Hawaii feed-in tariff decision to open clean energy market

A decision issued recently by the Hawaiian Public Utilities Commission could generate new clean energy investment statewide.

Although specific rates for clean power purchase have not been set in the feed-in tariff (FiT), advocates for clean energy are encouraged by the decision. Questions remain, however, regarding how far the policy will go in really driving clean energy development. Details will be revisited in two years.

According to the Hawaiian Public Utilities Commission, Hawaii is the most oil-dependent of the US states and the FiT addresses concerns that clean energy developers have about Hawaii, namely the ability to secure access to the power grid and ensure a fair price for the power that they sold.

Mark Duda, president of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association said, "Hawaii's solar industry is pleased that the Commission has recognised the importance of our industry-and distributed generation in general-in the broader effort to increase energy security and reduce carbon emissions."

Many of Hawaii's clean energy advocates were promoting a more aggressive FiT - similar to that enacted in Germany, which doesn't have many of the limitations imposed by Hawaii's new policy.

Nearly 40 countries around the world, from Europe to Canada to Australia, have adopted similar feed-in tariffs, making the incentive among the most popular and successful ever for growing clean energy economies.

Solar energy advocates in particular are pleased that the new policy preserves the existing net energy metering incentive currently available for home power producers, such as those that use PV systems. After the new FiT rates are determined, home power producers can decide to either run their meter backward to eliminate their power bill, or become a power producer and receive payment from the utility for their clean energy.

"The Commission's decision offers the promise of helping to stabilise ratepayers’ electricity costs, create jobs, and reduce Hawaii's dependence on imported oil," said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation. "By removing some uncertainty in the clean energy marketplace, Hawaii's feed-in tariff gives green power the green light."

The decision and order issued last Friday is a statement of "general principles" on the shape of the feed-in tariff program. The actual rate amounts will be determined by the Commission within the next few months.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity