Hawaii PUC Rejects Utilities’ Residential Solar Thermal Program


Hawaii's Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has denied approval of the Simply Solar program, an initiative developed by utilities Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Co. (collectively referred to as the HECO companies).

Simply Solar was designed to provide immediate solar water heating savings to residential customers at no up-front cost. Each utility would provide funding to install solar water heating on qualifying residential properties. Participating residents would experience an immediate reduction in monthly bills, while a portion of the savings from solar water heating each month would go to repay the cost of the installation, according to the utilities.

In its decision, however, the PUC cited several critical comments it received in response to the utilities' request to implement the program. The Hawaii Renewable Energy Alliance filed an official protest based on the procedural grounds and merits of the program. The Division of Consumer Advocacy of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs stated that it has ‘questions and concerns regarding the reasonableness of the companies' proposals,’ although it supported the objectives.

The PUC concluded that the program was not cost-effective to ratepayers, noting that it would require ‘a capital expenditure of over $55 million, or $21 million net of potential applicable federal and state 2011-0186 renewable energy tax credits, and additional implementation costs exceeding $17 million.’

Simply Solar was also described as a modification of another program that the PUC had already rejected.

Motions to intervene or participate in the proceeding must be received by Feb. 21. In the meantime, the PUC says it will also review and consider the Simply Solar program as a ‘potential interim option,’ in conjunction with other initiatives, and will have a consultant evaluate potential amendments to the program.

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