In Hawaii, where 12 percent of the homes have solar panels, handling the surplus power is putting pressure on the state’s biggest utility, which is fighting to reduce what it pays for the energy.
Watch the video and answer the questions below.
1 How long has Joyce been waiting to have solar panels installed?
2 How much does Joyce’s neighbour pay for their electricity bill?
3 What kind of power does the American public want?
4 What problem does the traditional utility circuit power have?
5 How long did Michael John take to have the system installed and running in his home?
6 How much does he pay for electricity in June and July?
7 How much does the maintenance of the power system cost?
8 When will Joyce have her panels finally installed?
I have been waiting three years, three years, to have solar panels installed. My neighbour across has solar panels. The ones that already have solar panels, they just pay $18 a month. I pay 395, almost $400. They say that the grid is full and I have just to wait and so… I’m still waiting.
Hawaiians have some of the highest electric bills in the country, and so they have rushed to install photovoltaic or PV systems on their rooftops, so they can make their own power.
We’re not just talking about saving the planet here. We’re talking about saving the paying from being held hostage by the utility companies. The American public wants solar energy. I don’t care whether they’re in Oklahoma, New York, California or Hawaii. Whatever happens in Hawaii is gonna happen in the main land. It’s just a matter of waiting.
Nationwide, Hawaii is on the forefront of solar adoption, and other states are watching to see how HE Co, Hawaii’s main utility, reimagines its business.
We don’t have the luxury to look at another state and say how was it done there and instead we sort of have to figure out on our own. The traditional utility circuit power starts off at Hilla substation and flows power one way to each home that we serve.
And the challenges the grid was designed to handle the power flowing in one direction but now it’s going back and forth between our customers’ rooftops back into the rest of the grid.
The combined output of all of our rooftop solar systems up the circuit back into our substation feeding into the grid can really potentially bring the entire island’s system out.
Infrastructure upgrades to avoid that worst-case scenario are expensive and HE Co has moved slowly, some critics say too slowly.
What should have been a ninety-day project turned into five, four months to yet completely install, set up and running. And now I make more electricity than I use, usually June and July it’s free, so that was great.
But, of course, if you play the model business out to the end whereby you get full credit for every bit of electricity that you produce, then the utility company doesn’t make any money and they go out of business. And, of course, we don’t have the grid that we can have the solar energy.
Providing basic electric service, power at night, back-up power, all of that PV customers are not paying for fully and instead of being paid for by customers of ours who don’t have PV systems, and right now it’s to the tune of over $50 million.
Hawaiian Electrics wants to cut the rate it pays customers for their solar energy in half so that the solar customers will be paying their fair share of overall service costs.
Now I’m a total abdicate for this because what it does to us it allows the business model play out to the end. The utility companies, their job becomes store the energy, manage it, move it where is need it, let the public create generation facilities by benefitting everybody.
So it’s an extremely interesting time, you know, it creates a lot of burden for us, a lot of pressure. We have some customers who have been waiting for quite some time. We committed to caring 90% of them by April of this year.
I’ve waited, I’ve waited so long but when you say it’s April, and so I’m all excited. I’ll save lots of money, am I correct?
1 three years
3 solar energy
4 the grid was designed to handle the power flowing in one direction
5 five, four months
8 in April