Solar Heats Up in Hawaii
The Big Island’s New Rules Pave the Way for More Renewable Energy
As snowstorm season approaches, many shovel-bearing, snowsuit-clad folks are thinking wistfully about tropical escapes like Hawaii. And why wouldn’t they? Hawaii’s crystal clear waters, laid-back island culture and warm temperatures are powerful attractions. But, recently, Hawaii’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) gave mainlanders another reason to move to this tropical paradise with its decision to adopt new rules that make it easier for homes and businesses to generate their own renewable energy.

In late November, the PUC approved a national precedent-setting settlement that clears the path for more decentralized renewable generation, like rooftop solar panels, to contribute to the energy mix in the islands.

“The improvements to Hawaii’s interconnection rules are a big first step toward enabling more homes and businesses to join the clean energy wave. Hawaii and the rest of the nation need to continue such progress to break our addiction to dirty fossil fuels,” said Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake, who represented the Hawaii Solar Energy Association (HSEA) before the PUC.

The improved rules streamline the process for allowing more than 15% of energy to come from renewables, the barrier that has long been the “rule of thumb” for utilities across the U.S. Instead of going through a full-blown interconnection study every time someone wants to put up a solar panel, utilities may use a much quicker “supplemental review” process.

By finding ways to accommodate consumers who want to create their own energy, Hawaii is paving the way for further advancements in interconnection practices across the United States. That’s good news since renewable energy in the U.S. is growing rapidly (though many argue not rapidly enough) as the cost of solar panels decreases and availability of the technology increases.

Heck, you can even buy solar panels at Home Depot these days. If and when the U.S. decides to ramp up its renewable energy efforts, states like Hawaii that are paving the way for consumer-generated, renewable power will be well-poised to capitalize on a clean energy future.