Hawaii regulators sets new rooftop solar programs

OREANDA-NEWS. October 15, 2015. Hawaii regulators have approved new programs to optimize the use of distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar as the state pushes to meet all its electricity needs from renewables.

The state Public Utilities Commission on 12 October issued a decision that provides three rate options for Hawaiian Electric customers to install rooftop solar: a self-supply option, grid-supply option and time-of-use option. The three rate structures will replace the state's net metering program, which regulators decided is ill-equipped to handle the addition of new distributed resources, which unlike traditional fossil fuels, can fluctuate in available supply.

The grid-supply option will provide a fixed credit for excess power generated from rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. The credit for customers from the island of Hawaii and Oahu, the most populous island of the state, is 15?/kWh, while customers on Maui and Molokai can receive credits of 17?/kWh and 24?/kWh, respectively. To help fund the fixed rates, new residential solar PV customers would pay a minimum bill of \\$25/month.

The self-supply option allows new customers that generate enough power to meet their own power needs without placing added stress on the grid to get an expedited review of their interconnection applications. Such customers may use battery storage or energy management systems to balance supply needs.

The time-of-use structure sends a price signal for customers to use power when solar supply peaks.

The new options aim to address a backlog of applications for rooftop solar after regulators decided the state's previous tariff structures were ill-equipped to handle the new generation resources.

Demand for solar and distributed resources is rising and expected to climb further after the state this year set a target to have 100pc of its electricity come from renewables by 2045.

The order allows existing net metering customers that submitted applications by 12 October to remain under the original plan. Future applicants would be covered by the new options.

The commission decision concludes the first phase of proceedings to establish policies that would facilitate the use of distributed generation resources. The next round will review whether the interconnection rates and other policies need further modification, and how to to expand the programs to each island's electric grid.