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Poll shows most voters oppose charging fee for PV hookup

An overwhelming majority of Hawaii voters oppose charging a fee to utility customers who install solar photovoltaic panels, according to the results of a poll released Wednesday.

The poll, conducted for The Pacific Resource Partnership and the Sierra Club of Hawaii, also found that the support for solar energy in Hawaii is stronger than what other polls have shown for the nation as a whole.

Of those polled 82 percent said they oppose charging utility customers a fee for installing PV panels. Conversely, 13 percent said they supported a fee. The remaining 5 percent said they were undecided.

When the state Legislature reconvenes in January lawmakers may consider an interconnection fee for the owners of PV systems, according to the survey.

The survey also found that 96 percent of those polled said they support getting energy from solar power.

Rep. Chris Lee, (D, Kailua, Lanikai-Waimanalo), said the results of the poll will help lawmakers as they shape legislation in the upcoming session.

"It really dove tails with what weve been hearing in past hearings," Lee said. "When we talk about this issue (solar) in particular you get a sense that people feel it’s the only way they can really get a handle on their own electric bill."

Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii, said the rapid growth of solar energy in the state also highlights the need for the electric utilities to make it easier for customers to connect their PV systems to the grid.

If the interconnection issues that currently exist are not resolved some utility customers may chose to go off the grid, which could have unintended consequences, Harris said.

"When we talk about importance of trying to resolve this expeditiously it’s because the market is changing so fast that if we don’t move now we will be much like Borders or Tower Records wondering what happened and why did things happen so quickly," Harris said.

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