Hawaii is well on its way to meeting its state renewable energy goal of obtaining 40% of its power from locally generated renewable sources by 2030. The Big Island already gets nearly half of its power (44%) of its electricity from renewables, and experts think it could be completely powered by renewables by 2020.
But for some, there is a downside to all this development, most of which is solar.
The Los Angeles Times interviewed Hawaiian residents Lawrence and Cindy Lee, a couple from Maui that decided earlier in the year to install solar on their home in order to lower their electricity costs and cash in on the incentives offered by the state.
It took nearly a year for the Lee’s to get through the permitting process. It also cost them an additional $3,000 to complete a study required by the Maui Electric Co. prior to installation.
“Instead of it being like they want to help you get your solar system in, it’s more like they don’t want you to,” Lawrence Lee told the LA Times.
Solar installations in Hawaii have doubled each year since 2007, and so have the solar tax credits handed out to businesses and homeowners that have gone solar. In 2012, solar tax credits cost Hawaii $173.8 million in lost revenue. Just two years ago, that amount was only $34.7 million.
State tax authorities recently announced that the solar tax credit will temporarily by reduced by half beginning January 1.
Hawaiian Electric raises another concern: renewable energy production is variable, unlike the power generated by big central power plants. The utility is concerned that the sudden influx of solar power to the grid could create unpredictable surges in power, leading to blackouts and power fluctuations.
Marco Mangelsdorf, professor of energy politics at the University of Hawaii in Hilo as well the owner of a local solar company called ProVision Solar, validates with the utility’s concerns.
“No one knows exactly when this is going to take place, but we are approaching a red line…. We will reach a point where they will not accept any more generating capacity,” Mangelsdorf told the LA Times.
There is a lot of uncertainty for the future, but recent changes in the permit process have streamlined installations…for the time being.
For their part, the Lee’s are satisfied with the outcome of their solar project.
“I wish I hadn’t had to go through all this, but it was worth it,” Lawrence Lee said.