PUC ignored public interest in ending net metering program
Net metering is the fundamental rooftop solar policy that has helped homeowners in Hawaii save money on their electric bills and build renewable resources that contribute to our state’s renewable energy goals. In October, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission ended the program, without notice or a transition period.
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Net metering is the fundamental rooftop solar policy that has helped homeowners in Hawaii save money on their electric bills and build renewable resources that contribute to our state’s renewable energy goals.
In October, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission ended the program, without notice or a transition period. A few weeks after the decision, Commission Chairman Randy Iwase told Pacific Business News that the commission could have ended the program a year ago.
So what was the intervening year for? The commission didn’t hold a public hearing in that year. It didn’t conduct a cost-
benefit analysis. It certainly didn’t listen to public comment, which was far and away in favor of continuing the net metering program. And when it ended the program, it did so in a way that was unsubstantiated, worse even than what notoriously anti-solar Hawaiian Electric Co. had proposed.
It feels a little like my dentist calling to tell me that he was going to pull one of my teeth without taking any X-rays. And then following my protestations, him telling me that he could have pulled it a year ago, but wanted to wait. I’d be sure that he made up his mind a year ago, decided not to listen to me and didn’t care to prove his decision one way or the other with actual tests.
The commissioners apparently already made up their minds a year ago that a change was needed and then failed to listen to the public (whom they are supposed to represent), who spoke in favor of net metering. They adopted a decision that no one recommended and for which there was no evidence. They adopted a decision that was worse for new solar customers than what HECO had proposed. They adopted a decision that will move Hawaii toward a broken grid that fails to take advantage of residents who want to contribute to Hawaii’s clean energy future.
The commissioners knew this wasn’t what the people wanted. For proof, look no further than Commissioner Lorraine Akiba’s application for net metering on her second solar system before the PUC decision came out. If she believed that the outcome of the decision was good for residents of Hawaii, why wouldn’t she wait to apply for a second system under the new rates?
Commissioner Akiba wouldn’t let her ability for net metering to be jeopardized, but has no problem subjecting the public to the same treatment. My dentist wouldn’t subject himself to pulling out random teeth without tests or X-rays, but would want me to? I’d find a new dentist. Unfortunately, Gov. David Ige appoints the commissioners, so the decision is out of my hands.
The teeth have been pulled. Net metering has been eliminated. But unlike a dentist, the commission has the ability to reverse its decision, or make changes that can reduce the risk to the future of energy and the grid in Hawaii. The commission can ensure that any homeowner, school, small business or church that wants to contribute to Hawaii’s renewable energy future can continue to do so.
Dave Thompson, a renewable energy professional and environmentalist, is a project developer at Alternate Energy Hawaii.