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Editorial: The Solar Challenge

Hawaii and solar seem like the perfect combination, and solar has already made significant inroads in the Hawaiian market. In fact, solar hot water systems cover almost half the homes on Maui and one-third of the homes on Oahu. Clearly folks in Hawaii know the value of solar energy. Solar PV has not reached the same level of penetration, but that should change soon.

On June 26, 2006, the Governor signed a revised solar tax credit bill (HB 2957) that significantly increases tax credits for solar energy in Hawaii. The 35% Hawaii state tax credit has no sunset date, and is now counted in addition to the Federal Investment Tax credit. With some of the highest electricity costs in the country, Hawaii has now positioned itself well to take advantage of the oncoming solar industry boom.

Policy Needs
Net metering and interconnection still need to be settled in Hawaii. Right now, systems above 50 kW cannot be net metered, and interconnection is dicey for systems above the net metering limit. In order for the recently passed tax credits to impact the development of solar in the state, these regulatory barriers must be lifted.

Hawaii’s electric rates could also be revised to incentivize greater investment in solar PV. Hawaii has few Time-of-Use tariffs that more accurately reflect the true cost of purchasing power and also provide fairer economic benefits for solar system owners. A switch to Time-of-Use rates in Hawaii could go a long way towards making solar cost-effective without subsidies in the near future.

Next Steps
The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission is currently working on revising the net metering and interconnection standards for the state. Vote Solar is supporting groups on the ground to ensure that the new rules are conducive to developing a good solar market.

July 2015