HECO proposes new community renewables program

Dive Brief:

  • Hawaiian Electric Co. has proposed a Community-Based Renewable Energy program and tariff designed to broaden access to rooftop solar and support development of more renewable energy.
  • More than 40% of the state's households rent their homes and another 37% live in multi-unit buildings, making solar installation difficult.
  • The program would also include wind resources, and will allow small projects to qualify on a first-ready basis while larger projects will need to go through a competitive process.

Dive Insight:

Hawaii has been in the center of a nationwide struggle of utilities navigating the hurdles of distributed generation while the state transitions to the ambitious goal of running on 100% renewables by 2045. But the path isn't easy, as HECO noted as it rolls out its latest program aimed at opening access for rooftop solar for those without suitable roofs or rent homes and apartments. 

More than three quarters of Hawaiian residences are largely inaccessible for rooftop solar, according to HECO -- either the residents are renting, the rooftop is not the proper size, or they live in buildings with multiple units. But if the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approves a new community-based program it could greatly expand access to clean solar power while moving the state forward towards its 100% renewable goal.

“Expanding options is part of our efforts to deliver value for our customers,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric vice president for corporate planning and business development in a statement. “Encouraging more customer participation in renewable energy supports our vision to integrate more low-cost renewables that benefit all of our customers and to lower customer bills by 20% by 2030."

HECO's proposal would allow a variety of sizes and types of projects, including wind, to be developed, and the utility said projects will be considered in different-sized tiers to allow both small and large community renewable projects to participate.

HECO proposed that the first small solar projects, under 1 MW, will be qualified on a “first-ready” basis. Community-based solar projects larger than 1 MW, and community-based wind projects, will be selected through a competitive process. 

The utility hopes to begin selecting developers next year, but customers will need to wait until the projects are selected, approved and built to participate. The renewable energy program will be available on all islands HECO serves, but developers must undertake community projects on those islands.

HECO said it developed the proposal with a wide range of stakeholders, including the Energy Office of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. The plan was filed to comply with a state law directing the utility to create a community-based renewable energy tariff .

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Filed Under: Solar & Renewables
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