Customer Renewable Programs
Distributed Energy Resources FAQ
Q: What is Daytime Minimum Load (DML)?
A: When discussing electricity, "load" refers to the amount of electricity used by a customer.
Load varies throughout the day. In Hawaii, peak demand typically occurs between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. when most people arrive home from work, turn on the TV, start laundry, cook dinner, etc.
Daytime minimum load (DML) is lowest amount of electricity used during the day. This typically occurs during the middle of the day, when residential customers are out of the house and their homes are using little electricity. This coincides with the period of time when PV systems are operating at their peak, during midday when the sun is high. This can result in having an excess of available PV energy.
The total amount of distributed energy resource on a circuit can be calculated as a percentage of the DML. In circuits with a generation-to-DML ratio over 250% extra care must be taken to ensure safe, reliable interconnection of distributed energy resources systems. This may require advanced equipment specified by the utility.
Visit the Locational Value Map, or LVM, on our website to find out the generation-to-DML percentage on your neighborhood circuit.
Q: Why did the PUC close NEM?
A: The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved these new rooftop PV programs to support the continued growth of rooftop PV and ensure safe, reliable service and fair treatment for all customers. The decision is the result of the PUC's effort to develop long-term technical and policy solutions that will support the continued growth of rooftop PV in Hawaii.
The PUC also directed that these new options will replace the NEM program. Customers with a current NEM agreement and those with valid pending applications hand delivered or postmarked on or before October 13, 2015 will continue under the NEM program.
Q: Can I still apply for Net Energy Metering (NEM)?
A: No. The PUC has declared that the NEM program is fully subscribed and closed to new customers on October 12, 2015. Customers with a current NEM agreement and those with valid pending NEM applications hand delivered or postmarked on or before October 13, 2015 will continue under the NEM program.
Any application that was hand delivered or postmarked after October 13, 2015 will need to be converted to another program.
Q: How does a high DML potentially cause reliability problems?
A: Many distribution circuits have Distributed Energy Resource systems that generate more electricity than customers use, which can result in power flowing in reverse back into the grid. This can result in high voltage conditions that may damage a customer's home, your electronics or appliances, or even your neighbors' electrical equipment. In addition, the power produced by wind or PV systems fluctuates with changes in the wind, cloud cover, time of day, and weather conditions. These rapid fluctuations in power can damage utility equipment designed to regulate voltage levels on a circuit.
Q: What is the difference between Customer Self-Supply (CSS) and Customer Grid-Supply (CGS)?
A: CSS is intended only for solar PV installations that are designed to not export any electricity to the grid. Customers are not compensated for any export of energy.
CGS customers receive a PUC-approved credit for electricity sent to the grid and are billed at the retail rate for electricity they use from the grid.
Q: Is one program better than another?
A: The programs are designed to provide options for different kinds of customers. Therefore, one program is not necessarily better than another; it simply depends on what suits your particular situation. Please consult our website to help you choose the best program to fit your needs.
Q: Is there a cost to apply for either CGS or CSS?
A: No, there are no application or processing fees.
Q: Will I be taxed on the credits I receive for the energy that I produce?
A: This is a question that your tax advisor should answer for you. Each customer's circumstances may be different and it is not appropriate for the company to render tax advice.
However, it should be noted that the CGS program provides customers credits for excess energy produced by their PV systems in the same manner as the legacy NEM program.
The CSS and SIA programs do not provide credit for exported electricity.
Schedule Q is the only Distributed Energy Resource program that pays money at a fixed tariff based on avoided cost (avoided cost is currently updated monthly. For example, the rate is 11.69 cents/kilowatt-hour for 9/2015) for electricity sent to the grid.
Customers are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax advisor or legal counsel since the facts and circumstances for the various programs differ and could affect taxability.
Q: Can I switch between CSS and CGS?
A: No. It is important that the selection of the appropriate program is made at the beginning of the process. If an Applicant desires to switch programs after the application has been approved, the Applicant will need to re-apply to the appropriate program and establish a new position in the Distributed Energy Resource Queue.
Q: What is the Distributed Energy Resource queue?
A: First Come, First Served
The Hawaiian Electric Companies' Distributed Energy Resource programs are available to all customers on a first come, first served basis.
The Distributed Energy Resource Queue
The Distributed Energy Resource Queue reserves capacity for your Distributed Energy Resource system on the circuit that serves your location. Placement in the queue occurs once your submitted application has passed the initial completeness review.
Your Project Completion Time Frame
After your application has been Conditionally Approved, to be fair to other customers who may be waiting to apply on circuits that already have a high amount of installed distributed generation, the Hawaiian Electric Companies' policy is that you must finish your project within an 12-month time frame for systems under 10 kW and 18-month time frame for systems >10kW. The time frame for completion begins from the date of your Conditional Approval. A one-time extension of 180 days may be requested in writing, but this must be sent during the last two months before your designated time frame expires. If you exceed all deadlines, your application will be cancelled and your reserved circuit capacity forfeited. You would then need to reapply and start at the beginning of the process.
*Please be aware that the application processes, including the queuing process, are subject to change without notice
Q: What if I already submitted an application and want to add capacity or change parts of my Distributed Energy Resource system?
A: When the PUC created the CGS and CSS programs, it determined that if an existing NEM customer adds more capacity to their PV system, they would need to transition to another program, such as CGS, CSS, or SIA.
Q: How does my credit show on my bill?
A: For CGS customers, your energy credits will appear as a separate line item.
Q: How do I read my meter?
A: Hawaiian Electric Companies read customer meters once a month in order to generate your bill.
For a CGS customer, your meter is a bi-directional meter and tracks the amount of electricity passing back and forth between the utility and you. For CGS customers, on your monthly bill, if more electricity was produced than consumed while your system was producing, you will receive a credit for the overage per the approved PUC tariff rate on your account. You will be billed for all electricity delivered to you at your current schedule rate.
For other Distributed Energy Resource Interconnection programs, since back feeding excess electricity into the grid is either not allowed or not recommended the meter will simply show a reduction in the electricity received from the utility.
Q: How do I read a bidirectional meter?
A: A bidirectional meter records electricity moving both to and from your property and keeps track of energy delivered and received measured in kilowatt hours, or kWh.
The kWh amounts displayed on your meter are cumulative and do not reset each month. For customers with demand meters, the demand or kW amount is reset at the end of each month's billing cycle.
Q: How much electricity am I actually using?
A: Because your CGS bidirectional meter only tracks the excess electricity you generate but don't consume, figuring out how much electricity you actually use each month takes a little bit of math.
Calculate Your System's Total Monthly Production
If you receive production reports from your inverters, tally up how many kilowatt-hours your system produced during the service period for the month you are researching. You'll find these dates under Service Period in the Account Summary section of your bill.
Add Your Total Production to the NET Amount on Your Bill
The NET amount on your bill is the difference between your excess electricity production and the extra supplied to you, when needed, by the utility. Of course, if you are a CSS or a SIA customer, you will have used all your system's production; none of it should have gone to the utility.
Now You Have Your Actual Electricity Usage
Comparing the total system production of your PV system to the NET amount on your bill reveals your actual electricity usage. As PV system production varies with season and weather, its total generation will also vary from month to month. Doing this calculation will most likely show moderate variations in your month-to-month electricity usage, just as there was before you had a PV system.
Doing this regularly will alert you if there are any dramatic changes in electricity usage, which would be difficult to detect if you only relied on your bills.
Q: What steps should I consider first?
A: Energy conservation and efficiency actions are the best and cheapest way to save energy, reduce your energy bills, and protect the environment. Your first step should be to take a look at your electricity usage and needs, then consider and apply measures that will help you conserve energy and be more efficient. By first reducing your energy usage you may also be able to reduce the size of your proposed Distributed Energy Resource system and potentially lower your up-front installation costs.
Some energy efficiency options may include switching to CFLs or LEDs for lighting, installing a solar water heater, and replacing older, inefficient appliances with Energy Star® models. Other conservation measures may include turning down the thermostat on electric water heaters, fixing leaking faucets, and doing away with a second refrigerator or seldom used freezer.
Q: Where can I find a licensed contractor to install Distributed Energy Resource systems such as CGS and CSS?
A: Information on contractors specializing in distributed generating systems is available from a number of sources. Below are just a few:
- Phone book yellow pages under "solar" and "electric contractors"
- Newspaper ads
- Friends, relatives, and neighbors who have installed solar systems
- On the web by searching for "solar contractors Hawaii"
- Hawaii Solar Energy Association, www.hsea.org
- North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), www.nabcep.org
- State of Hawaii Professional and Vocational Licensing (PVL) search -This search is designed to help the public obtain basic information about businesses and individuals that hold professional and vocational licenses issued by the State of Hawaii, http://pvl.ehawaii.gov/pvlsearch/app
Q: How do I get information about incentives and tax credits for PV and other renewable energy systems?
A: Consult the following sources for information about available state and federal incentives and tax credits for PV and other renewable energy systems:
- Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRESOLARTM) www.dsireusa.org.
- Hawaii Department of Taxation
Taxpayer Services Branch
P.O. Box 259
Honolulu, HI 96809
Phone: (808) 587-4242
Web Site: tax.hawaii.gov
In addition, contact your contractor to discuss contractor incentives or financing opportunities that may be available.
Q: How do I get more information about Distributed Energy Resources and renewable energy for my home?
A: If you have questions about renewable energy installations or need more information about Distributed Energy Resources or the required forms that must be submitted to the Hawaiian Electric Companies, please review our FAQs first to see commonly asked questions.
If you still have questions, please call us at 808-548-7311.
Q: How long will it take to approve my application?
A: Per the current Rule 14, which governs the interconnection of all Distributed Energy Resource systems with the distribution grid, the timetable for the review process is as follows:
- 15 Business Days to review your application and confirm that it has been submitted correctly and is complete
- 15 Business Days for our initial technical review to see how your system may impact the electric grid
- 20 Business Days for Supplemental Review, if required, which allows us to study any impacts in greater detail
- 150 Calendar Days for Interconnection Requirement Study, if required, which helps us determine if any equipment upgrades or other mitigation measures are required to interconnect your system
CSS applications may be eligible for expedited interconnection review and approval.
Q: I've already submitted my application but I want to change contractors. What do I need to do?
A: If you make changes to an unexecuted application, please complete and submit a new Distributed Energy Resource Interconnection Application Cover Form along with a revised agreement.
Q: What are the requirements for executing a Distributed Energy Resource Interconnection Agreement?
A: For all Distributed Energy Resource systems, a complete submittal package needs to be provided to the Hawaiian Electric Companies for review.
Though system size and design will determine the amount of information needed, in general the following would need to be provided:
- A complete Distributed Energy Resource Interconnection Submittal Application Cover Form
- A signed program specific agreement
- A program specific Description of Generating Facility exhibit
- Equipment specification sheets
- Inverters need to meet the Hawaiian Electric Companies technical requirements
- Inverter compliance needs to be submitted prior to final execution of agreements
- A utility disconnect that is lockable and has a visible disconnect switch
- Stamped and signed site-specific drawings. Single-line drawings for all projects and 3-line for projects that are equal to 30 kW or per the applicable County's rule.
- All systems must comply with Hawaiian Electric Companies Interconnection requirements in effect at the time of signing the agreement or at the time of system interconnection, whichever is later.
The executed agreement will provide the customer approval to operate their Distributed Energy Resource system and connect to the utility grid.
Q: How do I check the status of my application?
A: You can call or email the Hawaiian Electric Companies directly or check your status at hawaiianelectric.com/IIQ, hawaiielectriclight.com/IIQ, or mauielectric.com/IIQ.
Q: How long do I have to finalize my project?
A: After your application is Conditionally Approved, the Hawaiian Electric Companies policy is that you must finish your project within an 18-month time frame. You may send a written request for a one-time extension of 90 days, but this must be sent during the last two months of your completion period. If you exceed all deadlines, your application will be cancelled and your reserved circuit capacity forfeited. If you then reapply, you will start at the beginning.
Q: Will the Hawaiian Electric Companies inspect my system?
A: The Hawaiian Electric Companies inspect all systems greater than 30 kW to verify that the installed system matches the conditionally approved system. For systems less than 30 kW an inspection will be at the discretion of the utility. Generally for systems between 10 kW and 30 kW the inspection will be based on the contractor's installation history and for systems under 10 kW photos of the installation, including nameplate and equipment specifics, are required instead of an inspection.
Verification must be submitted prior to the inspection to show that the installed inverters meet the Hawaiian Electric Companies' technical requirements.
Q: Will a new meter be installed and do I pay for it?
A: CGS and CSS systems require a digital, bidirectional meter to measure both the energy delivered to and received from the participant. This meter is provided at no cost to the customer.
All meters must be accessible to our personnel for emergencies, meter reading, inspection, testing, and maintenance, in accordance with the tariff and the Hawaiian Electric Companies Service Installation Manual. If you plan to make modifications or additions which would make your metering facilities inaccessible, you must consult the utility first, and make satisfactory arrangements to allow our employees continued access to your meter.
Please note that your meter will not read the same as the output shown on your system's inverter(s), as the energy generated by your system first powers your home's electrical devices and only the excess produced electricity is sent to the utility.
Q: When can I turn on my system?
A: You may turn on your Distributed Energy Resource system once you have received an executed agreement from the utilities and, if applicable, your meter has been changed.
Q: What needs to be done if I purchase or rent a property with a system already installed?
A: If you purchase a property with an installed Distributed Energy Resource system, a new Distributed Energy Resource agreement will need to be signed and submitted under the newly registered owner. To start this process, please contact the relevant Distributed Energy Resource program for assistance.
If you rent a property with an installed Distributed Energy Resource system, you do not need to submit a new agreement. Our agreement with the property owner is still in place.
Q: What happens if I'm near or past my deadline to finalize my application?
A: A one-time, maximum extension of 180 days may be requested in writing by the applicant prior to the deadline. The length of the extension will be at Hawaiian Electric Companies' discretion and will be based on progress made towards completion of the project.
Q: What if I'm already a Distributed Energy Resource customer and want to add capacity or replace parts of my Distributed Energy Resource system?
A: When the PUC created the CGS and CSS programs, it determined that any existing NEM customers who added more capacity to their PV systems would need to transition to another program, such as CGS, CSS, or SIA.
Q: What is the IIQ?
A: IIQ stands for "Integrated Interconnection Queue". This initial phase, Phase 1, is designed to provide some basic information to an applicant and/or contractor/developer for where they fall in the IIQ by company name and on a particular circuit. We will deliver Phase 1 by 1/30/15 as outlined in our company's response to the PUC dated 8/26/14 to Decision & Order #32053, Docket # 2011-0206.
Q: What inverters and PV modules are required?
A: Only Underwriters Laboratory (UL) listed equipment may be used in Distributed Energy Resource systems that are interconnecting to the utility grid.
All inverters must meet the Hawaiian Electric technical requirements that are listed in Appendix I or Rule 14H. Proof of Compliance needs to be provided to the utilities for new installations or reprogramming by use of the Distributed Energy Resource Project Validation Form that is found on our websites.
Before you design your system and purchase inverters, we recommend that you confirm with the inverter manufacturer whether their equipment meets our technical requirements.
Q: What types of generators are eligible?
A: CSS is the only program limited to solar PV generation; the other programs accept solar, wind, biomass, or hydroelectric energy technologies, and SIA also accepts renewable and non-renewable technologies.
All programs have a maximum total generation capacity of 100 kW except for SIA, which has no size limits.
Q: Do the distributed energy resource programs apply to solar water heating systems?
A: No. Solar water heating systems generally use heat from the sun to heat water directly for your use. Certain manufacturers incorporate PV panels in the design of the water heating system but these systems do not interconnect with the grid and therefore the distributed energy resources programs do not apply.
However, solar water heaters are still an excellent energy efficiency measure that can save you a lot on your electric bill. In addition, purchase of a solar water heater may be eligible for a rebate. For more information on rebates available for solar water heaters and other energy efficiency measures, contact Hawaii Energy at hawaiienergy.com or (877) 231-8222.
Q: How can I get more information about distributed energy resource equipment that might qualify for interconnection?
A: Here is a Qualified Equipment List.
Please call the utility for more information.
Q: What is an advanced inverter?
A: An Advanced inverter allows for more sophisticated monitoring and communication between the Distributed Energy Resource system and the utility grid. It provides the ability to receive operation instructions and make autonomous decisions to help with grid stability, support power quality and provide ancillary services, which also help maintain the stability and power quality of the electric grid.
Q: What is transient overvoltage and why is it important?
A: Transient Overvoltage (TrOV) is a rapid and temporary rise in voltage along electric lines, commonly called a voltage spike. This high voltage condition may damage a customer's home, their electronics or appliances, or even their neighbors' electrical equipment.
Many inverters have technology that rapidly detects electrical problems. These inverters then immediately shut down, preventing the voltage spike from occurring. Once inverters shut down, they will not turn back on until they detect safe operating conditions. As of 10/1/2015 we require that all proposed PV systems use inverters with these capabilities.
Q: Why is ride-through important?
A: Ride-through settings enable PV systems to stay online during a grid disturbance, helping to maintain overall system stability and possibly preventing a widespread power outage.
Ride-through settings are aimed at maintaining the stability of the overall electric grid. These efforts complement other measures designed to mitigate the risks of high voltage conditions in neighborhoods with high levels of rooftop PV. As of 10/1/2015 we require that all proposed Distributed Energy Resource PV systems use inverters with these capabilities.
Q: How are requirements established for these new programs?
A: The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission sets the requirements and limits per tariff as well as safety, performance, and reliability standards by order, tariff, or rule.
Q: Can I still apply for Standard Interconnection (SIA), Feed In Tariff (FIT) or Schedule Q?
A: Both SIA and Schedule Q are still available. The FIT program is currently fully subscribed and closed to new applications.
Q: What is an Interconnection Requirement Study (IRS)?
A: An IRS determines if the customer's Distributed Energy Resource can be interconnected, and, if so, what additional equipment, protective devices, and/or control systems need to be installed.
In continuing to proactively address technical issues associated with the interconnection of the ever-increasing number of Distributed Energy Resource systems, all applications for interconnection to Hawaiian Electric Companies grid must go through a technical screening process.
One possible outcome of this screening is that an IRS may be needed. If an IRS is required, the applicant will be notified and must decide if they will pay for the IRS or withdraw their application. If the applicant agrees to pay for the IRS, they will be required to execute a signed IRS Letter Agreement to initiate the IRS process, and submit payment to the Hawaiian Electric Companies. Factors that affect the cost of the IRS include system size, cost share availability, type of technology, the number of feeders involved, and the complexity of the feeder(s).
From submittal of the IRS proposal and payment, per the Rule 14H tariff, an IRS may take 150 days or more to complete. Upon completion of the IRS, and the determination of applicant interconnection costs, the applicant will have the option of agreeing to proceed with the interconnection work or to withdraw their application.
The costs of an IRS and any resulting equipment requirements are the responsibility of the customer.