A lot of states are being aggressive about turning to renewable energy but Hawaii’s biggest utility may just have unveiled the most ambitious plan yet and it includes a very significant commitment to rooftop solar on homes and buildings. Under the plans submitted to the Public Utility Commission The Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) plans to source 65 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and nearly triple the amount of rooftop solar it has in its network—all while reducing electric bills significantly—by 20 percent.
It might sound radical but Hawaii electric costs are much higher than most—if not all—of the U.S. and solar power has already reached parity (equality) with other energy sources on the islands. That’s largely because the island state is far from the rest of the U.S. grid and the majority of power plants in the state run on imported diesel, which is more expensive than coal and natural gas. As such Hawaii’s already leasing the nation in renewables with more than 18 percent of its electricity coming from renewables.
“This plan sets us on a path to a future with more affordable, clean, renewable energy,” said Dick Rosenblum, Hawaiian Electric president and CEO. “It’s the start of a conversation that all of us – utilities, regulators and other policymakers, the solar industry, customers and other stakeholders – need to be a part of, as we work together to achieve the energy future we all want for Hawaii.”
The new plan was submitted in response to the commission’s requirements in April 2014. The new commission requirements maintain that the utilities must support policies that are fair to all customers—including those that generate their own power with wind or solar and use the utility as backup power.
Under the new plan HECO said it will create: “A clear, open planning process [that] will let customers and solar contractors know how much more solar can be added each year. Grid enhancements will make possible increased integration of solar power. And optimized control settings for solar equipment will improve safety and reduce the risk of power outages,” it said.
In addition the utilities will add in more energy storage systems, including batteries. The energy storage systems will help make it easier to add in more solar by helping to condition the grid and can help keep the power on at critical facilities like hospitals—even if the grid goes down. HECO said it is evaluating proposals for energy storage projects on Oahu that should be in service by early 2017. It’s also planning energy storage projects on its other service territories.
The electric company also plans to add in more community solar and micro grid systems to allow customers more renewable energy options, including demand response programs that offer incentives for reducing energy use when needed.Tweet