- The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has issued a ruling that will end the state's existing net metering program, the Pacific Business Journal reports.
- The PUC approved two new programs for customers who want to install solar — self-supply and grid-supply options — that will be available later this month.
- While the existing net metering program compensated solar customers at the retail rate, the new options compensate customers at a new fixed rate if they are supplying power back to the grid, or provide customers with a minimum bill if they are not.
As Hawaii pushes towards a goal of 100% renewables by 2045, the state's regulators have eliminated the policy that propelled the state to reaching a higher penetration of rooftop solar than any other U.S. state.
“Hawaii is at a critical juncture in pursuit of achieving a 100 percent renewable portfolio standard in the electric power sector,” the PUC said. “Extraordinary high retail electricity prices, combined with dramatic cost declines in renewable energy and storage technologies, have combined to transform the competitive landscape facing the state’s electric utilities.”
The move follows HECO's request in July that regulators reduce the rate for net metering customers while increasing the minimum monthly bill for new solar users. The utility had argued that such a move will help it reach its goal of tripling the amount of rooftop solar on the grid and advance its ability to meet the state's 100% renewables goal.
The PUC said nothing will change for existing net metering customers, nor those who submitted applications for the program before Monday. But those who submitted the applications afterwards will have to choose two new options when installing solar.
The self-supply option -- a non-export option -- allows a limited amount of inadvertent energy exportation to the grid without any compensation. Residential customers who choose this option will have a minimum bill of $25, while small commercial customers will have a $50 minimum bill.
The grid-supply option will open the door for exporting excess energy to the grid for credits against customer bills so long as the exports benefit the electric system. While similar to net metering, this option does not credit customers at the retail rate. Instead, the new grid-supply programs credits customers at a fixed rate between $0.15/kWh to $0.28/kWh, depending on the island on which they are located.
The PUC suggested in its ruling that Hawaiian Electric offer new tariffs to customers to boost customer choice, open new options for managing energy usage, review and update its interconnection rules, and establish a foundation for future policy adjustments.
The PUC said the main hurdle for the state now is making sure that distributed energy resources continue to scale in a way that benefits all utility customers. Opponents to the change in net metering policy believe the utility could save money by using exported rooftop solar power instead of power from bulk level power plants.