HECO sees significant uptick in self-supply applications

Since 2013, Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO) has wrestled with how to solve its “solar-oversupply problem.”

Too many citizens installed distributed-generation (DG) solar under generous net-metering programs, and the company’s grid couldn’t handle all the electricity being exported to it. But they may not have to deal with the problem much longer.

The utility reported that it received 234 applications in October to participate in the utility’s Customer Self-Supply (CSS) program, which is designed for distributed PV installations that don’t export any electricity to the grid.

Under the CSS program, customers are not compensated for excess energy as they were under the old net-metering programs. HECO stopped the net-metering program a year ago, angering many in the state’s booming solar industry.

The other non-net-metering option was HECO’s Customer Grid-Supply (CGS) program, through which customers received a public-utilities-commission-approved credit for electricity sent to the grid while paying the retail rate for electricity they use from the grid.

But that program also proved too popular, hitting its own caps in August. With the CSS remaining the only option for Hawaiians who want to install solar, homeowners are now strongly on board with a program that struggled early on to receive any applications.

“Things are just getting started — solar power is still a viable option,” said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of customer service. “We expect more customers to install self-supply systems as they learn more about the program.”

In October, the last month for which numbers were available, nearly 100 applications had already been approved and were ready for installation, with the other 134 going through a standard technical review.

According to the company, HECO leads the nation in the adoption of solar power, with nearly 79,000 customers have been approved on Oʻahu, Maui County, and Hawaiʻi island for DG systems.

To date, 15 percent of all residential and commercial electric customers have PV systems — nearly 20 times the national average. Approximately 29 percent of all single family homes have been approved to install a PV system.