East Hawaii News

Hawaiian Electric Proposes Renewable Energy Program

October 2, 2015, 6:59 AM HST
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A Community-Based Renewable Energy program and tax was introduced to the Hawai’i Public Utilities Commission on Thursday by the Hawaiian Electric Companies.

Under the proposed program, customers who are unable or who choose not to participate in rooftop solar will still have the ability to benefit from renewable energy. The program would both assist in offsetting the monthly bill for each of its customers and support Hawai’i’s goals of clean energy.

Currently, only customers who own a suitably sized and located residential or commercial roof have been able to benefit from distributed solar generation. However, Hawaiian Electric says that more than 40 percent of households in Hawai’i rent their homes and 37 percent live in multi-unit dwellings that either make it difficult or impossible to participate in rooftop solar.

Should PUC accept the utility company’s proposed program, small solar projects under one megawatt would be qualified on a “first-ready” basis. Projects that are larger than one megawatt or are considered community-based wind projects will be selected through a competitive process. The process would follow these guidelines to ensure fairness and make sure that individual customers get the lowest upfront and ongoing costs for community-based renewable projects.

Hawaiian Electric’s proposed program would begin with a selection of developers for new community-based renewable energy projects in 2016, if approved. Once the projects are selected, approved and built customers will be given the opportunity to participate on all islands.

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“Expanding options is part of our efforts to deliver value for our customers,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric Vice President for Corporate Planning and Business Development. “Encouraging more customer participation in renewable energy supports our vision to integrate more low-cost renewables that benefit all of our customers and to lower customer bills by 20 percent by 2030 as we work to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.”

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Customers, if approved, will be allowed to buy an interest in electricity generated by community renewable projects on their islands, regardless of their lack of ability on their own roofs or property. Through the community-based projects, coast-effective renewable energy for all customers will support island grids to deliver reliable service.

The program as proposed consists of the following:

  • Community-based renewable energy projects may be developed independently or by the utility to serve the entire electric system in the most cost-effective manner. As with all utility-scale generation, electricity from community projects will be provided via the grid for all customers at low cost.
  • Hawaiian Electric will provide lists of community projects on each island for potential participants to choose from.
  • Customers who participate will purchase an interest in the electricity generated directly from the project developer. They will receive credits on their monthly electric bill to offset their use in proportion to their interest without installing renewable energy resources on thier property.
  • The program will be a “pass through,” with all benefits going to the developers and/or program participants. The Hawaiian Electric Companies will only recover the actual cost to administer the program on behalf of all projects and participants.

Hawaiian Electric’s proposal was developed with assistance from stakeholders from the renewable energy industry, environment advocacy organizations, the Energy Office of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, and organizations representing customers who may benefit from such a program.

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The filing, which complies with Act 100, called for filing of a community-based renewable energy tariff by October 1, 2015 that was passed in the last legislative session and signed into law by Governor David Ige.

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