Harnessing the Hawaiian Sun: Overcoming Legislative Hurdles for Rooftop Solar Growth

After a switch in battery export programs, created a maelish among rooftop solar proponents in Hawaii, lawmakers have stepped in to introduce a new bill aiming to boost the profitability of exported solar productions tied to batteries. As a solar expert and enthusiast, I am excited to delve into the implications of these changes for the solar landscape, particularly for homeowners considering solar panels for their home.

Boasting the most mature rooftop solar market in the entire United States, Hawaii has cultivates a massive third of its homes with on-site solar, with a staggering 90% of new installations leaning towards coupling with on-site battery energy storage. This domino effect creates a dynamic, resilient grid that tackles the islands’ high electricity rates head-on while tilting towards long-term sustainability.

The earlier Battery Bonus, a program that strengthened Hawaii’s solar battery market, got replaced. The new entrant, dubbed ‘Bring Your Own Device’ or BYOD, has not been warmly received. According to me, it’s lesser lucrative for customers, and poses a potential threat to the thriving rooftop solar market in Hawaii.

The older program, Battery Bonus, was a key protagonist in reducing the upfront cost of battery energy storage which, in turn, spurred the rapid enrolment of over 46 MW of rooftop solar and battery systems. This contributed significantly in assisting the grid at a time when delays in utility-scale renewable project development and heightened oil demand were hiking bills and creating a grid reliability crisis.

A stark contrast between Battery Bonus and BYOD is in the dispatch power delivery. The former required customers to dispatch power for two hours to neighbors on their local distribution network while the latter makes customers route their electricity as utility-dispatched power, for two-hour periods, spanning across 365 days a year.

Despite net metering being closed off in Hawaii since 2015, the Battery Bonus program permitted customers to append extra net-metered solar capacity to existing systems and export to their neighbors during peak demand events.

However, BYOD slashed the retail rate, leaving customers on the losing end when exporting stored solar production when it’s most valued. But a potential solution may be in sight with the introduction of HB 1687 in February 2024, a legislation hoping to rectify some losses inflicted by BYOD.

The bill, if enacted, will keep exports compensated at the full retail rate. This suggests that customers stand to gain more from their energy exports, equating their contribution to the grid with their own consumption. This could potentially change the tides for homeowners opting for solar — promoting broader grid participation, making the Islands’ grid more stable, and possibly reducing blackouts.

In the current scenario where the Commission’s new program has put homeowners choosing between self-consumption and BYOD programs at a crossroads, HB 1687 is poised to navigate the grid towards stability and comprehensive benefits.

As a solar expert, and a fervent advocate for clean energy, watching how this pans out, and how it redefines the solar landscape, particularly for beginners mulling having a solar array for home, will be riveting. The future of solar companies rests on effective, customer-centered renewable energy policies, and it’s exhilarating to witness this dialogue unfold. Whether you’re a homeowner, a solar company, or simply someone captivated by the promise of solar energy, this is a space to watch closely.

Original Articlehttps://pv-magazine-usa.com/2024/02/12/hawaii-legislation-seeks-to-undo-massive-momentum-killer-for-rooftop-solar/

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