ImageOctober 23, 2013

by Representative Cynthia Thielen

 

Clinging to an outdated business model, Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO) is “doomed to obsolescence.” This term surfaced in Bloomberg Business Week (Aug 22) and is used to describe electric utilities that cling to a model used since the invention of the light bulb. Think of the land-line telephone, a virtual monopoly for over a century, which is now being replaced by cell phones and digital communication devices.

HECO’s corporate culture is fighting a losing battle and moving toward unplanned obsolescence. In the foreseeable future, green energy won’t need HECO or its antiquated transmission lines to deliver power to most households. Technical advances in microgrids and battery storage soon will enable residents to install a complete, stand-alone, renewable energy system and get off the excessively-priced HECO grid.

Nationally, grid-transmitted electric power peaked in 2007, as noted in the Bloomberg article. HECO, seeing its customer base switching to photovoltaic, slammed on the brakes. Basically, as of Sept. 6, 2013, HECO announced a halt to all PV connections until it assessed the safety of circuits. This left residents, solar companies and their employees stranded.

protection held a joint informational briefing on Oct 14 to receive an update from HECO on its changed policy for solar photovoltaic grid interconnection. The conference room was filled to overflowing with employees from PV companies, others from the environmental sector who support green energy, and some HECO officials.

Calling a halt and defending an antiquated corporate business model, HECO said it would do four studies in different Oahu regions, but gave no time frame for completion of the work. In the meantime, customers wanting to hook up their PV systems, or those thinking of installing PV, have been put on hold by HECO.

Leslie Cole-Brooks, executive director of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, declared at the legislative briefing that HECO was reactive rather than proactive. Its reaction could cause solar companies to shut doors, leaving a significant number of workers unemployed.

This is a crisis in the making, created by a monopoly which clings to the old way of doing business. HECO could be part of reinventing Hawaii’s electric system, thereby protecting its income stream —or they could cling to an outdated corporate culture and be bypassed by technological innovation and advancements.

Choosing the latter course, HECO is notifying PV customers that their applications to hook up are “pending our internal technical review to identify any other requirements. Please do not proceed with PV installation until you have received approval from Hawaiian Electric.”

HECO won in Round One. But technology is in the consumer’s corner for Round Two. As noted in Bloomberg Business Week, the microgrid’s ultimate potential is in turning every person, company or institution with a renewable energy power system into a self-sustaining utility.

Hawaii’s sun enables us to control and manage our own power needs. HECO could change course and become part of this emerging energy market. Sadly, at the legislative briefing, all we heard were excuses and denials. HECO’s corporate message was clear: Delay. Thomas Edison would do better.

In response to the outcry, the state House and Senate committees on energy and consumer protection held a joint informational briefing on Oct. 14 to receive an update from HECO on its changed policy for solar photovoltaic grid interconnection. The conference room was filled to overflowing with employees from PV companies, others from the environmental sector who support green energy, and some HECO officials.

Calling a halt and defending an antiquated corporate business model, HECO said it would do four studies in different Oahu regions, but gave no time frame for completion of the work. In the meantime, customers wanting to hook up their PV systems, or those thinking of installing PV, have been put on hold by HECO.

Leslie Cole-Brooks, executive director of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, declared at the legislative briefing that HECO was reactive rather than proactive. Its reaction could cause solar companies to shut doors, leaving a significant number of workers unemployed.

This is a crisis in the making, created by a monopoly which clings to the old way of doing business. HECO could be part of reinventing Hawaii’s electric system, thereby protecting its income stream —or they could cling to an outdated corporate culture and be bypassed by technological innovation and advancements.

Choosing the latter course, HECO is notifying PV customers that their applications to hook up are “pending our internal technical review to identify any other requirements. Please do not proceed with PV installation until you have received approval from Hawaiian Electric.”

HECO won in Round One. But technology is in the consumer’s corner for Round Two. As noted in Bloomberg Business Week, the microgrid’s ultimate potential is in turning every person, company or institution with a renewable energy power system into a self-sustaining utility.

Hawaii’s sun enables us to control and manage our own power needs. HECO could change course and become part of this emerging energy market. Sadly, at the legislative briefing, all we heard were excuses and denials. HECO’s corporate message was clear: Delay. Thomas Edison would do better.

http://www.staradvertiser.com/editorialspremium/20131023__HECOs_outdated_corporate_model_leaves_state_with_old_technology.html?id=228876031&c=n

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