I realized after my earlier posts on the solar power situation in Hawaii (Part 1, Part 2) that I had not done enough background reading. I was not wrong, per se, but had missed on some of the relevant context.
First, from Channel 2 KHON, that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) had rejected Hawaiian Electric Company’s (HECO’s) Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). An IRP is typically a utilities long-term plan as to how it will continue and improve service in the coming years and decades. The PUC rejected the IRP, which is quite uncommon, believing that HECO ” is not moving fast enough to lower utility rates and connect more photovoltaic systems into the grid.” So, while there certainly are technical difficulties in connecting more solar, HECO needs to take much more action on solving those problems.
Second, Utility Dive provides a much longer overview of what HECO needs to do to modernize their network. One thing they point out is that this isn’t the PUC acting like a bunch of tree-hugging hippies, but that “the best path to lower electricity costs includes an aggressive pursuit of new clean energy sources.” The utility could install large solar PV facilities at a total cost of about $0.16/KWhr as opposed to about $0.23/KWhr for current generated power. So, HECO could provide solar electricity for about a third less cost than their existing oil-fired plants. Saving the planet is just a bonus.
Quick note: those aren’t electrical prices you will see on your electric bill, but raw cost of generation. From the Energy Information Administration, the average retail price for all US residential users is about $0.12/KWhr, while the average retail price for a Hawaiian is over $0.38/KWhr.