Hawaii PUC Approves Programs For Rooftop Solar And Storage

In a decision and order issued Friday, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved two new programs that the commission says will expand opportunities for customers to install rooftop solar and battery energy storage systems, while clarifying terms of existing programs to provide greater certainty for customers who have already invested in a rooftop photovoltaic (PV) system.

According to a PUC press release, the commission decision does the following:

Approves a new “Smart Export” program: The PUC says this program offers a new option for customers installing a rooftop PV system combined with a battery energy storage system. Under Smart Export, a customer’s energy storage system will recharge during the daytime with energy captured from the PV system. The energy storage system will then power the home in the evening with an option to also export electricity back to the grid. If the customer sends power back to the grid during non-daytime hours, the customer will receive a monetary credit on his or her electricity bill. Under the initial terms, the PUC notes, the Smart Export program may accommodate approximately 3,500-4,500 customers on the islands of O‘ahu, Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘i, and Hawai‘i. Credit rates for electricity sent to the grid during non-daytime hours are 14.97 cents on O‘ahu, 11.00 cents on Hawai‘i Island, 14.41 cents on Maui, 16.64 cents on Moloka‘i, and 20.79 cents on Lāna‘i.

Establishes “CGS+” or “Controllable CGS” as a successor to the popular Customer Grid Supply (CGS) program: Under this new program, CGS+ customers can install a solar PV-only system (no energy storage needed) that exports energy to the electric grid during the daytime, but they will utilize advanced equipment that allows the electric utility to manage power from the CGS+ system. For example, when grid conditions require, the electric utility may reduce CGS+ system output in order to maintain a stable grid. Under the initial terms, the CGS+ program may accommodate approximately 5,000-6,000 customers on the islands of O‘ahu, Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘i, and Hawai‘i. Credit rates for electricity sent to the grid under this program are 10.08 cents on O‘ahu, 10.55 cents on Hawai‘i Island, 12.17 cents on Maui, 16.77 cents on Moloka‘i, and 20.80 cents on Lāna‘i.

Grandfathers existing CGS customers for five years: Customers in the CGS program will continue to receive their current bill credit rate for the next five years.

Allows existing net energy metering (NEM) customers to add to their systems if they meet certain technical requirements: The PUC says this decision clarifies that existing NEM customers can add “non-export” systems and retain their status in the NEM program.

Authorizes activation of new “advanced inverter” functions in PV and storage systems: According to the PUC, advanced inverters provide support to the electric grid during different types of grid disturbances. Activating these functions in new Smart Export and CGS+ systems will help maintain a stable and reliable grid.

The PUC says Friday’s decision is the culmination of a comprehensive process that began with proposals submitted by participating parties in the PUC’s Distributed Energy Resources (DER) docket, which were subsequently vetted through numerous technical planning conferences and meetings with stakeholders over the past nine months. The final filings from the participating parties were submitted to the PUC in late September, with the commission issuing its decision Friday.

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