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Saturday, September 06, 2014
HECO Prepares to Disconnect Unapproved Solar Systems
By News Release @ 4:53 AM :: 3377 Views :: Energy

Hawaiian Electric asking customers with unauthorized rooftop PV systems to disconnect

Technical safety & reliability review essential before reconnecting systems to ensure safety, fairness for all

News Release from HECO

HONOLULU, September 5, 2014 – Hawaiian Electric Company is asking customers on Oahu with rooftop photovoltaic systems prematurely connected to the utility grid to disconnect them at once until they receive interconnection approval from the utility ensuring the safety and reliability of their system.

Under Hawaii Public Utilities Commission rules and state law, customers are required to have an approved interconnection agreement that ensures the safety and reliability of their PV system before they connect to the grid and energize it. This is to protect the safety of customers and utility crews and to reduce potential adverse impacts on electric service reliability.

"We have a responsibility to ensure safe, reliable service for all our customers, which is why we're asking for those with unauthorized PV systems to work with us," said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president for customer service. "We also realize that customers and solar contractors who are doing the right thing and following the rules are frustrated by the actions of those who are not."

Hawaiian Electric will begin mailing notices to customers believed to have unapproved rooftop PV systems, asking them to disconnect and notify the utility they have done so. They're also asked to submit an application for interconnection review as soon as possible, if they have not already done so.

After sufficient notice, if a customer does not disconnect the PV system and notify Hawaiian Electric, PUC rules give the utility authority to shut off the system and lock it to prevent interconnection until technical and other checks confirm it is safe. Regular electric service will continue for customers with locked-out PV systems.

The electric grid was designed to send electricity one-way from utility generators to customers. With rooftop PV in neighborhoods, many customers now also send excess electricity they generate to the grid. Hawaii now has 20 times more rooftop PV than the mainland average.

High levels of PV on the grid can lead to problems such as overvoltage that can put customers and utility crews at risk and surges that can damage customers' appliances and utility equipment.

"We are working with the solar industry and solar equipment manufacturers on upgrades and new technologies to address these issues. We are confident that by working together distributed solar systems will continue to be an attractive option for customers -- nearly tripling the amount by 2030," Alberts said. "But it is still essential for us to know about all rooftop systems that are connected to the grid so we can confirm they are not jeopardizing public safety and reliability."

Customers with questions can contact nem@hawaiianelectric.com or 808-543-4760. More information – including brochures on Going Solar, Understanding the Net Energy Metering Process and Guide to Net Energy Metering – are available at www.hawaiianelectric.com/nem.

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