What are non-wires alternatives?

Hawaiian Electric
3 min readMay 31, 2022

by Hawaii Powered | May 31, 2022

Solar panels on a resident rooftop

What are non-wires alternatives and how do they benefit customers?

Typically, moving electricity involves a complicated network of poles, wires and substations. New energy technologies are providing additional options. That’s where non-wires alternatives (NWAs) come in. NWAs provide the ability to connect diverse energy sources to the grid to reduce or defer the need for transmission infrastructure like wires, substations and transformers. They support distributed energy resources, which diversify the types of energy generation to include small-scale sources (like community-based renewables, rooftop solar and customer battery storage) and grid-scale sources (like wind turbines and larger solar facilities).

Community members, engineers, environmental scientists, utility companies and regulators have been working to develop and implement NWAs to make smaller-scale connections. For example, an NWA system could directly connect electricity from an aggregation of rooftop solar panels and customer battery storage, energy efficiency, and larger scale resources back to the grid.

Benefits of NWAs for customers include:

  • Increasing the grid’s resilience and reliability — NWAs encourage diverse energy generation rather than relying on any one source for electricity. For Hawaiian Electric, this makes it easier to bounce back from disasters and helps us become less vulnerable to global fluctuations in resource costs. For customers, this means a lower risk of outages and more stable, predictable utility bills. This is especially helpful for isolated or remote communities where traditional poles and wires may be difficult or expensive to build.
  • Anticipated customer savings — If distributed energy resources can be acquired and used to solve grid issues that would have normally been solved through new gird infrastructure, and at a lower cost, then customers aim to realize savings on their electric bill.
  • Supporting customer participation — By encouraging the development of distributed energy resources, NWAs open up more opportunities for customers to participate in generating and storing their own electricity.
  • Environmental benefits and improving community aesthetics — NWAs will contribute to the overall clean energy produced and used in Hawaii, helping us move away from fossil fuels and pollution, and potentially deferring the need for new utility poles, wires, and transformers.

Expression of Interest for NWAs on Oahu

On April 1, 2022, Hawaiian Electric published an Expressions of Interest for NWAs on Oahu. Expressions of Interest are part of the competitive bidding process for selecting developers to build projects. An Expression of Interest comes before a Request for Proposal, and it is an opportunity to ask the developer community for feedback and to learn more about different technologies for potential projects. It can also demonstrate a company’s intention to invest in a particular service, describe the need for that service and identify interested parties.

Hawaiian Electric is planning to retire two oil-powered generation units, Waiau 3 and 4, in the coming years. We are interested in looking for an NWA solution to ensure the reliability of the grid. If an NWA is not feasible in this situation, we have identified a traditional wires solution. This would involve recirculating, reconfiguring and adding a new transformer at the Ewa Nui Substations. This option was determined based on the forecasted electricity needs of Oahu in 2026–2029. An NWA would potentially bridge the gap from the need now to the potential wires solution in the future.

You can learn more and read the Expression of Interest online.

Learn more about Hawaii Powered and our clean energy future at www.hawaiipowered.com.



Hawaiian Electric

Established in 1891, Hawaiian Electric is committed to empowering its customers and communities by providing affordable, reliable, clean and sustainable energy.