Solar users may see bills increaseUPDATED 7:21 PM HST Aug 27, 2014Video Transcript
getting a huge break on their power bills might have to start forking some of it back over! Hawaiian Electric's sweeping new energy plan promises fairness and lower bills across the board... but solar customers might not agree.. KITV4's Andrew Pereira joins us with the latest developments... Andrew? Kenny and Yunji, HECO's plan is already drawing fire from environmental groups who say it relies too heavily on liquefied natural gas and could chase some solar customers away! You spent thousands of dollars to add solar panels to your roof. But HECO says your lower electricity bill comes at a steep price to everyone else. SHELEE KIMURA: "WE'RE REALLY FOCUSED ON FAIRNESS FOR ALL CUSTOMERS. AND SO, LAST YEAR CUSTOMERS THAT DON'T HAVE ROOFTOP SOLAR, THEY PAID AN ADDITIONAL $38 MILLION FOR THE OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE OF OUR GRID. THAT SHIFTED FROM THE CUSTOMERS THAT HAVE ROOFTOP SOLAR TO THE CUSTOMERS THAT DON'T HAVE ROOFTOP SOLAR." As part of its plan for Hawaii's energy future, HECO wants to decrease electricity bills for all customers by 20-percent in 15 years. But to reach that goal the company wants to add a connection charge to those seeking rooftop solar, charge a fixed monthly fee of $71-dollars, and purchase electricity from PV households at 16-cents per kilowatt hour. Right now HECO pays PV households more than 30 cents per kilowatt hour. The Blue Planet Foundation is concerned that could result in customers that already have PV leaving the grid altogether. JEFF MIKULINA: "THAT'S ACTUALLY A SITUATION WE DON'T WANT IN HAWAII BECAUSE WEALTHY FOLKS WILL DO THAT FIRST AND STRAND EVERYONE ELSE PAYING FOR THE WHOLE SYSTEM 346 SO, THE UTILITY NEEDS TO FIND THIS MODEL THAT ACTUALLY COMPENSATES FOLKS FAIRLY FOR THE ELECTRICITY THEY PRODUCE." HECO also wants 65 percent of all energy generation on Oahu, the Big Island and Maui County to come from renewable resources. The company hopes to begin deactivating the Kahe power plant by the year 2023, and those that remain will be converted from oil to liquefied natural gas. SHELEE KIMURA: "THAT IS GOING TO BE SIGNIFICANT BECAUSE IT PROVIDES THE COST SAVINGS FOR CUSTOMERS THAT WE CAN USE TO INVEST IN THE GRID, THAT'S NEEDED TO BRING ON MORE RENEWABLES ONTO OUR SYSTEM." Which may be good for HECO's bottom line, but not so good for the environment. Blue Planet says Hawaiian Electric should rely more on wind, waves and of course solar. JEFF MIKULINA: "WE HAVE EVERY CLEAN ENERGY OPPORTUNITY HERE IN HAWAII AND THAT'S ONE THING WE SEE MISSING IN THE PLAN. IS REALLY EXPANDING THAT OPPORTUNITY AND CAPITALIZING ON OUR NATURAL RESOURCE BASE." Not part of Hawaiian Electric's plan is transforming the company into a non-profit utility or co-op. HECO says as a for-profit company it can access the capital needed to transform our electrical grid. SHELEE KIMURA: "WE'RE STILL GOING TO NEED SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF UP FRONT CAPITAL, AND YOU NEED ACCESS TO THE CAPITAL MARKETS TO GET THAT KIND OF ACCESS TO FUNDS." Part of Hawaiian Electric's proposal on the Big Island and Maui County calls on the expansion of geothermal energy, which has been controversial. Blue Planet Foundation wants to act as an intervenor in HECO's filing with the PUC. That would allow the environmental group to help shape the company's proposal for Hawaii's energy future.