Hawaii’s Quick Connect Program cuts red tape, increases solar savings

Updated

hawaiian electric company announces new quick connect program
HECO’s new Quick Connect Program can help get solar panels on your roof faster, so you can start saving money sooner. Image source: PV Magazine

Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) recently announced its new Quick Connect Program to help the state’s solar industry recover from the coronavirus pandemic

Homeowners who participate in the program will get their solar panels installed and turned on faster than before, meaning they can start seeing savings on their electricity bills sooner. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at how exactly the Quick Connect Program works, what homeowners need in order to qualify, and how it is expected to help Hawaii’s economy in the wake of the pandemic. 

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    What is the Quick Connect Program?

    HECO introduced the Quick Connect Program as a way to help Hawaii’s economy recover from the COVID-19 pandmeic. The purpose of the program is to cut down the time it takes to install solar panels.

    With a typical solar installation, the installer has to receive utility approval before the system can be installed. In some cases, approval from HECO can take weeks - even months! Under the Quick Connect Program, solar panels can be installed prior to HECO’s full approval

    All that is required is a county electrical permit, which usually takes just a few days. Once an installer obtains an electrical permit, they can move forward with the installation without having to wait for the go-ahead from HECO. 

    Once the system is installed, it will have to go through the required city and county electrical inspections. Eventually, HECO will complete their review of the system. 

    How to qualify for the Quick Connect Program

    There are a few things that are required in order to qualify for the Quick Connect Program. 

    All solar systems must be in compliance with Public Utility Commission standards. Additionally, you must be located on the islands of Oahu, Maui, or Hawaii.

    HECO offers several different rooftop solar options for homeowners and there are different qualifications for each. 

    Customer Grid-Supply, Grid-Supply Plus, and Smart Export Programs

    If you decide to have your solar system supply electricity to the grid through HECO’s Grid-Supply, Grid-Supply Plus, or Smart Export Programs, you’ll need to see if your utility circuit can support new solar projects. 

    Because Hawaii has installed large amounts of solar in the past, some circuits are ‘oversaturated’ with solar power, making the grid unreliable. 

    If your home is on an oversaturated circuit, you will not be able to take advantage of the Quick Connect Program, as HECO will have to do an inspection to see if the utility infrastructure needs to be upgraded to handle additional solar capacity

    A circuit is considered oversaturated if it has a hosting capacity of 30% or less. If your circuit has a hosting capacity of 30% or more, you will qualify for the Quick Connect Program. You can check the hosting capacity in your area here

    Customer Self-Supply Program

    If you choose the Customer Self-Supply option, either with or without a solar battery, you don’t have to worry about your circuit’s hosting capacity

    Customer Self-Supply systems are required to consume all the solar energy a system makes as it is produced. This can be done either by sizing the system in such a way that it doesn’t produce more energy than the home consumes during the day, or by pairing the solar panels with energy storage. 

    Because these systems don’t send electricity to the grid, they aren’t adding stress to their utility circuit. That means they can qualify for the Quick Connect Program. 

    The Quick Connect Program leads to quick savings and new jobs

    By cutting down the amount of time it takes to install solar panels, the Quick Connect Program will provide immediate economic benefits to solar homeowners. 

    Between people losing their jobs, running up their electricity bills by staying home, and the price of electricity increasing, electric bill savings are more important now than ever. 

    The money solar homeowners save with their systems can then be used to stimulate other parts of the state’s economy - instead of going right to the utility. This can prevent further job losses in Hawaii, which has had some of the highest COVID-related unemployment rates in the country. 

    But that’s not the only way the Quick Connect Program can help the state’s unemployment recovery. In order to complete the new Quick Connect projects, Hawaiian solar installers will have to expand their workforce. That means new, good-paying solar jobs for the people of Hawaii. 

    Plus, solar installers can start to recoup the estimated $6.7 million in revenue that they lost between March and April due to the pandemic. This means that Quick Connect could potentially put more money into the economy by saving homeowners more money, giving more people jobs, and securing the solar industry. 

    Will other states follow Hawaii's lead in 2021?

    HECO’s new program is great news for homeowners looking to go solar and solar installers alike. It will get money in their pockets sooner, boost Hawaii’s economy, and help recover some of the jobs lost to COVID-19. 

    If the program is successful, HECO might consider extending the program past its one-year term. The success of this program could also encourage other states to implement similar programs. If programs like Quick Connect start popping up in other states, we can expect to see the same types of job increases and economic recovery that are projected for Hawaii. 

    Because it is expensive to ship solar equipment to the Hawaiian Islands, the Quick Connect Program likely won’t lead to a decline in solar prices in the state. 

    However, widespread adoption of programs like Quick Connect in the US could decrease the country’s average price to install solar. By cutting some of the red tape that surrounds solar interconnection, soft costs of solar could drop and the overall cost of installations would follow. 

    Overall, the HECO Quick Connect Program is excellent news for the whole state of Hawaii, and could pave a way for states throughout the country to speed up solar installations and lower the price of solar. 

    How much can you save this year by switching to solar?

    Key takeaways

    • Hawaii Electric Company launched the Quick Connect Program to shorten the solar installation process on the islands of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii, by allowing solar panels to be installed prior to approval by the utility.
    • The Quick Connect Program will last for one year, and was implemented to help Hawaii’s solar industry recover from the coronavirus pandemic by letting solar homeowners start saving sooner and increasing the number of solar jobs in the state.
    • To qualify for the Quick Connect Program, you must either register as a Customer Self-Supply system, pair your solar panels with energy storage, or be connected to a circuit with 30% or more hosting capacity.
    • If your circuit has a hosting capacity of less than 30%, you cannot take advantage of the Quick Connect Program.
    • If the Quick Connect Program is successful, it could encourage other states to implement similar programs which would expand the solar industry, promote job growth, and could even drop the cost of solar.
     - Author of Solar Reviews

    Catherine Lane

    SolarReviews Blog Author

    Catherine is a researcher and content specialist at SolarReviews. She has strong interests in issues related to climate and sustainability which led her to pursue a degree in environmental science at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

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