Sierra Club calls HECO on its campaign against solar

HEI Announces Black is White
Hawaiian Electric Attempts to Obscure Solar Slowdown

HONOLULU, HI – Installations of residential rooftop photovoltaic systems dropped significantly in the last quarter of 2013. Yet, in an effort to disguise its campaign to kill customers’ rights to install rooftop solar panels and save themselves thousands of dollars on their electric bills, the Hawaiian Electric companies (“HECO”) claimed yesterday that, “Solar photovoltaic installations in Hawai‘i continued growing at a strong pace in 2013.” HECO’s senior vice president for customer service, Jim Alberts, went so far as to say, “We remain committed to a strong, sustainable solar industry in Hawaii. We continue to approve new solar systems for interconnection daily.”

“This is perverse,” said Robert Harris, Director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii. “Ever since HECO started eliminating access to the grid, the permits for photovoltaic projects issued on Oahu in December fell to 1,140 from 1,925 issued in the same month of 2012. In November 1,040 permits were issued, a 48 percent drop from the 1,996 permits one year earlier. In October 1,246 permits were issued, down 49 percent from a high of 2,433 a year earlier. How does this constitute strong growth?”

Just days before HECO’s press release, the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism announced that the trend is continuing in 2014 with year?to?date residential rooftop solar permits down to 340 in the first three weeks of January, a “32.1 percent decrease from the previous year.”

“HECO is afraid its outdated business model and decades of comfortable state-guaranteed profits are under assault,” Harris said. “So last September it slammed the brakes with an arbitrary claim that its circuits are saturated with rooftop solar. This fact — if true — should have been foreseen and prepared for. HECO claims to support solar, but its actions do not reflect its words.”

Last year, the Hawaii State Legislature passed Act 37, which allows HECO to receive greater rates of return for investments in a modern smart, grid and efforts that allow greater renewable energy penetration. This year, two bills (HB 1943 and SB 2656) were introduced that call on the utility to build a smart modern grid, capable of absorbing the power that all individual homeowners and renters of all income levels can generate on their roofs. “We hope this will be an occasion where HECO’s words and actions will match. HECO should support these legislative efforts. It’s an opportunity for HECO to better service its customers as well as grow its profits.”


# # # #

Sierra Club of Hawaii

Founded in 1968, the Sierra Club of Hawaii is the state’s largest and most active grassroots environmental organization. The Club actively promotes reducing the impacts of global climate change by encouraging the development of clean renewable energy, reducing the use of fossil fuels, and ensuring our fragile native habitat is protected from harm.