Hawaii is gaining a reputation in the solar industry as a litmus test for grid management as residents get a greater and greater percentage of their power from distributed renewable energy generation.
While Hawaii only ranks seventh in the country for installed solar capacity, utilities in the state started hitting their caps on integration agreements for rooftop solar installation in 2012. With nearly 10 percent of the population in most Hawaiian utility territories drawing power from the sun and feeding their excess onto the grid, Hawaii is the first to face the real grid integration issues that have had utilities in other states fearing for their futures.
Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission rejected Hawaii Electric Companies’ long-range plan because it didn’t incorporate enough rooftop solar and didn’t solve for potential grid instability.
Because the state relies primarily on imported fossil fuels for electricity, rates are nearly triple what they are in the rest of the United States. As the price of solar installations have plummeted, Hawaiians have put solar on their properties at record rates.
As utilities stopped allowing grid connection, Hawaiians started to defect from the grid in favor of solar installations.
The state is still wrangling with its solar policies and the utilities will have to find a way forward that could lead the rest of the nation to a solution that will allow for more solar and clean energy.
With strong public and government support, there’s no indication that growing pains will stall solar growth in Hawaii. Some of the state’s incentives are on hold while utilities work out the logistics, but Hawaii still has an ambitious goal to get 40 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2030.
To reach that goal, the state offers incentives like tax credits, a feed-in tariff, an evolving net metering program, and low-interest loan programs, Hawaii is helping its residents make the transition to solar and its renewable cousins. The state also offers rebates for solar hot water systems.