PUC Requests Public Comments on HECO Energy Plan

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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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