Hawaii is gaining a reputation in the solar industry as a litmus test for grid management as residents get a greater and greater percentage of their power from distributed renewable energy generation.
While Hawaii only ranks seventh in the country for installed solar capacity, utilities in the state started hitting their caps on integration agreements for rooftop solar installation in 2012. With nearly 10 percent of the population in most Hawaiian utility territories drawing power from the sun and feeding their excess onto the grid, Hawaii is the first to face the real grid integration issues that have had utilities in other states fearing for their futures.
Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission rejected Hawaii Electric Companies’ long-range plan because it didn’t incorporate enough rooftop solar and didn’t solve for potential grid instability.
Because the state relies primarily on imported fossil fuels for electricity, rates are nearly triple what they are in the rest of the United States. As the price of solar installations have plummeted, Hawaiians have put solar on their properties at record rates.
As utilities stopped allowing grid connection, Hawaiians started to defect from the grid in favor of solar installations.
The state is still wrangling with its solar policies and the utilities will have to find a way forward that could lead the rest of the nation to a solution that will allow for more solar and clean energy.
With strong public and government support, there’s no indication that growing pains will stall solar growth in Hawaii. Some of the state’s incentives are on hold while utilities work out the logistics, but Hawaii still has an ambitious goal to get 40 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2030.
To reach that goal, the state offers incentives like tax credits, a feed-in tariff, an evolving net metering program, and low-interest loan programs, Hawaii is helping its residents make the transition to solar and its renewable cousins. The state also offers rebates for solar hot water systems.
Corporate Tax Credit
Green Building Incentive
Local Loan Program
Personal Tax Credit
Property Tax Incentive
State Bond Program
State Loan Program
State Rebate Program
Utility Loan Program
Utility Rebate Program
Rules, Regulations & Policies
Building Energy Code
Energy Efficiency Resource Standard
Energy Standards for Public Buildings
Public Benefits Fund
Renewables Portfolio Standard
Solar/Wind Access Policy
Solar/Wind Contractor Licensing
Related Programs & Initiatives
Alternative Fuels Data Center
The U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) provides information, data and tools to help fleets and other transportation decision-makers find ways to reduce petroleum consumption through the use of alternative and renewable fuels, advanced vehicles, and other fuel-saving measures.
Green Power Network
The U.S. Department of Energy's Green Power Network provides news and information on green power markets and activities, including opportunities to buy green power. This site provides state-by-state information on green power marketing and utility green power programs. In addition, the site lists marketers of renewable energy credits (RECs), also known as green tags or renewable energy certificates, which represent the environmental attributes of the power produced from renewable energy projects.
Weatherization Assistance Program
The U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) enables low-income families to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy-efficient. Through this program, weatherization service providers install energy-efficiency measures in the homes of qualifying homeowners free of charge. The WAP program web site offers a state-by-state map of opportunities, projects and activities.
Wind Powering America
The U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Powering America site provides state-by-state information on wind projects and activities, including wind working groups, validated wind maps, anemometer loan programs, small wind guides, state-specific news, wind for schools, workshops and web casts.
Personal income tax credit
Photovoltaics, Solar Thermal Electric, Solar Water Heating, Solar Space Heating, Wind
Up to 35% of total cost for PV and Solar thermal and up to 20% of system cost for wind.
|Required Documentation||Proof of ownership|
|Official Web Site|
Hawaii has offered this renewable energy state tax credit to residents and businesses since 1976, though the amounts and terms have changed over the years.
The tax credit is for the year the system was purchased and installed. It is only available to the purchaser of the system. So, if a developer builds 10 homes and pays for photovoltaics (PV) or solar water on each, the developer is considered the purchaser and eligible for the credits. But if the developer offers a system as an add-on, for which the buyer must pay extra, or if a homeowner contracts to have a system installed on their home, they are the beneficiary of the credit.
As of 2014, the income tax credits for solar photovoltaic systems are as follows:
• Single family homes are eligible for a tax credit of 35 percent of the actual cost of the solar system and installation up to $5,000.
• Multi-family residential properties, such as condominiums or apartment buildings, are eligible for a credit of 35 percent of the actual cost of the system and installation up to $350 per unit.
• Commercial property is also eligible for a credit of 35 percent up to $500,000.
|Program Type||Performance-based incentive|
|Technologies||Photovoltaics, Solar Thermal Electric, Wind, Biomass, Hydroelectric|
Rates for Tier 1 and Tier 2 vary by system size and technology
|Required Documentation||Varies by utility|
|Official Web Site||http://energy.hawaii.gov/|
Hawaii had one of the best feed-in tariff programs in the country when it started in 209. In fact, it was one of the only feed-in-tariffs. The idea of paying a premium to electric customers who produced their own clean power made sense in an island state that depends heavily on expensive imported fossil fuels for electricity generation.
However, the program has been at a stand still with no new enrollees since 2013. The state has the highest solar adoption rate of any in the country. With most utilities hitting their interconnection limits, the state is revisiting how it handles solar photovoltaic systems.
|Technologies||Solar Hot Water Heating|
|Amount||$1,000 upfront for residential or $1,000 interest buy-down for residential hot water heating|
|Required Documentation||Paperwork done by participating solar installer|
|Official Web Site||http://www.hawaiienergy.com/16/water-heating#solar-water-heating|
The Solar Water Heater Rebate is offered through Hawaii Energy, a public benefit fund administered by a third-party. The incentive is a one-time $1,000 rebate for residents and companies that install a solar water heating system on their building. It is limited to the islands of Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, Lanai and Molokai. The rebate itself is applied by a participating contractor at time of sale. The program maintains a list of participating providers at its website.
The rebate was instituted in 1996 and has helped more than 50,000 solar hot water systems get installed on the Hawaiian islands of Oahu, Maui, Lanai and Molokai. The program was managed by the utilities, but in July 2009, it was transferred to Hawaii Energy.
With these rebates and other tax credits and incentives, a solar hot water heating system can cost as little as $2,000.
Homeowners can choose to participate in the interest rate buy-down program instead of receiving the rebate. Through this program, Hawaii Energy pays $1,000 to participating financial institutions, reducing the cost of financing to the homeowner.