Net Energy Metering in Hawaii Ten Years Later

Courtesy of Marco Mangelsdorf

In June 2001, Hawaii became the 35th state in the nation to adopt a Net Energy Metering (NEM) law to promote the installation of small renewable energy grid-connected systems across the Hawaiian Islands. What effect has the availability of this law had on the diffusion of NEM photovoltaic (PV) systems in Hawaii?

I wrote those words back in September 2002 for the beginning of the abstract for a conference paper. Following that last question, I then observed: “Given the typical abundant sunshine here coupled with consistently high electric utility rates, NEM should be taking off, yet consumer adoption has been slow.”

My, oh my, what a difference 10 years make. After Hawaii’s first NEM law—which allowed homeowners and businesses to receive full retail credit for the power they produced—went into effect July 1, 2001, adoption putt-putted along in a decidedly incremental fashion.

For the first 6.5 years, from mid-2001 through 2007, a total of 386 NEM systems were installed across the state. In 2008 alone, 565 systems 1 went in and from 2009-2010, 3,399 systems2 were installed. By the end of last year, a total of 9,625 NEM systems3 were sitting on people’s roofs and on ground-mounted arrays across the state producing solar electricity from the sun. And right now any PV integrator worth their sea salt is likely doing record business this year as 2012 looks to be another big banner year over 2011, which was a banner year over 2010, which was a banner year over 2009.

In the first six months of this year alone, an additional 4,519 NEM systems went in across HECO, MECO and HELCO territories.4 Given the anticipation of the usual end-of-the-year rush, more like madness, to get systems installed and placed in service by the December 31 tax credit deadline, the total number of NEM systems installed in 2012 will be close to, if not higher than, the figure for all of the NEM systems installed during the previous 10.5 years.

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