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Going Off Grid – Pioneers of Home Battery Technology In Hawaii

“We are completely independent of any changes in policy or whatever the utility company may throw at us. We are independent. We’ve become our own utility company and we control our energy consumption and our energy production, and we couldn’t be happier with this system – it’s amazing.” —Homeowner JD Duch

Haleakala Solar recently installed a solar/battery system that allowed Maui homeowners to become the first in Maui to disconnect from the electric company and run their own fully self-sufficient solar and battery energy system.

JD and Jonah Solar Pioneers

JD Duch and Jona Oana weren’t trying to accomplish anything groundbreaking when they started researching solar companies three years ago. Like many Hawaii residents, they were simply searching for a way to lower their electric bill, which cost between $550-600 every month.

JD and Jona began by researching different solar companies, eventually narrowing down to three choices. The two other solar companies provided quotes that were very similar, while Haleakala Solar Representative Anselm Pauls presented the homeowners with a quote that was actually higher than the other two. JD and Jona thought Anselm’s customer service stood out and didn’t want to make their decision solely based on price, so they asked Anselm to explain the difference between the systems being quoted. Anselm explained that Haleakala Solar could get them the same type of system the other two companies had offered for a similar price, but he had recommended a more efficient system that would better meet their energy needs.

After deciding to work with Haleakala Solar, the next step was to apply for approval from Maui Electric (MECO) and wait. First, they were told that circuits were full. Then they were told they would have to pay for an impact study and even with that they could be waiting another year and a half. This situation is nothing new for the people of Hawaii*. However, this time, the waiting period inspired a new idea.

A thought came up: What if they got completely off MECO’s grid? Then they wouldn’t need the utility company’s approval to get a solar system. But how? During the day, when there is lots of sun, the PV can provide all the electricity the home needs. But what happens when the sun goes down, or if it’s an extremely cloudy day? This is where the electrical grid comes in, providing energy when the photovoltaic system lacks the sunlight to do so itself. The answer was fairly simple: a battery could store energy and a 30kW propane generator would automatically turn on to charge the batteries on cloudy days. This system, charged by the PV panels, could provide electricity to the house when the PV panels weren’t. In essence, the battery storage system would simply replace what MECO was doing.

battery storage system

aquion battery for solar energy storage

This is where things got interesting. You see, in the history of Hawaii, a customer has never gotten a new photovoltaic system with its own self-sustaining battery back-up unit and then disconnected from the utility grid. Also, home battery systems are still a fairly new developing market. In fact, the batteries they finally decided on, from a company in Pennsylvania called Aquion Energy, were going to be the first ever to be installed in a residential home in Hawaii. In many ways, this was going to make JD and Jona true pioneers and one of the first early adopters of home battery technology in the state.

When JD and Jona first looked into getting a solar photovoltaic system, the goal was entirely about saving money. During the process of waiting to get their system and then discovering the alternative solution of a battery storage unit, this goal evolved. It became bigger than saving money… bigger than even themselves. It was about doing what was right. They readily admitted, when first looking into solar, issues with climate change and reducing carbon emissions weren’t originally in their thought process, since they would still be hooked up to a grid that burned oil. Getting the Aquion battery back-up system, though, changed that picture. They learned the Aquion Energy battery has no hazardous materials in its construction, making it truly “clean” energy. It is also maintenance free and has a useful life of 20 years. In the end, they decided even though their initial investment was going to be nearly twice what they originally were going to spend, it was well worth it.

Calculating how long it would be to pay off the system, if JD and Jona made monthly payments based on what they had been paying to MECO every month, coupled with government tax credits, they estimate they will pay off their system in 6-1/2 years. If it were just a photovoltaic system without the battery back-up unit and propane generator, the pay-off time would be closer to 3-1/2 years. Considering the system is warranted for twenty years, they would be getting roughly 13-1/2 years of electricity for free. Even if the electricity company never increased their rates during that span, their savings (calculated at $575 per month) would be roughly $93,150! Of course, if electricity rates go up, those savings go up even further.

Roughly a little over one year and one month after they decided to hire Haleakala Solar, JD and Jona’s self-sustaining system was installed. They tested their energy limits and reliability, running various appliances at the same time, and are confident that their system can handle their maximum energy needs, no problem. Jona said, “We didn’t have to change our lifestyle very much. We make more conscious decisions about when we use energy, but other than that, it’s fascinating that the system that we have in place can provide everything that we need to live comfortably. It’s also a great feeling to know that in the event of a natural disaster such as a tsunami or a hurricane, my family can feel comfortable and safe here in the home, knowing that we have power.”

If you are interested in finding out more information about the Aquion Energy battery system click here. If you have questions about a self-sustaining energy system and how you can get off the grid, call Haleakala Solar at 1-800-643-8000.

Jim Whitcomb with Jona and JD

“Just want to say something about Jim [Whitcomb, Haleakala Solar CEO] and his crew from Haleakala Solar. When we first started this process, you know, we shopped around and met with different companies. From the moment we met Jim’s salesperson, it made a huge difference in our decision on which company to go for. Jim’s an amazing man. He’s very committed and passionate about what he does, and it’s from his sales team to his electrical engineers who have spent countless hours installing our system to the different crews that came to put the panels on the roof, I mean, everyone was very professional and you could see that they have a passion for their work and the job that they do. He’s an amazing guy, and for the CEO of a company to personally come and meet with us, what 6, 7, 8 times, at night, to answer questions that we had for him, he always made us feel secure and assured us that everything we were doing would work and was the right thing to do.” —Homeowner, Jona Oana

*As of late October, there are 4,807 customers waiting for solar on Oahu. Hawaiian Electric recently announced that they are in the process of approving over 2,000 customers with another 2,500 to be approved by April 2015 and the remaining to be approved by December 2015. Its subsidiary MECO has an estimated 330 customers in the queue and most should be approved within the next five months.

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Employee Focus: Q&A with James Rudolph

Haleakala Solar Employee James Rudolph

Q:  Where were you born and raised? 
A: Detroit, Michigan (Go Lions!)

Q:  Any other personal info you want to share…
A: Married, and I have three children, Desta, Soren, and Masina.

Q:  What is your position at Haleakala Solar?
A: Director of Operations.

Q:  How long have you been here?
A: Since March 2012.

Q:  Describe what you do at Haleakala Solar?
A: I oversee Operations on Oahu and Kauai.

Q:  What do you like about working at Haleakala Solar?
A: The opportunity to be with a company that is really committed to making this Earth a better place for future generations.

Q:  What do you like to do on your spare time?
A: Nothing I love better than beach day with my family and catching waves with my camera or surfboard.

Q:  You’re going to be stranded on a deserted island.  You could bring the music of one artist.  Who would it be?
A: Bob Marley, of course.

Q:  You’re going to have a dinner party.  You can invite any three people in history, dead or alive.  Who would they be?
A: Any three of my ancestors who have passed on.

Q:  What secret skill or talent do you have that no one knows about?
A: I can play the banjo reggae style.

Q:  If you could have any super power, what would it be?
A: The power to teach everyone that peace and love is the only way.

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Best Chocolate Cupcake Recipe Under The Sun

It’s that time of year again… the Holiday Season. And since you are all probably getting ready for lots of holiday parties, we decided to share with you a recipe for the best chocolate cupcakes under the sun. Honestly… they’re the best chocolate cupcakes we’ve ever tasted!

The person making these delicious treats was kind enough to pass along the recipe (after much begging and pleading). This would make a great dessert complement to all the treats we normally get for Christmas.

best chocolate cupcake recipe

DOUBLE-CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES WITH BITTERSWEET FUDGE FROSTING

FROSTING:
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut up
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

CUPCAKES:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate (99% cacao), coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut up
1/2 cup boiling water
2 Tbsp. safflower oil
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao) or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

1. Place 5 oz. bittersweet chocolate and 3 tablespoons butter in medium bowl. Bring cream, sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt to a simmer in medium saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour over chocolate mixture; whisk just until chocolate mixture is melted, smooth and glossy.

2. Cool at room temperature, without stirring, 2 or 3 hours or until spreadable. (Or refrigerate frosting about 45 minutes, without stirring, making sure it doesn’t harden. Let stand at room temperature until of spreadable consistency.)

3. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk flour and baking soda in small bowl.

4. Place unsweetened chocolate and 3 tablespoons butter in small bowl. Add boiling water, stir until chocolate mixture is melted. Stir in oil.

5. Beat brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl at high speed 3 to 4 minutes or until light and thick. At low speed, gradually beat in melted chocolate mixture. Add flour mixture in two parts, beating just until blended. Stir in 1 oz. bittersweet chocolate. Spoon into muffin cups.

6. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely. Spread frosting over cupcakes.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Watch this video of the whole process:

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Haleakala Solar Shares Solar Knowledge With Students

Haleakala Solar shares solar knowledge with students of Hui Malama

The goal of Hui Malama Learning Center’s career / workforce development program is to establish a partnership with employers throughout Maui who are able to share / teach / train our youth in a variety of fields (culinary, construction, farming, etc.). Hui Malama will schedule an initial informational excursion for all students with that employer so that they have the opportunity to learn about that company. After the excursion, Hui Malama staff will chose 1 or 2 students to job shadow with that employer. We stress that this job shadowing opportunity is for skills building purposes even though it might not be our students’ interest at the time.

Haleakala Solar did an excellent job at presenting ALL aspects of not only their expertise in their field, but the reality of respect, humility, punctuality and all the real life decisions that these students will be facing very soon.

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All Watts Are Created Equal, But Not All Systems Are

An article by: Keith Hertz of Haleakala Solar

There is no denying that 1000W = 1kW = 1000W

The same holds true for a typical system size of 6200W = 6200W. So why choose one panel over the other? Haleakala Solar has installed panels from over 20 different panel manufacturers over the last 37 years. With over 12,000 installs you could say we have some experience (more so than any other Hawaiian solar company).

A simple web search of “Top PV Panel Manufacturers” will result in many Top 10 lists. All are relatively different. Some of these lists have repeat offenders but for the most part if you have your eye on a specific panel and you look far enough, chances are you will eventually find it in a Top 10 list somewhere. Once you do, you will have the piece of mind knowing you have selected the right panel… right?

After perusing PV manufacturer site after PV manufacturer site, it becomes apparent that almost every panel manufacturer out there is the #1 panel manufacturer. So what are you to do? Who do you trust? Are more expensive panels better?

Solar PV panels installed for Akaku Maui by Haleakala Solar

Situation Matters

If you have limited space on your roof, consider a panel with higher wattage density. These panels produce more watts in a smaller footprint. You may think this is the way to go with every situation however if cost is an issue, keep in mind higher density panels come with a higher price tag.

Remember, a watt is a watt, so if you need 7500w and have enough space, go for a standard density panel of 250W and use (30) panels. If space is not available consider the same 7500W system using (25) 300W panels. Both systems given the same architecture will produce 7500W. The last scenario might save you an additional 90sqft of roof space but usually cost you a little more because you will be getting the same 7500W but in a smaller footprint.

Panel Manufacturers History Matters

Sure, everyone seems to have a 25 year warranty these days. But what if the manufacturer isn’t around in 10 years? It’s important to choose a panel whose company will be around to service the warranty period. Not all manufacturers have a stellar financial forecast so do some checking and a little predicting.

Some manufacturers have even gone to the extent of offering 3rd Party Insurance good for 25 years just in case they go out business. This insurance gives their customers the peace of mind knowing they will be covered in the unlikely event their panels fail and they are no longer in business. I like these companies.

I subscribe to Homepower Magazine. Every two years they come out with a very comprehensive PV Module Specification spreadsheet. The latest list to come out was in 2012 and it has 53 panel manufacturers with 833 different panels. The list is complete with Model Numbers, Cell Types, STC and PTC ratings, Power Tolerance, Module efficiency, physical size, weight, etc… you get the point. It’s comprehensive.

My background as an Engineer pulls me into these details like a tractor beam. After reviewing the list for over an hour it appears very likely most of these panels would perform very similarly given they were all the same rated wattage. Say I took panels from five different manufacturers with the same rating and placed them on my roof. Would I be able to see a discernable difference in the output wattage in a blind test. The answer is NO. We’ve tried it. We have had eight different panel manufacturers on the same roof plane with the same size micro inverter for over two years. The LG, Sanyo, Samsung, Mitsubishi, Hyaundi, Sharp, SolarWorld and Canadian Solar all look the same when the numbers come in.

If the numbers look the same then how do we as a contractor decide which panel manufacturer to go with? It’s easy. Look at the warranty, salt mist rating and the price. You wouldn’t by a new $30,000 car without a good warranty and service plan so why buy a $30,000 solar system without a good warranty and service plan.

The largest contributing factor to the system efficiency is not the panels. It is the inverter. This is where the bottleneck occurs.

System Design Matters

Over the past 37 years we have come to realize the system design plays the most important roll in performance. By design we mean panel layout and inverter selection or architecture.

You can purchase the most expensive, most efficient panel on the planet but if the system architecture doesn’t share the same efficiencies then you’ve just wasted a whole lot of money.

System Architecture

There are two main system architectures (we have installed thousands of each) the string inverter verses the micro inverter. Once again a quick web search will show you that each technology is superior to the other. We install either depending on the circumstance. Here is a little Pro-Con list we’ve put together.

string inverter vs micro inverter

During the past several years we have moved further away from the string inverter architecture and on to the newer micro-inverter technology. This move is mainly due to system reliability and performance. We run a full service department and warrant our systems, which means we are liable if these systems are under performing.

Since the switch to micro inverters (Enphase), troubleshooting by our Service Department has become very easy and we have fewer and fewer production complaints from customers.

In the past if a customer lost a string inverter, we would receive a call as soon as they realized the sting inverter had failed because that meant the entire system failed. With micro inverters it’s usually Haleakala Solar Service Department informing the customer they need an inverter serviced because the customer didn’t notice the loss in production… at least not an entire catastrophic failure.

We have found upfront costs for the micro inverter architectures to be 5 to 10% more than traditional string inverter architectures. However, the added monitoring capabilities and long term system production have always surpassed the string architecture efficiencies. This then decreases the payback time and increases the return on investment. In recent years the costs associated with micro inverters have come down so this price discrepancy is now becoming smaller and smaller. So… in a nutshell, you either pay a little more upfront for Micro Inverters or get less efficiency in the long term and limited troubleshooting with string inverters.

Summary

Each customer is different. Each situation has design criteria that must be met. Very rarely is there a case where one size fits all in construction. My advice to investing in a good solar system is:

  1. Consider the panel placement and determine if higher density panels are required. If not, go with standard panels (1 high density panel watt = 1 standard density panel watt).
  2. Consider a panel manufacturer that will live up to its warranty (some have salt water exclusion clauses you need to be aware of here in Hawaii).
  3. Strongly consider the investment in Micro Inverters given their warranties, waterproof enclosures, system efficiencies and monitoring capabilities.
  4. Choose a solar contractor with a track record… a good track record. According to Forbes magazine 80% of small businesses fail within the first 18 months. The trend is your friend and we’ve already witnessed this struggle with PV Contractors in the Hawaiian Islands (mostly due to utility grid saturation). Your system warranties are only as good as the contractor who installs your system.

In the end, all solar power is good. It’s a never-ending free resource. I think Thomas Edison put it best in 1931. We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. … I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.

Have a Great Sunny Day,

Keith Hertz

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Blessing of PV/Battery System for Maui Home That Goes Completely Off The Utility Grid

Maui is bracing this weekend as Hurricane Ana makes its way through the island chain. Families are stocking up on supplies and tying down loose ends around the house. Many are planning, in the event they lose electricity… stocking up on batteries for flashlights, extra candles and even portable generators. One Maui family, though, isn’t worried about this blackout scenario. Why not? This family is completely energy self-sufficient. They don’t get ANY of their electricity from the utility company. At all. Not a single watt. So if power lines go down and their Wailuku neighborhood loses power, they might not even realize it. Well, until one of neighbors come over to ask if they can run an extension cord, that is.

Jim Whitcomb - CEO of Haleakala Solar

Jim Whitcomb
CEO of Haleakala Solar

On Thursday, October 16th, the Maui family had an official blessing with family, friends and many key members from Haleakala Solar, including founder and CEO, Jim Whitcomb. The blessing was done by Rev. Alika and all were gathered to celebrate the new state of the art PV/Battery system installed by Haleakala Solar. The homeowners waited over a year and still didn’t get approval from the utility company to install a photovoltaic system. After such a long wait, and lots of frustration, they decided to move ahead without MECO’s approval and go ahead and install the solar photovoltaic system along with a state-of-the-art Aquion battery storage system and back-up propane generator. Soon, they will officially be the first home in the state of Hawaii to disconnect from the electric company and run their own fully self-sufficient energy system. MECO is set to come in the next week to remove the electrical meter from their home.

The homeowners remarked, “This has been an exciting project, and we can’t believe it’s finally happening. Everyone that we’ve interacted with in Haleakala Solar has been passionate about what they do, from the employees all the way up to the big guy. And, that says a lot about a company. So, we’d like to thank you, Jim.”

How does this system work? In the simplest terms, electricity is generated with solar rooftop photovoltaic panels. The energy created is then fed into battery units. The batteries provide the electricity for the home. If not enough electricity is generated due to cloudy skies, for example, a back-up generator automatically kicks in and charges the batteries while simultaneously providing the household’s energy needs. Thus, the home is never out of electricity. Even if, say… a hurricane comes along and knocks out electricity to the rest of the island.

Maui Solar Photovoltaic Panels
Solar Photovoltaic and Battery Storage System
Solar Battery Storage Maui
battery terminal
Haleakala Solar Guys

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Project: Kihei Akahi Solar Hot Water

Solar Hot Water Project for Kihei Akahi Complex

The solar hot water project Haleakala Solar installed for the Kihei Akahi condo complex consisted of replacing the existing boiler with new induced draft gas water heaters as well as installing 60 new 4′ x 10′ Sun Earth solar hot water panels with a 3,500 gallon storage tank for EACH of the buildings. So, in total, there were two 3,500 gallon tanks with two new induced draft gas water heaters and 120 total solar hot water collectors installed.

The scope of the project required the use of a large crane. The purpose of the crane was to place each 3,500 gallon storage tank, which weighed 4,938 lbs., into position while avoiding existing trees, a MECO electrical transformer, and the existing building. The tanks needed to be placed perfectly on the concrete slab and footings that were measured and poured precisely to specs. Precision was crucial in getting everything to line up and fit nicely between all of the obstacles. We also used the crane to hoist all of the collectors onto the roof.

This video shows how we installed one of these hefty 4,938 lb. storage tanks using a large crane:

installing akahi hot water solar

solar hot water panels in Kihei Akahi Maui

akahi-solar-hot-water-5

akahi-solar-hot-water-4

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Blessing of the New State-of-the-Art Off-Grid Battery System

First Family In Hawaii To Disconnect From The Utility Grid

Kahului, Maui – Haleakala Solar, Inc. announces the blessing of its latest and most advanced, off-grid solar system in the state of Hawaii. The system fulfills the complete expectations and desires of the homeowners to safely and conveniently become independent from the utility company at a cost comparable to grid pricing.

The system is designed to provide 100% of the home owners electricity needs 24/7. In the event the batteries need to be charged, or the homeowner needs more electricity than the solar provides, a propane generator automatically turns on to charge the batteries. The generator is sized to be able to handle 100% of the home’s energy needs and charge the batteries at the same time. The homeowners will never be without electricity even after a hurricane or power blackout. The system is designed to function automatically.

The system utilizes the Aquion battery which is the most advanced battery in the world. The Aquion battery has no hazardous materials in its construction, is maintenance free, and has a useful life of 20 years. These features combine to make battery systems cost effective for any use. The system stores 60 KWH of electricity and has 17.6KW of inverter capacity which is enough to run the entire household electrical load at once. High efficiency PV panels charge the system throughout the day and store energy for nighttime use. Haleakala Solar is the oldest solar company in Hawaii. Since 1977 the company has installed over 11,000 solar systems. The company is a vertically integrated full service organization. The company has a full time service department servicing all of its customers as well as any other solar system that may need repair. The company specializes in PV, solar hot water, solar swimming pool heating, solar air conditioning, energy conservation products, and battery systems. The products are available for both residential and commercial clients.

On Thursday October 16, 2014 at 4:00 p.m., the Reverend Alika from Keawalai Church at Makena Landing will conduct a Hawaiian blessing of the new facilities. The homeowners will be having their electric meter from MECO removed and go 100% off-grid for their electricity soon after the blessing.


View news article from the Maui News:

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Jim Whitcomb Discusses Hawaii Solar Future On Akaku

Hawaii’s Solar Future Is At A Crossroads

Jim Whitcomb deiscusses Hawaii Solar future and HECO energy planAkaku’s TV program, Crossroads, put an important spotlight on the proposed HECO energy plan that the PUC will be deciding on in the near future. The show hoped to motivate the public to express their comments and thoughts about the new energy plan to the PUC, who is accepting public comments until Monday, October 6th. The public will be very much affected by what happens with these new policies and yet a lot of the public don’t even know that anything is being decided right now. So, that’s why this discussion about this topic is so important.

The host of the show, Lucienne DeNaie, sat down with three special guests in the Hawaii energy field, Brad Albert from Rising Sun, Daniel Grantham, Energy Committee Chair of Sierra Club Maui, and Jim Whitcomb from Haleakala Solar, the longest standing solar company in Hawaii.

Special guests on Crossroads TV show discuss Hawaii Solar and HECO

Topics covered in depth were:

• the provision to charge solar system users a higher fee
• the need to upgrade the grid to accommodate more clean renewable energy, and what that takes in terms of funding and infrastructure
• what does solar industry need to survive and thrive?
• were solar industry reps invited to the recent (August) MECO public briefing?
• Is it likely that more solar users will go off grid? What are the factors that would influence that?

Here is a short segment of the show. Jim Whitcomb expresses his thoughts about the HECO energy plan and suggests a good solution.

It was quite an informative program leaving you eager to hear more. All of the guests made excellent comments and gave informed insights, urging the public to email the PUC with their concerns about Hawaii’s solar future. You may view the entire show by visiting this link: Crossroads.

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PUC Requests Public Comments on HECO Energy Plan

Dear neighbors, friends, family, and residents of the Aloha State,

The Hawaii solar industry needs your help! PUC is now accepting comments from the public that will be taken into consideration when they decide about HECO’s new Energy Plan. Not quite sure what to say? Letters to the editor of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser have been rolling in, with the vast majority expressing disappointment and disbelief with HECO’s plan. For your convenience, here are “Letters to the Editor” that ran in the Star-Advertiser in the past few weeks. Shows you how powerful the voices for solar can be together.

Deadline for submitting public comments is this Monday, October 6.

In May, HECO submitted an integrated resource plan that Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) rejected, saying that the utility has a “continuing void in developing a sustainable business model and strategic vision.”

The PUC gave HECO four months to come up a better plan for Hawaii’s energy future. They demanded the utility integrate more renewables, provide easier access to solar, phase out costly power plants, utilize tools such as energy storage and demand response, as well as invest in a modern smart grid that would improve reliability and accommodate greater quantities of clean energy.

In late August 2014, HECO unveiled their new plan and have been quick to point out highlights: reduce residential electric bills by more than 20%, obtain over 65% of the companies’ energy through renewable resources, and nearly triple the amount of rooftop solar to equal over 900 MW by the year 2030. This may sound great on the surface, but many solar supporters are angry and confused over the proposed “improvements.”

For one thing, HECO is planning to charge all customers a monthly fee of $50 to $61 for grid maintenance, while also adding an additional $12 to $16 charge for customers selling solar electricity back into the grid through net metering. To offset the monthly fee, HECO would lower its charge per kilowatt-hour, which would benefit non-solar customers the most. In addition, HECO would reduce the net metering payment from the retail rate of more than $0.30/kWh currently to the wholesale rate of $0.16.

Customers often turn to solar energy to save money, and HECO is taking away these financial incentives. A Big Island homeowner, who invested in solar to use the savings for her kids’ college fund, wrote that she was “disgusted” that Hawaii Electric Light Co. is proposing to charge them more for using less energy. Another customer said the proposal would raise his monthly electric bill by 220%. “Since I have PV that I installed under NEM, and it produces just enough electricity to balance what I use each month and hence pay just the minimum connection charge, I will not benefit from any proposed reduction in retail rates, and HECO wants me to pay an additional charge [per] month to connect to the grid,” the customer said.

HECO also talks about tripling rooftop solar by 2030, but this figure actually represents a significant slowdown compared to historic growth, where Hawaii’s solar industry doubled installations every year from 2008 to 2012.

“Nearly tripling over 16 years is about a 7 percent increase each year. That is very meager compared to the very strong growth we are seeing in the last five years,” said Isaac Moriwake, an attorney at Earthjustice. “It’s far from clear whether 7 percent a year is going to sustain a vibrant solar industry and allow customers to take control of their energy future.”

We agree with the Star-Advertiser who says, “Tell this utility, with its public franchise and highly compensated executives, that this plan doesn’t go far enough in meeting its public responsibility.”

As the PUC is evaluating HECO’s plan, here’s where the good news come in. They want to hear your thoughts on Hawaiian Electric’s proposed changes, and we are humbly asking you to let your voice be heard.

Deadline for submitting public comments is this Monday, October 6.

You can submit your comments in the following ways:
1. Email hawaii.puc@hawaii.gov with the following subject line:
– “Public Comment – Docket No. 2014-0192 – DGIP – [Your Name]” if submitting comments on the DGIP
– “Public Comment – Docket No. 2014-0183 – PSIPs – [Your Name]” if submitting comments on the PSIPs
2. E-Filing
3. First-class mail to the PUC at 465 S. King Street, Room 103 Honolulu, HI 96813
4. Hand delivery to the PUC during normal business hours of Monday – Friday between 7:45 am – 4:30 pm

Hawaii is leading the way to a clean energy future and we can’t let anyone stand in our way. Thank you for taking the time to tell HECO you deserve better!

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