Some customers asked to pay thousands to connect with solar

Some Hawaiian Electric customers are being asked to pay thousands of dollars more if they want to get on the grid.

HECO says 370 letters were sent to customers still wanting a PV system under the old Net Energy Metering program.

KHON2 obtained two different letters HECO sent out to Net Energy Metering customers dated January 2017.

One customer was asked to pay $8,000, and another more than $26,000 to get on the grid.

Chris Debone is a solar contractor at Hawaii Energy Connection. He says some of his customers weren’t pleased.

“Anger is the first emotion that comes up, because a lot of these customers have been waiting a long time, sometimes years, to get approval to interconnect,” Debone said. “Then they get a letter with this. There’s additional fees and costs after waiting so long. It’s coming up to an emotional boiling point. They want to know why.”

The Public Utilities Commission, which regulates the rates and services of a public utility, says it is aware of the hundreds of letters HECO mailed to customers.

The PUC confirms HECO is allowed to propose the additional fees, because these particular customers have issues connecting to the system.

An employee with the regulatory agency explained that the cost to upgrade to the PV system is specific to each customer.

HECO says the 370 customers still waiting to connect are found throughout Oahu, but mostly in areas already heavily saturated with PV, like Makaha or Kahala.

The PUC says it encouraged HECO to offer options other than a “bill” to its customers, which HECO did.

HECO says the payment option was a last resort to “clear the queue” of Net Energy Metering customers.

“We’re presenting them with the cost of the actual work,” explained Hawaiian Electric spokeswoman Shannon Tangonan. “We’re not profiting off of this. We’re asking the customer to pay for their share of the upgrade. We don’t want other ratepayers for them to benefit from their PV system.”

Examples of other options HECO gave customers were downsizing their PV systems, switching to HECO’s newer Self-Supply program, or trying out the Advanced Inverter pilot program.

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