In June 2015, Hawaii Governor David Ige signed a bill directing the state’s utilities to generate 100% of their electricity sales from renewable energy sources by 2045. It was a bold step for the most oil dependent state in the nation for electricity, but ultimately an easy decision because renewable energy technology advances have made clean energy generation cheaper than producing power from fossil fuels in Hawaii. According to Julia Pyper at Greentech Media, Hawaiian Electric Industries “came out in support of the 100 percent renewable energy goal. The proposed merger between HEI and Florida-based NextEra Energy would provide additional resources to help make the renewable energy target a reality, according to an HEI press release.” This great news, however, has been perhaps overshadowed by the debates over net metering.
Solar energy in Hawaii continues to set new records. There are now a total of nearly 70,000 rooftop solar net energy meting applications that have been approved by Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, and Hawaii Electric Light Company – which make up The Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO). These installations make up more than 12% of Hawaii’s electricity customers, resulting in the state regulators opening proceedings aimed at creating a new net metering scheme that is acceptable to all parties involved.
According to Utility Dive, each stakeholder filed a Final Statement of Position (FSOP) at the end of June that lays out where each party stands on the issue of net metering. HECO argues net metering customers do not pay their fair share of grid maintenance costs and the current law is no longer sustainable, which should result in the end of net metering in the state. On the other hand, the joint filing from The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, the Hawaii PV Coalition, the Hawaii Renewable Energy Alliance, Life of the Land, and SunPower argues for a minimum bill, time-of-use rates, and a new net metering credit that is based on costs and benefits.
With the two sides opposed, state regulators will have to jump in and decide the path forward. HECO, however, has asked the Public Utility Commission to remove TASC from the proceeding.
In July 2015, Ige stated that “any merger or investment must align with the state’s 100 percent renewable energy goal” and that his administration is “taking the position that the merger as proposed at this point is unacceptable.” Ige described NextEra’s responses regarding the state’s 100% goal as “vague and noncommittal, to say the least.”