Hawaii Renewable

After a disappointing commencement for a program permitting people to sell renewable energy to Hawaii’s power grid, it is now being revamped in an attempt to entice more interest and lessen the state’s dependence on imported oil.

So far there are only a few solar power projects which have gone online since the program started last November, making the state Public Utilities Commission to consider solutions making the initiative yet more attractive to independent producers.
Known as a feed-in tariff, the program sets standard rates where businesses and residents may sell their power to the utility, Hawaiian Electric Co.

Renewable energy advocates say that the program has been hindered because Hawaiian Electric is not required to buy power fed to the grid, and because the utility Tmight request that a power developer should complete an interconnectivity study costing thousands of dollars.

The proposals for improving the feed-in tariff for large-scale projects up to five megawatts are due on September 6, and regulators will be considering recommendations.

The program received a “tepid response” in the first five months, having launched only three projects in that time. Since then, a few more projects have begun.

However, the feed-in tariff is picking up steam. Seventy different applications are pending for Oahu, which will eventually produce 10.3 megawatts of electricity.

One plausible solution is preserving the utility’s concerns about reliability while providing assurances to solar power developers that they would get paid.

Renewable power producers are financially compensated for the times when Hawaiian Electric decides that it will not accept their power onto the grid.

“Curtailment or the threat thereof is so overwhelming that it makes these projects basically unfinanceable. It causes uncertainty of the revenue stream,” said Champley, a former executive from Detroit utility DTE Energy now living in Maui. “If there were more certainty, one could plan or adjust accordingly.”

Businesses need assurances that their renewable power can reach the grid before they make their investments.
One of the terms that you would probably see in a feed-in tariff is a very simple statement saying, if you sign this contract, we will gladly accept the power. Curtailment is probably the most critical issue which is slowing the implementation of the feed-in tariff program in Hawaii.

Another energy program aimed at smaller renewable power producers like businesses and homes with solar panels on the roofs have met with much greater success.

Net energy metering gives to customers the opportunity to subtract the amount of power they feed to the grid from their personal bills however, the system is limited to projects that are smaller than 100 kilowatts each.

Roughly 3,600 net energy metering installations currently generatemore than 20 megawatts of electricity on Oahu, Hawaii.

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