Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

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PUC signs off on HECO's special rate for charging vehicles

A pilot project will lower electricity rates for participating owners of electric cars

By Alan Yonan Jr.


State regulators have approved a pilot project by Hawaiian Electric Co. that will provide reduced electricity rates to 1,000 Oahu homeowners and businesses who charge their electric vehicles during off-peak hours.

The three-year project will also be available to 300 Hawaiian Electric Light Co. customers on the Big Island and 300 Maui Electric Co. customers on Maui, Molokai and Lanai.

Electric vehicle ownership in Hawaii is expected to accelerate early next year when Nissan brings its first shipment of Leaf electric cars to Honolulu. About 250 Hawaii residents have put down deposits for the car.

At the heart of HECO's pilot project is a "time-of-use" option for electrical vehicle owners that would allow customers on Oahu to save about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour off the residential rate by charging their vehicles during off-peak hours from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. Neighbor island residential off-peak charging rates will be about 7 to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour lower than the residential rate. On-peak charging would be at higher rates depending on the time of day.

The three-member PUC approved the program by a 2-1 vote last week, with Chairman Carlito Caliboso and Commissioner John Cole voting in favor. Commissioner Leslie Kondo dissented, saying he felt it was not in the public interest for HECO to "incentivize" electric vehicle purchases through lower electric rates.

He noted that the state already has an established incentive program that includes a $4,500 rebate for the purchase of an electric car and a $500 rebate for charging stations. With Hawaii residents already expressing a strong interest in vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, further incentives are not needed, Kondo said.

"This initial enthusiasm for the Leaf clearly was not premised on an expectation of a special electric rate for EVs," he said.

And Kondo said he was not swayed by assurances from HECO that the program's lower rates would not be subsidized by the other ratepayers.

Under the HECO plan, owners of electric vehicles could choose to have their existing electric meter upgraded at no cost to them. All of the households' electricity usage, whether for an electric charges or other uses, would be charged using the time-of-use formula.

Electric vehicle owners also could opt to have a second electric meter installed dedicated for EV charging. The cost of installing the meter would be borne by the customer.

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