Opinions differ on whether solar tax credit change good for home - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Opinions differ on whether solar tax credit change good for homeowners

File image of solar panels File image of solar panels
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

It could take months to see how the Public Utilities Commission’s decision to lower solar tax credits for new rooftop photovoltaic customers affects sales.

And onlookers disagree on whether the change is good for homeowners.

Dave Thompson, of Alternate Energy Hawaii, said the PUC decision will dramatically reduce the value of having rooftop PV, while increasing the front-end cost of installation.

But state consumer advocate Jeffrey Ono countered, “It's certainly not doom and gloom for the consumer.”

"It's a step in the right direction,” he added.

On Tuesday, the PUC decided to do away with net energy metering, cutting the credit new Oahu PV customers get for sending excess energy to the grid from the current 26.8 cents per kilowatt hour to about 15 cents under a new grid supply program.

Maui customers will be credited at 17 cents per kilowatt hour. it will be 24 cents on Molokai, and 28 cents for solar customers on Lanai.

Ono said the decision addresses cross subsidization, or when one set of customers are charged higher rates or prices to offset lower ones charged to another group.

In other words, while the lower credits may hurt new PV customers, they’ll help non-PV customers who pay higher rates to absorb the lower ones resulting from solar.

Ono did say the move could harm PV businesses that don't have diversified products, as well as those who lease panels.

Thompson shares those worries.

"For those of us who work in the industry, for our families, we wonder what's ahead,” he said. “We thought this would be a career that could sustain us for the next 15-20 years, now I'm not so sure.”

About 12 percent of Oahu homes have rooftop solar systems, according to the Solar Electric Power Association. That's much higher than the .5 percent of homes nationally with rooftop solar.

Hawaii has pledged in law to become completely energy self-sustaining -- using 100 percent renewable sources -- by 2045.

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