Either you're succeeding or dying. Unfortunately a lot of businesses seem to be on the brink of collapsing" said Harris.
In its statement to Hawaii News Now, HECO makes no mention of the report, or the job loss, but reiterated its commitment to supplying more solar to customers.
Harris doesn't see things being so rosy.
"We're at a fundamental crossroads right now, what's going to happen? Are we going to grow this or are we going to let it die?"
HECO's statement is as follows:
We know rooftop solar is an important option for our customers. On Oahu 13% of residential customers already have rooftop solar, far more than any other utility in the nation. And we're committed to tripling today's level of distributed solar in Hawaii by 2030. To help achieve that, we're looking to more than double the current threshold for neighborhood circuits to accept solar systems, while ensuring we do so in a safe, reliable way so that all customers – with and without rooftop solar -- are treated fairly.
Many responsible members of the solar industry recognize the technical and policy challenges and are collaborating on solutions. We welcome that participation.