Hawaiian utility under pressure

by / Friday, 24 April 2015 / Published in Smartgrid-CI Blog

Already 12% of Hawaiians already using solar and more installing by the day.

By SNEHA SHAH

Hawaii is seeing some solar outburst with nearly 12% of Hawaiian homes bearing rooftop solar panels, according to the Federal Energy Information Administration. The high cost of electricity from utilities and several advantages of rooftop solar has forced the citizens to move to solar energy. Other states like California, Arizona, Japan and Germany are also fast adapting to rooftop solar for their power needs. The solar demand is on an increasing spree and the number of installations is expected to reach 3.3 million by 2020, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The rising popularity of rooftop solar is becoming a threat for the utility companies. The engineering experts have expressed concern on the rising solar installations, by saying that there is not adequate infrastructure to pass on the excess electricity generated from solar energy, leading to fluctuations in the voltage systems. However it has hit the utility companies hard on their faces, as they have followed a snail paced approach to approve the solar applications of its people.

“I went through all this trouble to get my electric bill down, and I am still waiting,” said Joyce Villegas, 88, who signed her contract for a system in August 2013 but was only recently approved and is waiting for the installation to be completed

The utility companies have tried to cut the rising popularity of solar by resorting to unfair means like hiking their fees or reducing incentives for solar installation companies there. It happened in 2013, when the Hawaiian Electric started preventing installations of residential solar systems in certain areas. As a result, the solar companies had to file lawsuits against the utility firms. Now it wants to reduce 50% of the total amount that it pays to its customers, for the excess power they send back to the grid. NextEra Energy a leading renewable energy provider in North America, recently decided to merge with Hawaiin Electric Industries and has also received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This is again a matter of great concern for the solar companies, which have their presence in Hawaii and feel that the utility company will now favor its partner NextEra, denying a fair chance to the other solar counterparts.

The change is bound to happen and everyone is well aware of this fact. However it will take the utilities some time to accept defeat.

(Reprint with permission from Greenworldinvestor)

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