Customers scramble to join 'grid supply' program before it closes

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Time's running out on Hawaiian Electric's popular photovoltaic program called Customer Grid Supply.

With only a few days to go, solar companies are being inundated with applications.

"This is now the last-minute rush time for the Customer Grid Supply program because it closes definitively. Oct. 23 is the last day HECO will accept postmarked applications," said Colin Yost, chief operating officer for RevoluSun.

People who own Grid Supply systems sell excess electricity back to HECO for about 15 cents per kilowatt hour.

But there are limits on how much power HECO can accept on its grid.

As of Monday there were 5,293 applicants already in line — 4,328 cleared to build or connect to the gird and 965 applications pending approval.

Shannon Tangonan, HECO external corporate communications director, said the utility can't assure all new applicants that their applications will be approved.

"We do have several in the queue already, so people just need to realize that just because you get an application in it doesn't guarantee a spot," she said.

Still, solar companies encourage people to apply anyway to get their paperwork in to HECO. Another power buyback program being considered by the Public Utilities Commission is called Smart Export.

"We're simply waiting now for an order that will set up the program. The Smart Export program will allow people to export power when it benefits the grid the most," Sunrun public policy director Robert Harris said.

"Basically, what that does is you're allowed to export during certain times when it's peak period. That helps with our grid stability," Tangonan said.

With Smart Export still a way's off and grid supply coming off the table, greater emphasis will be on battery storage systems that are becoming more affordable.

"It's a very attractive option and it provides backup power and resilience. If the grid should go down batteries will be there to keep your house running," Yost said.

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