The number of photovoltaic building permits issued in July by the city was the fewest in the last 18 months.
The City and County of Honolulu issued 336 PV permits last month, a decline of 54 percent from 738 in July 2015, according to data from Marco Mangelsdorf, who tracks rooftop solar permits and is president of Hilo-based ProVision Solar.
Year to date, the number of solar permits issued was down 27 percent from the same period last year. There were 2,946 PV permits issued from January to the end of July, compared to 4,053 issued during those seven months last year.
Mangelsdorf said the number of permits issued in 2016 will likely be half of what was issued in 2015.
The decline is largely attributed to the state discontinuing a solar incentive program last fall.
In October, the state Public Utilities Commission ended a popular incentive program that offered owners of solar-energy systems a credit equal to the retail rate for the excess energy their systems sent into the grid. The so-called net energy metering program resulted in many solar system owners lowering their electric bill to approximately $17 a month.
The PUC replaced the former program with two less attractive options. When ending the program, PUC Chairman Randy Iwase said it was fully subscribed and he wanted to save space on the grid for other renewable energy options such as community solar.
Only one of the two programs, called grid-supply, allows customers to continue exporting excess energy into the grid. Grid-supply credits new solar owners 15 cents a kilowatt-hour for the extra energy their solar systems send into the grid, roughly 8 cents less than the retail rate that had been offered through the net energy metering program. The PUC also put a limit on the total amount of energy generated from the grid-supply program statewide. Oahu’s limit is 25 megawatts, and Hawaii island’s limit is 5 megawatts. Maui County’s limit is 5 megawatts. Maui has reached the limit. Oahu and Hawaii islands are expected to reach it soon.
The other option, self-supply, encourages the use of solar-plus-battery systems because participants in the program are not allowed to send excess solar energy into the grid.