Hawaii Continues Unprecedented Growth in Energy Efficiency

Hawaii
Daniel Pidgeon, ERS, for Zondits

As most of us may guess, Hawaii leads the nation in solar panels per capita. But there is still a substantial percentage of the market that cannot participate in solar programs. To increase participation, the legislature passed a law mandating utilities to create community renewables programs. However, the utilities had to figure out how to add these projects to a grid that already faces saturation by solar over-generation in the middle of the day. After some deliberation, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) filed an order on February 10 creating shared solar projects that will be compensated differently based on the time of day, alleviating the problem of over-generation in the middle of the day. Subscribers to the Community-Based Renewable Energy (CBRE) program will earn 20% more for power shipped to the grid during the 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. peak hours compared to midday (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), and off-peak hours from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. will earn 10% more than midday hours.

In order to provide customers with renewable energy options in the off-peak hours (after the sun has set), the utilities are pairing energy storage with solar and wind installations. Despite advanced batteries being expensive, Hawaii is one of the unique places where the additional cost of adding storage to a solar project still pays off.

The utilities and other stakeholders will submit comments on the PUC’s plan by March 1 before the framework is finalized. Hopefully the favorable market dynamics will set an important policy precedent.


How Hawaii’s New Shared Renewables Program Could Benefit the Electric Grid

Greentech Media, February 14, 2017

Hawaii will move ahead with a first-of-its-kind community renewables program designed to incentivize dispatchable power at times of peak grid demand.

The island state leads the nation in rooftop solar per capita, but many who live there cannot participate in that market. To serve renters, multifamily-housing dwellers, and residents who don’t have a high enough credit score or enough available sun to install their own solar modules, the legislature passed a law mandating that utilities create community renewables programs. The utilities then had to figure out how to add these projects to a grid that already faces saturation by solar over-generation in the middle of the day, with nowhere to export to.

After some fits and starts, the Public Utilities Commission amalgamated the stakeholder viewpoints and filed an order Friday to create shared solar projects that will be compensated differently based on the time of day that they provide power. (To access, search for docket 2015-0389 at the Hawaii PUC website.)

Subscribers to the “Community-Based Renewable Energy” (CBRE) program will earn 20 percent more for power shipped to the grid during the 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. peak hours compared to midday, defined as 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The off-peak hours from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. will earn 10 percent more than midday hours. Plants that commit to almost exclusively providing power during peak hours will earn an even higher rate of compensation.

Savvy observers of the sun may notice that it has long since vanished from Hawaii when 10 p.m. rolls around. This pricing isn’t a scheme to trick community solar participants, but an effort to reward dispatchability, which will most likely be provided by pairing energy storage with the solar and wind installations.

Due to the expense of advanced batteries and the still-emerging use cases for them, the additional cost of adding storage to a solar project only pays off in select places. As it happens, Hawaii is one of those places.

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