Friday, November 27, 2015         

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Revamped tariffs streamline selling of power to HECO

By Alan Yonan Jr.


Developers of small- and medium-sized renewable energy projects will have an easier time selling their electricity to Hawaiian Electric Co. under a new program that supporters hope will accelerate the state's move toward energy self-sufficiency.

Money talks

What HECO pays per kilowatt hour, in cents
  Smaller Systems Larger Systems  
Photovoltaic 21.8 18.9
Concentrated solar power 26.9 25.4
Hydropower 21.3 18.9
Wind power 16.1 13.8
Source: Public Utilities Commission
The "feed-in tariff" regime approved by the Public Utilities Commission yesterday allows companies generating up to 500 kilowatts of renewable energy to use a standard contract for pricing, terms and conditions when selling power to HECO's utilities on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island.

Traditionally, renewable energy project developers have had to enter into lengthy negotiations with HECO to sell electricity to the utility. That effectively excluded companies with smaller projects and budgets from entering the market.

"The predictability and certainty that FITs provide to renewable energy developers should (encourage) future renewable projects and ultimately advance the state's efforts to wean itself off of imported fossil fuel," said Carlito Caliboso, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission.

The PUC had initially considered including renewable energy projects with generating capacity of up to five megawatts in the FIT initiative, but commissioners said they would monitor the program and make that decision at a later date.

Under its current structure the FIT program has separate rates for projects of up to 20 kilowatts and those producing from 20 kilowatts to 500 kilowatts.

For example, a person selling power to HECO from a small photovoltaic system would be paid 21.8 cents per kilowatt hour.

A person with a larger system would be paid 18.9 cents. For comparison, a typical HECO customer on Oahu pays 25 cents per kwh to buy electricity from the utility.

The Blue Planet Foundation, a Honolulu-based nonprofit working to establish Hawaii as a leader in energy independence, applauded the PUC's decision.

"It's a victory in the effort for renewable energy," said Jeff Mikulina, Blue Planet's executive director. "This makes it very simple to develop alternative energy systems. It's our clean energy future that we're excited about."

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