Absolutely p.o.'ed. Disappointed. Insulted.
These are the responses I've heard from people who either own or lease solar photovoltaic panels regarding the plan that the Hawaiian Electric Co. recently proposed which would raise basic connection fees for all customers to $55, while imposing an additional $71 for new solar PV customers.
HECO also proposes that the utility credit solar PV customers about half of what they get now — at just 17 cents per kilowatt-hour — for the clean energy that they produce. In other words, if they produce the energy, they charge a premium. If solar PV customers produce clean energy, it should be worth less. How is that fair? How is charging ALL customers MORE — a whopping $55 (which is unheard of in any other state) — fair to everyone? Is it fair to change the rules in the middle of the game? Not in my book.
Meanwhile, more than 4,400 solar PV customers are still waiting to be connected to the grid. HECO has not answered questions of when they will be connected, or how they will be compensated, as they very well deserve to be.
Solar is not a luxury. It's a technology that middle-class families from Waianae to Hawaii Kai, small businesses and non-profits invested in as part of a step towards a clean energy future and energy independence. It's a technology that makes sense for Hawaii.
Polls show that an overwhelming number of people want more rooftop solar in Hawaii, according to the Sierra Club, which adds that "customer choice is in the public interest."
So give HECO a piece of your mind. Or tell it to the Public Utilities Commission, which still has to approve HECO's Aug. 26 plan. Public comment is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org by Oct. 6. Put the docket number in the subject line. (ex.Public Comment – Docket No. 2014-0192 – DGIP). Let your solar voice be heard.
Separately, you can also contact Hawaii's legislators (contact info is available at capitol.hawaii.gov).
Letters to the editor have been rolling in, with the vast majority expressing disappointment and disbelief with HECO's plan. For your convenience, here are "Letters to the Editor" that ran in the Star-Advertiser in the past few weeks. Shows you how powerful the voices for solar can be together (scroll all the way down, the earliest one's my favorite). Keep them coming.
Oct. 18, 2014
Rosenblum gets a sweet deal
Did I read this correctly ("Ex-HECO chief to get $551K as consultant," Star-Advertiser, Oct. 15)?
Hawaiian Electric Co. is paying former president and CEO Dick Rosenblum $551,000 for six months of work to be an "adviser" to HECO chairwoman Connie Lau immediately after he retires on Jan. 5.
So you have a current chairwoman, Lau, who has seemingly thwarted our state in its move toward energy independence, hiring Rosenblum to advise her on things she already knows or could be advised of between now and Rosenblum's retirement.
I don't get it. Something smells. Hopefully the public and the state Public Utilities Commission smell something, too.
PV owners being mistreated?
It seems Hawaiian Electric Co. has managed to pit photovoltaic owners against non-photovoltaic owners.
The erroneous assumption is PV owners are not paying their fair share because they are not buying enough energy. What happened to decoupling?
Saying to get off the grid if you do not like it ignores the fact that if 11 percent of the grid's users got off and stopped paying the minimum, that cost would have to be absorbed by the remaining 89 percent. Seventeen dollars may be too little, but $71 is too much, and it is unfair to make people pay more for using less.
Michael B. Moore
Sept. 27, 2014
HECO failing at lowering bills
I'm a photovoltaic investor and it saddens me to have read negative responses to PV systems.
I shouldn't have to explain why we decided to invest our hard-earned money into a PV system, but I feel I must.
The reason my family did it was to get away from a huge monopoly like Hawaiian Electric Co. and start using the money saved from the outrageous electric bills to something more important -- our kids.
It seems to me HECO is trying to create an animosity between us and a distraction from the bigger picture.
There are fewer customers on the grid but HECO is still charging three times more for electricity. Why hasn't it figured out how to take the unused electricity my PV system produces and apply it to non-rooftop solar customers to lessen their electric bills?
Could it be HECO was unprepared?
Sept. 26, 2014
HECO delaying sustainability
Stop falling for Hawaiian Electric Co.'s misinformation campaign that pits customers against each other ("No special deals for PV owners," Star-Advertiser, Letters, Sept. 11).
Unfortunately, we're past the luxury of bickering. Climate change is real. Climate change is here. Any doubters should check out what's happening with rising sea levels on the islands of Kiribati, then go to watchdisruption.com.
HECO's plan slows Hawaii's move to clean energy and self-sustainability.
In addition to slowing photovoltaic installations, it swaps oil for liquefied natural gas, another fossil fuel, drilled via "fracking," which creates climate impacts just as bad as oil.
Fracking also ruins communities by exposing them to environmental and health hazards, including toxic leakage into their drinking water.
I don't think the people of Hawaii want to be party to this type of devastation.
We must all do everything we can to bring down carbon emissions, and that means cooperation and putting the planet before HECO profits.
PV owners now being penalized
We installed thousands of dollars worth of photovoltaics two years ago.
It was our out-of-pocket gesture to benefit the community and help protect the environment.
It was also, incidentally, a very real subsidy to Hawaiian Electric Co., in the form of reduced fossil fuel costs, thereby freeing up funds which could be used to maintain and improve the electrical grid.
We generate all our own home power, plus some extra for the community to share. Based on our past electric bills, we won't recoup our investment for more than 10 years. Oahu's other 33,000 PV owners are doing essentially the same.
Let's not forget that PV owners paid their dues, up front, when purchasing their systems. We committed personal resources to move all of us toward our shared goal: clean air and energy independence.
Why, then, should we be financially penalized and seen as part of the problem, when we're proactively pursuing the solution?
St. Louis Heights
Sept. 24, 2014
HECO driving customers away
Here is a glimpse of the future if Hawaiian Electric Co. raises the hook-up rate for solar customers:
Solar customers will look at the annual $850 or so that HECO is charging to be connected to the grid, do the math, and figure out that if they buy batteries and a generator, they will not need HECO. Battery technology is getting cheaper.
HECO is getting what amounts to free power from the excess from these customers. New HECO generators to replace this lost power will be very expensive.
HECO's CEO, Constance Lau, as reported in 2013, was earning $5.82 million per year. If you have a family of four, you are paying more than $20 a year just for Lau's salary. Double that for the next few key executives.
With solar customers opting out of the grid, that burden falls on fewer shoulders.
All rates will go up.
Sept. 19, 2014
HECO conquers by dividing us
Hawaiian Electric Co. created a debate pitting ratepayer against rate-payer, deflecting attention from the real issues at hand.
Temperatures could increase by 2 degrees by the mid-2030s according to Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group vice president and special envoy for Climate Change. Kyte also said we could be staring at an ongoing food crisis within the next decade.
One person in five receives aid through the Hawaii Food Bank. Making matters worse, we can expect a sharp climate-induced rise in food prices due to the severe drought in California. Many will have to choose between feeding their families or paying their electric bill.
HECO and its shareholders should bear some of the burden. And HECO should be mobilizing its resources to expedite a grid with majority renewable energy to help reduce rates. We all need to make sacrifices in this era of climate change.
Sept. 18, 2014
It's not HECO's call about tax rebates
Something seems to have been lost in the debate over our rooftop solar panels.
The idea was to find a way to reduce the island's collective carbon dioxide footprint. In order to do that, homeowners needed an incentive. Tax rebates are that incentive.
This should not be Hawaiian Electric's call. HECO, as a corporation, has no interest in reducing CO2, if it costs the corpor- ation money.
That is why, I hope, we have government and regulations that lean toward the interests of the people, not the corporations.
Waialae Nui Ridge
Solar production was boon for HECO
Hawaiian Electric Co. encouraged solar power production because it made economic sense for HECO and for all its customers.
This solar power production deferred rate increases for needed generating capacity that HECO otherwise would have been required to build itself. HECO also touts solar power as a non-fossil-fueled, sustainable resource.
Due to significant tax credits, customer-generated solar power was cheaper (and more timely) than power that HECO could have produced itself. HECO enjoyed the additional capacity, deferred ratemaking politics, and avoided the customer rate-shock that would have occurred if it had built this generating capacity itself.
Shame on HECO for creating a wedge between its solar and non-solar customers over transmission upgrade costs.
HECO dollars to be spent on transmission upgrades have been more than offset by the dollars that HECO saved by not building this generating capacity itself, dollars that ultimately all HECO customers would have paid.
Sept. 14, 2014
"PV system permits plummet on Oahu," Star-Advertiser, Sept. 10:
» Anybody who says Hawaiian Electric did not anticipate the demand is drinking the HECO Kool-Aid. I agree, they did not plan for it, but not because it wasn't evident in all the numbers.
» HECO did not anticipate, HECO did not anticipate, HECO did not anticipate. I am so sick and tired of hearing this because all it is saying is that they did not plan or do their job!
» Hawaiian Electric currently pays a 5 percent annual dividend. PV is not an option for me, so I bought shares of HE stock. For now, the 5 percent dividend covers my electricity bill.
» Lemons into lemonade. Good for you.
Sept. 7, 2014
HECO profiting well from PV customers
Hawaiian Electric Co. President Dick Rosenblum's latest quote, "We just want them to pay their fair share" regarding residential PV owners, really galled me.
HECO proposes to not only increase the base charge but also reduce by half the price of the credits it's giving solar owners, citing fairness and pandering for support from those without PV panels upset about paying full price.
If Rosenblum wants to talk fair share, how about HECO sending a check for that electricity they're taking from me and selling to non-solar owners?Even at the reduced rate, it would be a pretty penny every year.
HECO doesn't pay a dime for residential PV systems yet profits by re-selling any annual over-production from the panels at full price with absolutely no overhead to itself when the credits zero out.
I hope the state Public Utilities Commission sees through this charade to pad HECO's bottom line and that the Star-Advertiser does a little investigative reporting to bring the heat.
Sept. 4, 2014
Maybe turn HECO into a nonprofit
The premise of Hawaiian Electric Co. President Dick Rosenblum's defense of proposed HECO rates seems to be that solar power adopters are getting a "good deal" from HECO ratepayers after paying off their solar systems.
Rosenblum seems to conflate taxpayers with ratepayers.My solar "deal" was a result of taxpayers deciding that the common good was served by decreasing the amount of electricity generated by HECO and increasing the amount of electricity generated by individual solar panels.The $55 charge advocated by HECO is really solar owners paying for 200 kWh of electricity they don't use.
Using Rosenblum's logic, shouldn't taxpayers own HECO so that the subsidies provided from non-solar to solar customers are equitably distributed?
HECO reported $161 million profit for 2013.If HECO was non-profit, the $38 million subsidy claimed by Rosenblum could be easily absorbed by the public corporation and rates could be lowered for all.
Sept. 2, 2014
HEI salaries related to high energy cost?
Informative and interesting article on high-salaried occupations in Hawaii ("Medical field tops wage ranking in Hawaii," Star-Advertiser, Aug. 28).
Going a little further and calculating, it appears that the CEO of Hawaiian Electric Industries received in the neighborhood of $2,885 an hour. Once you calculate the salaries of all other Hawaiian Electric employees, the total annual salaries must be off the charts.
Could that be one of the reasons that Hwaii owners and businesses pay the highest price in the nation for electricity?
James l. Robinson
What will new rate be called on bill?
HECO's new plan will raise more than solar rates; it will raise mine, too, and I'm not a solar customer because I live in a condo.
HECO says it now charges 34 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).
When I do the math, my last bill came out to 37.7 cents per kWh, all charges inclusive. Even if HECO reduced the charge from 37.7 cents per kWh to 26 cents per kWh and then added the $55 charge, my bill would increase by 25 percent.
I say, OK, charge me the 34 cents per kWh (not the 37.7 cents per kWh), but forget the $55 charge.
What does it plan to call the new charge anyway?My bill already has the following ambiguous charges on it:Customer Charge; Base Fuel Energy; Non Fuel Energy; Energy Cost Adjustment; IRP Cost Recovery; PBF Surcharge; Purchased Power Adjustment; RBA Rate Adjustment; and Renewable Infrastructure Pgm.
HECO is the wolf in sheep's clothing. Baaaaaa to its plan.
Aug. 31, 2014
HECO energy plan will kill PV industry
Shibai! Hawaiian Electric Co.'s so-called energy plan is anti-green and anti-renewable energy.
First, it will penalize photovoltaic (PV) customers who invested tens of thousands of dollars to become energy efficient.That will also destroy the PV industry in Hawaii.
Second, while HECO claims it wants to reduce charges to non-PV customers, the plan actually provides their rates will increase, too -- all in the mere hope that after 2030 HECO "might" reduce energy costs for everyone.
If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.
Michael A. Lilly
Changing rules now unfair to PV owners
My electric bill last month was $17.
We delivered to Hawaiian Electric Co. 280 kilowatt hours (kWh) and received 220 kWh for a credit of 60 kWh. But with the proposed rate increase we would have to pay $99.57 -- a dramatic increase.
Here's the calculation: To HECO, we would have to pay 220 kWh times 34.62 cents, totaling $76.17 for the electricity we received, and simultaneously, receive a credit of 280 kWh times 17 cents for $47.60 total for the power we feed into their system(instead of our present 280 kWh times 34.62 cents for $96.93 total).
So although this wasa good summer month and we made more electricity than we used, we still would have a negative balance of $28.57 ($76.17 - $47.60 = $28.57).
Add to that the proposed new fixed monthly charge of $71 and our bill would then be $28.57 + $7 = $99.57. This would make solar a poor investment for us and probably many other solar customers.
HECO should not be allowed to change the present rules for existing solar owners, because the present rules were the main reason people bought solar.
Aug. 30, 2014
HECO plan will ensure its profits
HECO has come up with a new plan that sounds more like a way to discourage private photovoltaic (PV) installations and effectively raise rates.
» Step 1: Promise (someday) a 20 percent reduction in electric rates.
For its mythical average customer using 600 kilowatt hours a month, that would be a savings of around $42 monthly.
» Step 2: More than quadruple the minimum monthly charge to people with PV from $17 a month to $71 a month, a $54 monthly hike.
» Step 3: Charge a one-time interconnection fee of an undisclosed amount for each PV installation.
» Step 4: Reduce the credit for electricity supplied by customers' PV installations in half (from the retail rate of about 35 cents per kWh to 17 cents per kWh).
Result: More profit for HECO.
Battery backed-up, off-grid installations will become more attractive, and HECO's customer base will decrease even further.
Result: Less reliable grid.