KIUC reaches net metering limits

Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative has recently reached net metering limits for residential and commercial customers.

Net metering is a consumer-based renewable energy incentive that gives alternative power system owners retail credit for at least a portion of the electricity generated.

Net metering limits were established by the Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commission after a net metering law was enacted in 2001.

Under KIUC’s net metering program, any renewable power generation no greater than 50 kilowatts that utilizes photovoltaic (solar), wind, hydro, biomass or any hybrid system consisting of these technologies can be hooked into a KIUC meter.

Excess power sent onto KIUC’s grid is then subtracted from energy supplied by KIUC to the member. The member then pays the tariff energy rate for the net amount used.

Net metering was available to members until the sum of installations equaled 1 percent of the KIUC system peak. One half of the 1 percent was allocated to systems 10 kw or smaller, while the other half of the one percent was allocated to systems greater than 10 kw, but no greater than 50 kw.

“We didn’t think it would happen this early,” Steve Rymsha, a staff engineer at KIUC, said.

In 2005, there were only three people using net metering, and this year 60 people are trying to install systems, Rymsha said.

Those generating power for their own consumption would use KIUC’s system to store extra electricity for later use.

According to Randy Hee, president and CEO of KIUC, those customers are using KIUC’s facility as a battery, and KIUC is not compensated for that.

One main concern with this concept was that net metering customers were not paying their share of KIUC’s non-generation cost, which resulted in non-net metering customers to bear those costs as a subsidy.

Walt Barnes of Wailua, who has installed his own photovoltaic system, thinks people will still be installing photovoltaics even though the net metering program has reached its limit.

“People seem to be excited about photovoltaics,” Barnes said.

Barnes added that he thought it was appropriate to have a net meter subsidy to generate interest in renewable power generation.

“It was appropriate to get it all started (net metering) but it has to have a limit,” Barnes said.

“People are a little upset, but they still seem to be interested in some sort of system,” Rymsha said. “It hasn’t slowed down applicants.”

Though net metering limits have been met, those interested in installing any sort of renewable power generation system no greater than 100 kw must still apply with KIUC.

“Everyone interested still has to apply,” Rymsha said. “There is an interconnection application process and a different agreement with Schedule Q.”

Consumers will be able to purchase excess renewable energy under a Schedule Q modified rate. The Schedule Q rate will offer the same physical interconnection opportunities as net metering, but without financial subsidy.

Instead of selling back electricity to KIUC for a retail rate, consumers under the Schedule Q would receive a wholesale rate.

“We want people to continue to install systems,” Rymsha said. “It just has to be fair for all members.”

Rymsha said a contractor’s meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the KIUC building in Lihu‘e. Topics of discussion will include the Schedule Q tariff and general interconnection questions.

For more information on the Schedule Q Modified rates and net metering, contact Rymsha at 246-8287.

• Rachel Gehrlein, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or rgehrlein@kauaipubco.

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