Hawaiian Electric helps Oahu solar customers caught in transition to new interconnection procedures
News Release from HECO
HONOLULU, Nov. 27, 2013 – Hawaiian Electric is helping customers whose rooftop photovoltaic (PV) installations were underway in September when the utility revised its interconnection procedures to address potential safety and reliability concerns from growing levels of PV on O‘ahu.
“We want to be fair and assist customers in high PV areas who made financial or contractual commitments to install a PV system prior to the procedure change,” said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of customer service. “We’re committed to helping our customers move forward with their installations.”
Hawaiian Electric, the Hawai‘i Solar Energy Association and Hawai‘i PV Coalition worked together to define criteria that will allow utility customers who committed to PV prior to the September changes to interconnect their systems at no additional costs for safety upgrades and, in most cases, without waiting for a detailed interconnection study.
“After the surprise of the initial changes, this process has been remarkably smooth and collaborative,” said Mark Duda, president of the Hawai‘i PV Coalition. “What I’m most encouraged about are the ideas that we are continuing to work on to expand interconnection opportunities even on circuits that already have substantial PV penetration.”
To be eligible for the transitional treatment, PV customers and their systems must meet three criteria and pass a safety review:
- The system must be 10 kilowatts or less in size; and
- The customer must provide to Hawaiian Electric (postmarked by Dec. 31, 2013) a fully executed and binding contract with a solar company signed on or before Sept. 9, 2013 for the purchase/lease/installation of a net energy metered PV system OR other evidence that they made a legally binding financial commitment (such as a loan document) on or before Sept. 9, 2013 for purchase/lease/installation of a net metered PV system. (A utility-provided form --available on the utility website at hawaiianelectric.com/goingsolar -- attesting to the validity of the documents must also be completed); and
- Hawaiian Electric must have received the customer’s signed net energy metering agreement by Oct. 31, 2013.
The documentation should be postmarked by Dec. 31, 2013 and mailed by the solar contractor to: Hawaiian Electric, PO Box 2750, Mail code KS1-SR, Honolulu, HI 96840-0001.
Once a qualified project passes a safety check by Hawaiian Electric, it will be cleared for interconnection. As with all applications to interconnect to the utility grid, if potentially unsafe conditions are identified, the system will be approved only after the appropriate safety measures are taken. For customers in the transitional group, there will be no cost for any safety devices or other safety upgrades, should they be required. Customers in the transition pool should be notified by Hawaiian Electric within approximately 30 days after their complete documentation is received.
“This is a very positive step to address the concerns of those who were caught in the middle of the transition to the new procedures,” said Leslie Cole-Brooks, executive director of the Hawai‘i Solar Energy Association. “We hope this allows these customers to quickly get the benefits of their PV systems.”
Background: On Sept. 6, the Hawaiian Electric Companies announced they were enabling more small PV systems (10 kW and under) to be added without a potentially time-consuming interconnection study and possible safety upgrades. The new threshold for a possible study was set at the point at which the PV on the circuit reached 100% of that circuit’s daytime minimum load, increased from 75%. At the same time, with a growing number of circuits with high amounts of PV, Hawaiian Electric also announced that customers who want to add PV on circuits that have reached the more liberal 100% threshold would need to await the results of an interconnection study to ensure their PV system can be safely interconnected into the grid. Previously, when PV levels were lower, O‘ahu customers had been allowed to interconnect their systems while they were awaiting final Hawaiian Electric approval of their net energy metering contract.
Some customers with loans and/or contractual obligations for a PV system at the time of the announcement were caught in the transition, facing the possibility of being unable to get the benefits of a PV system they had committed to buy or had already installed.