HONOLULU (KHON2) — Changes to the city’s Department of Planning and Permitting were supposed to expedite the process. But applicants said it’s taking longer than ever to get a permit — and they said multiple industries are suffering because of it.
The executive director of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association said more than 200 applications have been turned in this year to DPP and fewer than 10 have been processed.
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“So literally there’s a full stoppage and breakdown in reviewing of the E plans applications at DPP right now,” said Rocky Mould.
And it’s not just solar companies complaining. Contractors and construction companies said it’s taking months to get approved for simple projects.
The city put the system online in January many of those KHON2 spoke with said it hasn’t gotten any better.
“No, it hasn’t gotten better. It actually has gotten worse. The outer islands got better because theirs is online, Maui and the Big Island, theirs is very simple,” said Allen Robinson, who has been waiting for a permit.
The solar industry said most of the applications are being flagged with what’s known as an advisory. So they have to submit the application to E Plan which then has to be reviewed by someone at DPP.
“That’s where we’re not getting the progress right now, that’s where the stoppage is. Once that first E Plan submission goes in, it’s not getting the initial review and there’s no indication of when we’ll get an initial review either,” said Mould.
So solar companies aren’t able to install systems. And their customers are missing out on lowering their electric bill.
“Permit fees aren’t going into the city coffers as well. So across the board this is really just damaging economic harm,” said Mould.
Mould said he has talked to the city about addressing the problems and even offered some solutions. But so far, he said nothing has changed.
Mould was told that there is a staff shortage that is currently being addressed. But he said there needs to be more urgency to fix the problem.
“The clock is ticking right now, money is flying out the window as we try to get these reviewed,” said Mould.
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DPP sent a statement that said, “the department may deny the use of this process if… the applicant is not ensuring compliance with all applicable laws and regulations or is abusing this process.”