REC Solar Hawaii Hosts Inaugural Solar Innovation Series Event in Honolulu

Hawaii’s mandate to achieve 100% clean energy by 2045 places the state at the forefront of solar and renewable energy adoption in the United States. Since 2007, REC Solar has been a leader in commercial solar on the islands. Recently, the solar landscape in Hawaii has seen several changes that include the end of the energy buyback program, meaning solar customers can no longer sell excess power back to the utility.

Hawaii’s mandate to achieve 100% clean energy by 2045 places the state at the forefront of solar and renewable energy adoption in the United States. Since 2007, REC Solar has been a leader in commercial solar on the islands. Recently, the solar landscape in Hawaii has seen several changes that include the end of the energy buyback program, meaning solar customers can no longer sell excess power back to the utility.

To answer questions about the latest energy policies and trends in Hawaii, REC Solar recently hosted our inaugural Solar Innovation event in Honolulu. Attendees included a mix of business leaders, representatives from Hawaiian Electric (HECO), energy policy experts, battery storage companies and others in the energy ecosystem.

We had three expert moderators leading our discussions: Brody McMurtry (Business Development Manager of Energy Solutions Group for Johnson Controls, Inc.) focused on the topic of energy storage, Erik Kvam (Managing Director of Hawaii Energy Law Services and Director of REACH) explained the latest updates in Hawaii energy policy, and Drew Bradley (Director of Business Development for REC Solar) discussed the newest “Solar plus Storage” PPA offerings, as well as other financing options for commercial solar.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

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Erik Kvam (Hawaii Energy Law Services) answering an energy policy question from a guest

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Drew Bradley (REC Solar) and Brody McMurtry (Johnson Controls, Inc.) explain some key principles for the success of solar storage in Hawaii

ENERGY LAWS AND UTILITY POLICIES

  1. A proposed Energy Storage Tax Credit bill would provide additional opportunities for cost savings, as well as contributing to the necessary policy shifts needed to achieve 100% renewables by 2045. Business owners and local energy partners are encouraged to consider joining REACH (Renewable Energy Action Committee Hawaii) in order to support the advocacy of bills that would support solar and other renewable energy.
  2. Three Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) representatives were present for the discussion, and they shared some insight into the current state of the utility and what they are planning for the future. These goals include creating a model to value solar/exported power, completing a pilot test for time-of-use (TOU) rates, installation of smart meters, adding demand response capabilities, and distributed energy storage.

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Guests get a chance to mingle over cocktails and pupus in the Ice Garden at the Honolulu Design Center

 

SAVING MONEY WITH SOLAR AND STORAGE

  1. Despite the end of energy buyback programs like net metering and customer grid supply, there are still a number of opportunities for businesses to cut costs by going solar, including:
    • Commercial Standard Interconnection Agreement (SIA)
    • PV + Storage
    • Microgrids
    • Federal Investment tax credit (ITC) & state tax credit
  2. Storage can reduce energy costs for businesses, either in conjunction with PV or in some cases, even on its own.
    • Energy storage can help balance the load or maximize the advantages of time-of-use (TOU) rates. This is especially important for businesses that require high energy usage during peak hours because it allows you to save the energy generated in off-peak hours to use later when the rates would be much higher. Even without PV, this makes sense for anywhere that has a peak hour upcharge of $0.10/kWh or more.
    • Storage also provides UPS (uninterruptable power supply) as energy security for businesses/industries that require large quantities of reliable power, like hospitals, military bases, data centers, and critical infrastructure like water and heat.
    • Additional ways to lower energy costs through the use of storage include demand reduction, demand response (where available), frequency response, and power factor correction
  3. There are several financing options currently available for solar and/or storage customers:
    • Commercial solar can be financed through a standard Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), lease, or cash deal.
    • Storage projects can be purchased with cash, or with “Storage as a Service” financing, which is similar to PPA models in that the customer pays a fixed monthly fee for the savings generated by the storage system but all the risk can be put on the battery technology provider. Storage can also be purchased via shared savings models where the customer and provider both get a percentage of the savings generated by the storage.
    • For projects that will incorporate both solar and storage, there may be a “Solar plus Storage” PPA opportunity. This option provides solar energy generation and battery storage at a fixed cost per unit of power produced by the solar, while all project development and maintenance costs remain as the responsibility of the solar and storage providers.
  4. JCI and REC Solar have already partnered on solar plus storage projects in the islands. This partnership is beneficial to customers because it allows them to combine the energy savings from both technologies into a package that can be financed, installed, and maintained under a single contract.

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Mike Billet (REC Solar) discusses commercial solar options with a customer

 

RESOURCES FOR BUSINESS OWNERS

  1. What should a customer know before selecting a solar provider?
    • Get help understanding your utility rates and energy bills – many business owners pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in energy costs without ever analyzing at their bill from the utility.
    • Recognize the importance of system design experts; solar is not a one-size-fits-all solution, so make sure you are selecting a provider with a proven track record to help customize your energy system.
    • Utilize a legal expert to better understand financing options, contracts, and tax incentives.
  2. What should a customer know before selecting a storage technology provider?
    • Research legislation and tax credits that may help to lower the cost of storage
    • Make sure you select a storage provider with extensive knowledge and experience to ensure that you get the best storage system for your business and that it is properly installed and maintained to maximize your ROI
    • Choose a reliable manufacturer with a large balance sheet – the performance guarantees and warranties for your batteries are only effective if the manufacturer is still in business!

Mahalo to everyone who attended and participated to make it a fun, educational evening.

 

If you are located in Hawaii and would like to receive an invitation to our next event, email Lowell Burton (Hawaii Marketing Manager at REC Solar) at lburton@recsolar.com.