KITV 4 | April 16, 2015
“HECO has proposed that the net metering (NEM) program be changed dramatically (and) that the value of the power that you export effectively be cut in half,” Colin Yost, chief operating officer of Revolusun, told KITV4.
Under the current net energy metering program, HECO buys back excess solar power generated by rooftop systems at the going rate, which currently stands at 26.1 cents per kilowatt hour. But if the PUC approves HECO’s new plan announced in January, the buyback rate doesn’t make solar quite as appealing.
“It’s going to take longer to pay off your solar system for sure,” said Yost.
According to HECO, the payback period for a rooftop solar system on Oahu would increase from 5 to 9 years under the proposed rules. On the Big Island, the payback rate would go from 4 to 7 years, and on Maui, from 4 to 6 years.
HECO maintains its proposal allows for the installation of more rooftop solar systems in neighborhoods that were once thought to be saturated while also increasing fairness. The company said last year $53 million worth of maintenance costs were pushed onto consumers who don’t have a photovoltaic system. Presently, more than 51,000 customers have rooftop solar on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island where HECO operates.
However, for those who are still considering a new PV system, or perhaps just want to add a few more panels to one that’s already been installed, solar companies are urging against procrastination. Yost says you should fill out a net energy metering application as soon as possible.
“HECO has said that if the rules change … they would want the PUC to also say that anybody who adds new panels, even if they have an existing system, that their entire house, the old panels and the new, would all be subject to these new rules,” he said.
Last month the PUC ordered HECO and solar companies to try and reach a compromise on the proposed rule changes for PV systems. The 90-day bargaining period stretches until the end of June, but it’s unknown if a consensus can be reached.
“The solar industry will be advocating on behalf of consumers to the PUC,” said Yost. “It isn’t fair to try and reinvent things and to go retroactively. People should be allowed to stick to their original (NEM) plan.”
HECO spokesman Darren Pai said the company is taking a look at how existing NEM contracts will be handled under the new rules if a customer wants to add additional panels to their current PV system.
“Going forward, this is one of the issues that will be looked at as part of the collaborative process established by the PUC,” Pai said in a statement to KITV4. “We look forward to working with the PV companies and other stakeholders on developing solutions to integrate more rooftop solar systems in a way that’s fair, can be sustained, and ensures safe and reliable service for all customers.”
HECO has already said that under the new rules, existing NEM contracts will remain in place as long as the energy output from a rooftop system doesn’t change. State Rep. Chris Lee, who chairs the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, said the effect of the new rules on Hawaii’s solar industry is still unknown.
“There’s a lot of question as to what impact this is going to have, not only on the folks who’ve already installed solar, but everybody else,” he said. See full story at KITV