Hawaii PUC's Decade-Long Journey
Lorraine H. Akiba is commissioner emeritus of the Hawaii PUC and president of LHA Ventures, a consultancy firm which provides advice on regulatory and policy issues in energy, water and transportation.
Paul J. Alvarez is president of the Wired Group, a consultancy that helps advocates and regulators maximize the value of grid modernization investments for customers. The Wired Group is the developer of the Utility Evaluator™ distribution utility performance benchmarking application.
Hawaii is a state born of explorers and visionary navigators. It was populated initially by Polynesian explorers crossing the vast Pacific Ocean in small double-hulled canoes, who charted their location using the stars for navigation, and returned to tell their stories so others could follow.
The story of Polynesian explorers' intrepid wayfinding and determination is an appropriate analogy for the state's electricity regulators, who are forging new regulatory paths as the reality of PV solar costs on par with grid-supplied electricity emerges. Their continuing saga is a bellwether that energy regulators should not ignore, as solar grid-cost parity is something an increasing number of states will be dealing with in the not-so-distant future.
Hawaii is blessed by abundant solar and other renewable energy resources but challenged by the volatility of the cost of imported fossil fuels. As a result, Hawaii's high cost oil and diesel-fueled electricity industry is the first to experience extremely high levels of distributed-energy resource adoption and associated economic, technical, and regulatory challenges.
But it will not be the last. This account of Hawaii's journey to electric industry regulatory reform is shared so that other energy regulators might benefit from Hawaii's experiences, just as early Hawaiian inhabitants of the islands benefitted from their ancestors' explorations.