Now that the CGS program has closed, what comes next for solar in Hawaii?

The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission filed Decision and Order 34924 on October 20, introducing two new solar programs for the Hawaii solar industry. Further details remain to be worked out and the utilities have 60 days to submit the proposed new tariffs and required forms to the PUC for their review and approval.

There are many details outlined in the 200+ page D&O. Here is a press release and summary. The D&O is timely, considering that the Customer Grid Supply program officially closed on October 23.

The future looks promising with two new programs for customers wishing to go solar, as well as offering additional options for customers with existing rooftop solar.

Below is a summary of some of the details.

Interim Smart Export Program

This program will not allow exported solar energy during the typical PV generation times of
9 AM to 4 PM. However, it will allow for exported energy at other times of the morning and evening to receive a credit rate specified below.

Capacity allocations: 25 megawatts for HECO 5 MWs for MECO 5 MWs for HELCO

Smart Export Credit Rate:

The commission approved the requirement of a smart net meter for the interim Smart Export Program.  The meter will measure the flow of energy to and from the grid.

Energy export credits will be reconciled on an annual basis.

Interim CGS+ Program

Similar to the original CGS program, CGS+ will allow exported energy credit rates at a set rate for 5 years with added requirements for additional metering and utility controllability.

Capacity Allocations:

Exported Energy Credit Rates:

Controllability: Customers participating in CGS+ will be required to install technology such as a smart meter that will allow the utility to measure, monitor and, if necessary, control the system.  Curtailment of CGS+ systems will occur when deemed necessary by the utility.  That said, the commission has made clear that they will be monitoring curtailment schemes and practice carefully.

New options for customers grandfathered into the Net Energy Metering program

Customers with existing NEM systems will be allowed to install non-export technology and energy storage enrolling in a program such as Customer Self Supply without jeopardizing their NEM status.  This is a decision that many in the industry have been hoping for and will allow existing NEM customers the flexibility to add more solar capacity and storage as long as their systems are not capable of exporting more energy than they had been.  This will require upgrading existing inverters so that they comply with advanced inverter functionality.  The HECO companies have 30 days to submit their proposed policies and procedures for customers wishing to add non-exporting systems.

Previous PUC orders had specified that NEM customers were not allowed to add any capacity to their systems.  Per the findings of the D&O:  “The commission finds that allowing NEM customers to install non-export technology is beneficial to the grid, as it represents an opportunity for these customers to provide grid services in the future. Conversely, prohibiting NEM customers from installing non-export technology may drive NEM customers toward purchasing non-parallel energy storage systems which may have the same practical effect on the NEM customer’s ability to increase exports, but without the corresponding benefit of grid services that comes with having the energy storage system connected to the grid.”

Modification to the original CGS Program

The credit rate (15.14 cents per kWh for the Big Island) for energy exported to the grid shall remain fixed for an additional 5 years, at which time the energy credit rate may be subject to future modification.  This decision is “in keeping with the commission’s desire to effectuate a gradual transition toward a more sophisticated DER market, as well as avoiding any unnecessary market disruption during this transition period.“

This decision gives peace of mind to existing CGS customers who could have been facing a change in the energy credit rate this month.

In Summary

The future of grid connected solar in Hawaii is expanding to allow more options than ever before.  Each program has advantages and disadvantages, however most residential and business customers working together with a PV contractor should be able to find a program that will fit well with their needs.   Solar Electric systems remain an excellent investment for homes and businesses especially while the federal and state tax incentives remain in place.

The outlook is Sunny!


The Decision & Order, Press Release and a Fact Sheet can be found at the following link on the PUC website: