Hawaiian Utility Fights Solar Industry Over Private Installations -U.S. Utilities Make Their Own Plays for Control of Distributed Power

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    If Hawaii’s largest utility gets its way, the islands’ abundant sunshine may be wasted.

    In February, the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) proposed a ban on a booming industry of rooftop solar installations, claiming that too much distributed power generation could destabilize the islands’ isolated power grids. It was forced to back off by the public backlash, but environmental groups and the solar industry say the utility is trying other tactics that will stifle the growth of renewable energy in the state. …

    The battle over the islands’ energy is just one example of efforts by some utility companies to control distributed power and its potential to eat into their profits.

    Hawaii, which currently gets more than 90 percent of its power from fossil fuels, has adopted some of the strongest renewable energy standards in the country. In 2008, the legislature approved a renewable portfolio standard requiring 40 percent of electricity to be produced by renewable sources by 2030. The state and the utilities entered into an agreement that same year that will require 40 percent of total electricity generation be from renewables, as well as 70 percent of all energy, including transportation, by 2030.

    Two renewable energy programs are at the heart of HECO’s attempt to block installations. One, the net energy metering program, has been running since 2001 and allows customers who install solar panels to offset the cost of their entire power bill. Another project under consideration is a feed-in tariffs program like those already running in Europe; customers who produce more power than they need through solar installations would feed it back into the grid and earn money for that electricity.

    See the full report: http://solveclimate.com/blog/20100305/hawaiian-utility-fights-solar-industry-over-private-installations

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