• solar PV
  • Residential Solar
  • Clean Energy
  • Energy Storage

Hawaiian Electric Companies Launch NEM Plus Program

Ricardo Rodriguez
Nov 27, 2018

Solar 6

In October 2018, the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) commenced NEM Plus, a program that permits net energy metering (NEM) customers to add features like energy storage to their rooftop solar systems—with the stipulation that the new equipment does not export power to the grid. The program is available to nearly 71,000 existing NEM customers with a signed agreement at Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, and Hawaii Electric Light. 

NEM Plus permits NEM customers to keep their current program status if they elect to add a non-exporting renewable system (with or without energy storage), or a standalone energy storage system. NEM Plus benefits NEM customers with energy demand that routinely exceeds the supply provided by their rooftop solar or other renewable distributed energy resource (DER) system. It also benefits NEM customers considering renovations or purchases that would increase their electricity use, like an EV. 

Previously, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) orders had specified that NEM customers were not allowed to add any capacity to their systems. However, per the findings of Decision and Order 34924, the Hawaii PUC reversed this position. The conclusion reached was that allowing NEM customers to install non-export technology leaves the door open for these customers to provide grid services and allows the commission to retain control over the technical compliance of these systems, should policy change in the future. 

Residential Solar PV Plus Storage in Hawaii 

With an aggressive goal of reaching 100% clean energy by 2045, Hawaii currently boasts one of the highest residential battery storage penetration rates in the country. One reason for this increase is that more solar installers are offering residential storage products, viewing it as an important area of business growth after the commission eliminated net metering compensation. Created in 2015, the action moved to reduce the incentive to distributive solar due to penetration nearing 20% on some circuits, appearing to threaten the reliability of HECO’s system. 

In part because of the threat to Hawaii’s solar installers from reduced incentives, the commission acted not only by implementing NEM Plus but also several other incentive programs, including Customer Grid-Supply Plus and Smart Export. Nevertheless, solar penetration still threatens HECO’s grid and it is increasingly clear that there is a need to move from conventional, direct-to-grid solar PV toward more sophisticated DER systems that can help support (and ideally enhance) grid reliability. This will create the foundation for DER to play a more integral role in the operation of the electric utility network—central to this transition is solar plus storage. 

Navigant Research Leaderboard: Residential Solar PV Plus Energy Storage Providers

As the cost of energy storage solutions continues to decrease and consumers gain a better understanding of the renewable energy programs available, increased adoption of solar plus storage in the Hawaii market is expected. However, with 43% of Hawaii’s households renting and 48% of Hawaii’s households ALICE (Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed) and below, understanding how to identify the right residential PV plus storage provider and incentive program becomes increasingly important to customers as they navigate this new renewable energy technology and regulatory landscape.

In a recent Navigant Research Leaderboard that examined the strategy and execution of 12 leading residential solar PV plus energy storage providers, Sunrun was the only company ranked as a Leader. The company is active in Hawaii, endorsing the renewable energy incentive and offering an innovative model that other providers, utilities, and customers can look to.