Hawaiian Electric preparing new phase of community solar

Release Date: 4/23/2020

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HONOLULU, April 23, 2020 – Hawaiian Electric is beginning work on a greatly expanded Community-Based Renewable Energy program, based on recent approvals by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

Unlike the first phase, which was limited to 8 megawatts, this phase will be open to 235 MW of renewable generation across Hawaiian Electric's five-island service territory, including Molokai and Lanai. The second phase places special emphasis on opportunities for low-and-middle-income residential customers to participate. In addition to private companies, Hawaiian Electric will be able to develop projects and recruit subscribers.

The commission also encourages Hawaiian Electric to explore expanded pay-as-you-go or on-bill repayment options for customers who cannot make a large down-payment, and other financing options that will encourage broad participation.

"We welcome the commission's ruling, especially the expressed goal to move ahead on a robust program that can help reinvigorate Hawaii's economy and support recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, while advancing our state's clean energy goals," said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of customer service. "We have a lot of procedural groundwork during the coming year before residential customers can begin to sign up, but we're committed to making this program work."

Although CBRE is open to any established renewable energy technology, it is more popularly known as community solar or "solar without a roof," as it allows customers who cannot put solar panels on the roof of a single-family home to participate in the solar movement and save money. This primarily includes renters and apartment residents, as well as many small commercial customers.

With CBRE, customers who choose to participate can subscribe to part of the solar power generated by a larger-scale facility located on their home island. They then will receive credit on electric bills according to the size and output of their portion of the solar facility.

The commission laid out an aggressive timeline over the coming months, including several technical conferences, for development of requests for proposals (RFP) and special rate structures aimed to benefit low-and-middle-income customers. The commission also dispensed with some regulatory reviews for smaller projects to move them along more quickly.

CBRE will use an RFP process like the ongoing effort to add over 1,000 MW of grid-scale renewable energy, energy storage and grid-support services to the five island grids. The commission also encouraged the company to seek "non-wires alternatives," that is placement of projects to reduce the need for expensive new substations, transformers, poles and wires when doing so allows for reliable service at lower cost. This is a solution the company is testing in the market and it welcomes the opportunity to pursue these objectives in tandem with CBRE.

Follow developments in community solar at http://www.hawaiianelectric.com/communitysolar.