Customer energy resources vital to reach 100% renewables

by Peter Rosegg | June 21, 2021

When people ask about Hawaii’s goal of 100% clean energy for electricity by 2045, a common question is, “How will you get there?” No one technology or activity can answer that question. It will take a combination of renewable energy from large- and small customer systems as well as energy efficiency and conservation by customers — all using existing technologies and some that have not been perfected or even invented yet.

One thing we can be sure of, the utility and large independent power producers cannot do it alone. Customer involvement, such as installing rooftop solar, battery storage and driving electric vehicles, is essential.

For that reason, Hawaiian Electric has published “Customer Energy Resources for Hawaii; A Customer-First CER Strategy for a 100% Clean Energy Future.” We’re open to comments or questions from customers, as well as stakeholders and regulators. We consulted a diverse set of experts outside and within our company for the document filed with the Public Utilities Commission.

You are invited to review the document at Customer Energy Resources for Hawaii. We’d like to hear your comments and suggestions. Send them to connect@hawaiianelectric.com with “CER Strategy” in the subject line.

Across our state, we don’t have enough available open land — particularly on Oahu — to sustainably balance uses like large renewable energy projects, including solar and wind, with other needs such as preserving the islands’ natural beauty, affordable housing and more local food supply. So, we need a strategy to encourage all customers participate in this energy transformation in a fair and equitable way.

We’ve worked on the CER strategy for several years, most intensely in the last year of consultation and cooperation with the rooftop solar industry to further smooth and speed the interconnection process during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, in 2020 nearly 6,000 new rooftop solar systems were installed across Hawaiian Electric’s service territory, a 55% increase over 2019.

A key element of our strategy is the “Equity Principle,” that expansion of CERs must benefit all customers, including with moderate or fixed incomes, and must fairly allocate utility costs among customers based on benefits they receive or provide the grid.

Customer energy resources are technologies and devices on the customer-side of the meter that alter energy use. We used to call them “distributed energy resources” and “demand response.” Our strategy envisions a modern grid with about half of all customers’ electricity needs coming from the “edge of the grid” (that is, from customers) not the “center of the grid” (large power plants that push power out to customers).

The strategy also notes that energy efficiency and conservation are essential to customer involvement. Hawaiian Electric continues to collaborate with Hawaii Energy, the Public Utilities Commission’s independent entity that administers the state’s energy efficiency programs. Energy efficiency is incorporated in resource planning, including the state’s Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard which targets a continuing 30% electricity sales reduction by 2030.

You can play an important role in Hawaii reaching 100% clean energy by 2045. For starters, take energy-saving steps at home and work, provide public comment on our CER strategy, and consider whether rooftop solar or participation in the upcoming shared solar rollout later this year is for you.

Peter Rosegg is a senior corporate relations specialist at Hawaiian Electric Company.