HECO says its trying to connect more customers to the grid

KITV - September 19, 2014
Nana Ohkawa

HONOLULU, Hawaii —Wannabe solar customers in Hawaii said they are running into one big obstacle, a long waiting game to connect to the grid. Dozens showed up on Friday to hear how Hawaiian Electric is planning to move the process along.

About 4,500 people are waiting to connect to the grid. Some are homeowners others like Greg Malick said it's for their church.

"Our church put photovoltaics on the roof and it's been waiting months. I know the switch is on the off position and they have to wait for HECO to approve everything," said Malick.

"HECO could start moving to embrace a different business model, more friendly toward renewable energy, smart grids and lowering prices," said Sen. Mike Gabbard, chair of the Energy and Environment Committee.

HECO said its trying to do that by looking at new technology and starting to test inverters that may allow the electric company to raise the grid threshold from 120 percent to 150 percent. That would allow more customers to connect their PV systems on the grid.

"We are actively pursuing new technology like energy storage and advanced inverter settings, as well as two way communication systems, as part of a modern smart grid that will allow for more renewable energy," said Cynthia Lin Sugiyama, spokesperson for Hawaiian Electric.

The Alliance for Solar Choice that advocates for the solar industry said it disagrees with the way HECO is moving toward a greener future.

"Move to time of use rate, look at customer minimum bills set at an appropriate manner. These are two concrete concepts that can be taken immediately. We think these can help with customers interested with Hawaii's goals," said Kevin Fox with The Alliance for Solar Choice.

TASC at the briefing also asked for a review of HECO's proposed plan of raising the minimum bill for those connected to the grid from around $17 to $55 and an extra $16 for those with PV. TASC said that minimum is way too high, a complaint many solar users echoed at the briefing.