Public Utilities Commission makes changes to rooftop solar programs

Public Utilities Commission makes changes to rooftop solar programs
Published: Oct. 13, 2015 at 9:49 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 14, 2015 at 1:59 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Advocates of Net Energy Metering call it the most successful method so far to get people off fossil fuels. Now the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission has ended the program for new solar customers.

"The energy industry is not static. We have to continue to evolve our policies, our initiatives and our programs," PUC chairman Randy Iwase said.

The PUC's order cuts the credit new PV customers will get for sending excess energy to the grid from 26.8 cents per kilowatt hour to about 15 cents under a new Grid Supply program.

"That 15.07 cents on Oahu is an incentive," Iwase said.

But RevoluSun's Colin Yost believes it will make it harder for consumers with low to moderate incomes to afford solar. and solar companies will suffer.

"Just as we're getting going and hiring more staff and hiring more crews, once again we're hit with a policy that will likely slow us down," he said.

Sierra Club's Marti Townsend believes the PUC order is counter-productive.

"At this stage in the game when it's crucial that we get everyone off fossil fuels as soon as possible, we should be expanding policies to encourage renewable energy use not ending them," she said.

In a statement, Hawaii Electric Company's senior vice president Jim Alberts thanked the PUC for a "thorough review of the complex issues that need to be balanced."

But Yost believes the order creates a roadblock not a pathway, and the PUC's push for battery backup systems is too abrupt.

"It would have made a lot more sense to give some kind of transition period to allow that market to fully develop," he said.

The PUC said the order is just a step in an evolution.

"PVs and rooftop solar are important for our state but it cannot be just the only means by which we pursue the 100 percent renewable goals," Iwase said.

Under the new Grid Supply" system 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.

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