Back in April, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) gave Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) 120 days to come up with a comprehensive strategy that would meet customer needs of reduced rates and more access to renewable energy, especially solar photovoltaic systems. (If you want the whole story, read it here.)
HECO has responded with plans to 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.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Hawaii imported 93% of its energy in 2012, resulting in the highest electricity prices in the nation. Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc., and its subsidiaries, Hawaii Electric Light Company, Inc and Maui Electric Company, Limited, supplies electricity to approximately 450,000 customers or 95% of Hawaii’s population through its electric utilities.
Hawaii currently uses 18% renewable energy, higher than its 15% by 2015 state goal. HECO’s plans would increase consolidated renewable content of electricity to approximately 67%, surpassing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) of 40% by 2030.
Hawaiian Electric recognizes that Distributed Generation (DG) resources, particularly rooftop solar systems, are key to achieving Hawaii’s clean energy objectives. Going forward, HECO is basing their approach to DG on the following principles:
– Policies should lead to a sustainable set of customer options for DG
– The Companies must be proactive in responding to customer demand for DG
– All initiatives must ensure the safety and reliability of the grid for all customers
– Rates governing DG interconnections must fairly reflect the value of the power provided from and to the power grid, and must fairly allocate the fixed costs of the grid to all customers
HECO wants to create “a clear, open planning process” so both solar companies and customers will know how much solar can be added to the grid every year.
In order to accommodate increased customer demand for rooftop solar, HECO plans to work on modernizing the grid to ensure safe operating conditions and reliable power for all customers. Hawaiian Electric is implementing a smart grid program with applications that help customers monitor and control their energy use as well as provide system operators with accurate energy demand and generation information. The smart grid is already being tested in Oahu but needs to be customized to the needs of each island. Full implementation of the smart grid is expected to be complete on Maui County and the Big Island by the end of 2017 and by the end of 2018 on Oahu.
Energy storage, including batteries, is another important component of the utilities’ business strategy and will “be used to increase grid flexibility, operability, and reliability in a rapidly changing operating environment.”
Energy needs not generated by renewables will be met through liquefied natural gas (LNG), a lower cost alternative to costly oil.
“This plan sets us on a path to a future with more affordable, clean, renewable energy,” said Dick Rosenblum, Hawaiian Electric president and CEO. “It’s the start of a conversation that all of us – utilities, regulators and other policymakers, the solar industry, customers and other stakeholders – need to be a part of, as we work together to achieve the energy future we all want for Hawaii.”
The PUC will immediately begin an evaluation “to determine the extent in which the HECO Companies’ action plans are consistent with the Commission’s April orders and the State’s energy goals.”
If you want to read the HECO documents for yourself, visit here.