Will Proposed Solar Interconnection Rules in Hawaii Become a Blueprint for Other States?


As residential solar installations slow in Hawaii, legislators there introduce a bill to ensure reasonable timeframes and costs for connecting solar projects to the grid. HECO continues to express concerns about high grid penetration from solar.

Updated 1/31/2014 

Earlier this week, we ran a story about the state of solar in Hawaii. Installations in that state have slowed since Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) started charging $500 for solar permits, plus requiring approvals for each installation.


Hawaii lawmakers want to change this situation and keep the state in the top 10 for solar. Earlier this month, they introduced House Bill 1943, in an attempt to ensure that the time and costs involved in connecting solar projects is reasonable and follows a clear set of rules.


At the heart of the recent requirements imposed by HECO is a concern that the grid can’t handle the increasing amounts of solar coming into it in Hawaii. Significantly, this bill requires that the Public Utilities Commission start a discussion about this issue by July of this year, and consider what upgrades are needed to the Hawaii grid for the growing residential solar market.


Yesterday, Hawaii News Now reported that the bill has made it past its first hearing and is now headed to the House Consumer Protection and Finance committees. According to Hawaii News Now, legislators in Hawaii have serious concerns about a monopoly like HECO preventing solar from moving ahead. Not only are solar customers in limbo, but a large number of construction jobs in the state now depend on the solar industry.


The article quoted Bryan Miller, Vice President of Public Policy at home solar provider SunRun, as saying, “We’re asking for clarity, we’re asking for long-term planning where HECO can set clear rules and clear regulations but ultimately that’s going to need help from the regulators because HECO cannot be trusted to do this by itself.”


Not surprisingly, HECO officials have concerns about increased grid penetration from solar, and who will cover the cost of any needed improvements to the grid to accommodate it.


This will be an interesting discussion to watch. If Hawaii figures out how to deal with the situation it could create a blueprint for how the issue is handled in other states in the future.


UPDATE: On Friday, January 31, the Honolulu Star-Adviser reported that HECO will be issuing new guidelines for installing residential solar systems, with updated interconnection rules. The utility says the new guidelines will allow more PV systems to be installed in neighborhoods with high grid penetration. Specifics of the guidelines are yet to be released.