PUC to issue order after solar letter, HECO apologizes for confusion

News

KHON2 has learned the state is issuing an order to Hawaiian Electric following the utility’s decision not to approve solar applications.

On Wednesday, we told you HECO is telling some Big Island residents that their solar applications cannot be approved.

In the letter to applicants, HECO says it will not approve interconnections until the PUC makes a decision on HECO’s proposal to change its solar program.

“Is an order from the PUC very serious?” KHON2 asked.

“Well, I won’t speak for Hawaiian Electric, but I think I can tell them this is something more than a Christmas card,” said Randy Iwase, PUC chairman. “We could’ve responded by letter and said, oh shame on you, but we thought, I did at least, feel that it was much more serious than that.”

Iwase could not go into much detail about what the order to HECO will say, but he said it will address some of the issues raised in the letter to potential solar customers on the Big Island.

“Including reiterating the state’s policy that there should be interconnection of PVs unless there are technical, safety or reliability issues and not that they filed a matter before the PUC,” he said.

HECO spokesman Darren Pai did not know about the order until KHON2 told him late Thursday afternoon.

“How do you feel about the PUC drafting an order to HECO?” KHON2 asked.

“The role of the PUC is to regulate us. We’re interested in hearing what they have to say,” Pai said.

Pai admitted that this HECO letter in question created confusion.

“We apologize for the confusion that was in this letter. We incorrectly communicated what we were trying to get across,” Pai said.

In the letter to Big Island residents, HECO said until the PUC makes a decision on changes to its solar program, it would not approve interconnections.

“So then the letter isn’t true in terms of saying all applicants will not be approved after that October date?” KHON2 asked.

“No, that’s something we could have clarified in the letter to make it more clear,” Pai said.

He said what HECO wanted to get across is that recipients of this letter live in PV-saturated areas and that HECO is asking the PUC to change the solar program to address technical and rate concerns.

KHON2 also went straight to the top and asked Gov. David Ige about the issue.

“What do you tell people who have been trying to follow in the state’s footsteps of renewable energy but are now being told, sorry, your solar request or application can’t be approved right now?” KHON2 asked.

“I would just ask the consumers to be patient. We do have a new chair of the PUC,” Ige said.

According to HECO, only 50 letters were sent to potential solar customers on the Big Island and right now there are no plans to send the letter to those on Oahu and Maui.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.