What’s going on with solar on Oahu? It’s a question that many people have been asking since HECO released their new policy regarding the interconnection of PV on September 6th. The policy change made a dramatic impact on homeowners and solar companies across the island and has been the source of confusion for many. While the decision to implement new regulations was made in the name of safety, the unfortunate side effect has been a swell of misinformation and assumptions about the future of solar.
Rather than speculate about the future, let’s step back and get the facts straight about the present situation. First, what was HECO’s policy change?
The Policy Change
Previously, homeowners could install a PV system and notify HECO AFTER the installation. If the system was under 10k, HECO would approve it as a matter of course, with no additional cost to customer. Now, homeowners must notify HECO BEFORE installing a PV system and may be required to undergo additional utility reviews before moving forward. Depending on which circuit you’re connected to, the policy affects you in different ways and the financial implications vary. We’ll touch on that , but first, let’s look at why the policy was implemented to begin with.
Safety is the Issue
What does this Mean for You?
It depends on where you live. HECO has sorted all of its “circuits” – the lines that bring power to your home, into three categories. The rules for connecting to the grid depend on which of the three categories your circuit is located on. The categories are based on how much solar PV is connected to the circuit in your neighborhood. The more solar PV that is connected, the higher the “penetration level.” Circuits at higher penetration levels may need to be updated in order to continue connecting more PV systems to the grid. Under HECO’s new system, upgrades are more likely the higher the penetration level. When upgrades are required, the customer may incur additional costs.