Have the spirits of potential Hawaiian solar consumers been broken? That’s what Blake Hayward with Poncho’s Solar Service says. He attributes the situation to rules imposed by Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO).
Hawaii residents and solar companies have been complaining for a while about extremely long waiting times to get their systems connected. A recent poll showed that 90% of Hawaiians believe that HECO is slowing rooftop solar to protect its profits.
Things were getting so bad in the state that the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) told HECO it needed a better plan to connect more solar PV systems to the grid.
While HECO now says it has plans to triple rooftop solar in Hawaii by 2030, details on how that will be accomplished are vague so far. Some even say the plan keeps HECO in control of solar and lowers the solar growth rate.
Time will tell, but for now, Hawaii has moved down several spots in the list of top solar states. Each month brings news of fewer permits being pulled for solar PV systems. In August, solar PV experienced the lowest number of permits in three years on Oahu. Honolulu had close to a 70% drop in permits from August last year. Overall, the first eight months of this year saw a decrease of about 50% from the same period last year.
The situation could be even worse than these numbers indicate, given that some of the permits are being pulled before a system has approval from HECO to connect to the grid.
What will turn this situation around?
If nothing else, the determination of Hawaiian residents will keep the push for solar going. We’ve seen that in the persistence of one homeowner we profiled, whose long solar saga finally led to a PV system and the big savings it can bring in Hawaii. Given how much Hawaiians love solar, and how much they can save in a state with very high grid electricity rates, more of them are bound to exhibit the same persistence. Residential solar giant SolarCity seems to agree, with its new permanent operations center in the state.
There may still be a tough road ahead for Hawaii solar, but we have confidence that the people, and the power of the sun, will prevail. It’s important for solar to win everywhere, and Hawaii, with its high grid penetration, can set an example for the rest of the U.S.