Grid up­grade plan sent to PUC

Use of more re­new­able en­ergy fo­cus of strat­egy

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By MAX DI­BLE

KAILUA-KONA — Hawai­ian Elec­tric Com­pa­nies sub­mit­ted on Tues­day the fi­nal draft of its Grid Mod­ern­iza­tion Strat­egy for re­view by the state Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion.

The first phase of the statewide plan is a six-year, $205 mil­lion en­deavor geared to­ward in­creas­ing grid ca­pac­ity for the use of more re­new­able en­ergy sources and im­prov­ing the re­li­a­bil­ity of ag­ing in­fra­struc­ture through tech­no­log­i­cal up­grades.

For most of its ex­is­tence, the state’s elec­tri­cal grid func­tioned as a one-way sys­tem, pro­vid­ing elec­tric­ity from power plants to homes and busi­nesses.

Since the ad­vent of so­lar power and its rise in pop­u­lar­ity through­out a state well-suited to pro­duce a great

deal of it, the grid now func­tions as a two-way sys­tem with en­ergy flow­ing back and forth be­tween the grid and pri­vate gen­er­a­tors of so­lar en­ergy.

Ac­cord­ing to a HECO re­lease, Hawaii now is home to more than 80,000 pri­vately owned rooftop so­lar sys­tems. The in­creased pro­duc­tion and use of so­lar en­ergy is in line with the state’s goal of mov­ing to 100 per­cent re­new­able en­ergy by 2045, but the grid isn’t equipped for that yet.

Mak­ing sure it is equipped is the pri­mary cat­a­lyst and pri­mary goal of the mod­ern­iza­tion strat­egy. The plan will “… help to more than triple the amount of pri­vate rooftop so­lar,” ac­cord­ing to the re­lease.

“In some ar­eas it’s sat­u­rated and we can­not have any­more (pho­to­voltaic),” said HECO spokes­woman Shan­non Tang­o­nan. “Just be­cause of the na­ture of how the grid is cur­rently, we can take only so much. What we’re em­bark­ing on now is a strat­egy to where the grid will be re­new­able ready.”

Tang­o­nan said as of the end of 2016, re­new­able en­ergy sources rep­re­sented 54 per­cent of the en­ergy used on Hawaii Is­land, up from 49 per­cent the year be­fore. That is the high­est rate in the state.

HECO’s re­lease high­lights a hand­ful of what it refers to as “near-term” work, which if ap­proved would take place dur­ing the first phase of grid mod­ern­iza­tion.

The work in­cludes strate­gic dis­tri­bu­tion of smart me­ters to cus­tomers such as those us­ing so­lar on sat­u­rated cir­cuits or those who want to take part in de­mand re­sponse pro­grams that would, with cus­tomer per­mis­sion, al­low HECO com­pa­nies to cut power to de­vices such as wa­ter heaters dur­ing times of high power us­age in exchange for lower rates.

The re­lease also men­tioned ad­vanced in­verter tech­nol­ogy, which al­lows for more rooftop so­lar adop­tion, as well as more wide­spread use of volt­age man­age­ment tools “to max­i­mize cir­cuit ca­pac­i­ties for pri­vate rooftop so­lar and other cus­tomer re­sources.”

Tang­o­nan said be­yond that, tech­no­log­i­cal up­grades around out­age man­age­ment and no­ti­fi­ca­tion will make the grid more re­silient and al­low op­er­a­tors to re­spond more quickly and ef­fi­ciently to what HECO hopes will be fewer out­ages.

Up­grades through the mod­ern­iza­tion won’t come at zero cost to the con­sumer.

The fi­nal draft of the mod­ern­iza­tion strat­egy es­ti­mates the av­er­age im­pact of the $205 mil­lion plan to the bills of Hawaii Is­land elec­tric cus­tomers at $2.07 per month dur­ing the first 10 years.

The PUC just more than a week ago ap­proved Hawai­ian Elec­tric Light Co.’s pro­posed 3.4 per­cent base rate in­crease on Hawaii Is­land — the first such rate bump in more than six years. HELCO pro­jected that rate in­crease will raise the av­er­age monthly bill for house­holds by $4.98.

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