Hawaii’s New Ratepayer Protection Law A Boon For Solar, Says Sunrun

In a move being applauded by Sunrun, Gov. David Ige, D-Hawaii, has signed into law S.B.2939 (Act 005), which requires the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to create a framework that will tie electric utility revenues to performance metrics.

The bill, also known as the Hawaii Ratepayer Protection Act, establishes performance metrics that the PUC will consider while establishing performance incentives and penalty mechanisms. They include affordability of electric rates and customer electric bills; service reliability; customer engagement and satisfaction, including customer options for managing electricity costs; access to utility system information; rapid integration of renewable energy sources; and timely execution of competitive procurement.

Sunrun explains that the law links future utility revenues – in the form of performance incentives or penalties – to performance metrics. This includes incentives for Hawaiian utilities to connect more customer-sited solar and battery systems.

“This is an important step forward to align the design of our electricity system with the needs of the public,” notes Robert Harris, director of public policy at Sunrun. “This new law breaks the direct link between revenues and utility investments in infrastructure – meaning Hawaii’s electric utilities no longer make more money just by spending more.”

“We need to better align the electric utility’s interests with the public’s interest,” adds Anne Hoskins, Sunrun’s chief policy officer. “The future is going to be a more dynamic and customer-centered energy system, and we must ensure we maximize public benefit and meet broader economic and environmental goals.”

Sunrun recently published a report detailing recommendations to improve and maximize the public benefits of the U.S.’ energy system by placing the consumer at the center. With the passage of the Hawaii Ratepayer Protection Act, Sunrun says it looks forward to working collaboratively with the utility and others in Hawaii to advance a more reliable, clean and affordable energy system.

“Other state legislatures and commissions should take notice of Hawaii’s efforts,” continues Hoskins. “The time to make these changes is now, before billions of dollars are spent in rebuilding our outdated electrical networks. Rooftop solar and home batteries are allowing us to choose a system that maximizes public benefits, not utility shareholder profits. Let’s keep giving people the freedom to create a brighter future.”

The bill takes effect on July 1. The PUC is required to create the framework by Jan. 1, 2020.

“The bottom line is that S.B.2939 is a victory for Hawaii’s energy consumers who will see more value for their hard-earned dollars,” the governor says. “Through its expertise and oversight, the PUC will ensure that we move aggressively toward our renewable energy and consumer protection goals while maintaining a safe, reliable and resilient electric grid operated by a financially stable utility.”

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