Utility Companies Are Not Liking Solar? Is this a surprise? Let's see what's happening in Hawaii.
HONOLULU—Utilities are trying to stem the rise of solar power, either by reducing incentives, adding fees or even by pushing home solar companies out of the market, according to an article in The New York Times. According to the article, demand for electricity is softening while residential solar is rapidly spreading across the country. There are now about 600,000 installed systems, and the number is expected to reach 3.3 million by 2020, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. In Hawaii, the current battle began in 2013, when utility Hawaiian Electric began barring installations of residential solar systems in certain areas. Critics say the utility became alarmed by the technical and financial challenges of homes suddenly making their own electricity. Conversely, utilities say that solar-generated electricity flowing out of houses and into the power grid has caused unanticipated voltage fluctuations that can overload circuits, burn lines and lead to brownouts or blackouts. The article states that this shift in the electricity business is remaking the relationship between power companies and the public while raising questions about how to pay for maintaining and operating the nation's grid. Because rooftop systems are installed on roughly 12% of Hawaii's homes, Hawaii is being looked at as an important test case for the entire country. Says one home solar advocate, "Hawaii is a postcard from the future."