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Green Building News

Solar Gets A Big Boost in Hawaii

Hawaiian Electric Companies wants to triple the number of solar electric panels and increase the percentage of renewable power in its energy mix

A new push for photovoltaic panels in Hawaii could lower electric bills by 20% and bring the state to the forefront of the renewable energy list in the United States, according to published reports.

Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) has announced a plan to triple the number of solar electric panels in the state by 2030 and take a variety of other steps that would lower power bills for state residents by 20%.

Utility Dive reported the move would increase the proportion of renewable energy from its current level of 18% to 65%, the highest in the United States.

HECO released the outlines of its plan on Aug. 26, saying it wanted to increase energy storage, develop smart grids and support community solar projects, think said.

“Our energy environment is changing rapidly and we must change with it to meet our customers’ evolving needs,” Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric vice president of corporate planning and business development, said in a press release. “These plans are about delivering services that our customers value. That means lower costs, better protection of our environment, and more options to lower their energy costs, including rooftop solar.”

Regulators had ordered HECO to do better

Hawaiians currently pay the highest electricity rates in the country, more than 38 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and the integration of solar-generated electricity into the grid has been a source of friction between homeowners and HECO. (For more information on PV disputes in Hawaii, see Hawaii’s Solar Battle.)

In April, HECO was ordered to come up with a plan for integrating more renewable energy, including rooftop photovoltaic (PV) panels, to reduce energy costs, thinkprogress reported in May. At the time, a poll found that 94% of Hawaii residents supported the addition of more residential PV panels, and that 90% thought HECO was slowing growth to protect its profits.

HECO outlined several steps it would take, including:

  • Grid upgrades that would make the integration of solar-generated energy easier.
  • More energy storage systems to minimize potential disruptions on electric grids from solar and wind sources.
  • Developing “smart grids,” now being tested on Oahu, that will help customers monitor and control energy use.
  • Offering new products, such as community solar and microgrids, that will allow customers to take advantage of lower-cost renewable energy.
  • Switching from oil to cheaper liquified natural gas at existing generating plants.


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