Latest changes by HECO has photovoltaic industry struggling to stay afloatUPDATED 10:30 PM HST Oct 10, 2013Video Transcript
A move by HECO to help more customers "go green" has the photovoltaic industry seeing red... Good evening, I'm Kenny Choi. And I'm Yunji de Nies.. Layoffs, backed up stock, and businesses desperate to stay afloat is just a few of the problems contractors are dealing with. But it's also affecting homeowners ... KITV4's Brenton Awa explains in tonight's top story. Rolf Christ is on the other end of this warehouse... His company is one of two major wholesalers of photovoltaic systems on Oahu. He supplies over 200 contractors with product -- but his stock continues to back up because of a slowdown in installations. A result of a move he says came out of nowhere by HECO... 1634 "I DON"T UNDERSTAND HOW HECO DIDNT SEE IT COMING OVER THE LAST 3-4 YEARS." Rolf says the PV industry was booming last year and it was just getting into its busiest months. But when HECO implemented changes on September 6th -- He says the industry came to a halt the very next day. 2322 "HECO FOUND A WAY TO ACCEPT MORE PRODUCT TO THE GRID, SOUNDED POSITIVE AND MAYBE EVENTUALLY -- BUT FOR NOW ITS PUT A BIG STOP TO A LOT OF BUSINESS." Rolf says one of his customers laid off 60 employees the following week. Others... 2654 "SOME OF MY CUSTOMERS HAVE LAID OFF HALF OF THEIR CREWS." Heco says the reasons for the changes are to make it easier -- faster -- and less expensive for customers to get PV systems -- while ensuring safety. PAI - 3432 "YOU CAN HAVE VOLTAGE SPIKES WHICH CAN DAMAGE CONSUMER ELECTRONICS, CAN DAMAGE UTITILY LINES AND TRANSFORMERS" Rolf and other contractors don't buy that reason. 2234 "THERES LOTS OF CIRCUITS OVER 100% AND THERES NO ISSUES." The main change for contractors comes by way of the net energy metering agreement --which asks HECO to connect the home system to the grid. In the past contractors would install a system and submit the agreement to HECO. But now contractors say they must submit the agreement first -- which holds up their process. 831 "NOW THE CONTRACTOR HAS TO BE CAREFUL WHAT TO TELL THE HOMEOWNER BECAUSE THEY CANNOT REALLY PROMISE THEM THAT THEY CAN INTERCONNEC T." So if your trying to get a system -- you'll now have to wait. Rolf says anywhere from 2 weeks -- to 5 months. And in some cases -- you might have to pay additional fees that Rolf says have yet to be revealed. 1550 "A LOT OF HOMEOWNERS ARE SITTING ON THE FENCE NOT EVEN SIGNING CONTRACTS BECAUSE THEY SAY WE WANT TO SEE FIRST HOW MUCH HECO IS GOING TO CHARGE US FOR IMPROVEMENT S ON THE GRID." Meanwhile -- HECO says that it will work with its customers and the Photovoltaic industry to try to make sure they can have as much PV on the system as possible. This situation has also caught the attention of lawmakers who may gather as soon as next week to discuss the subject.