Maui Business

HECO Proposes Modernizing Plan for Hawai‘i’s Grids

April 1, 2016, 11:23 AM HST
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Hawaiian Electric Companies infographic.

Hawaiian Electric Companies infographic.

Hawaiian Electric Companies said its Smart Grid Foundation Project modernization plan, which was submitted to the Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission on Thursday, March 31, for its review, will result in faster outage restoration, generate more information for customers to control electric bills, provide greater integration of renewable energy and yield more efficient power production and delivery.

HECO is requesting permission to install smart grid technology for more than 455,000 customers on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i Island and in Maui County.

The “next generation” grid project will include a modern wireless communication network, smart meters and enhanced technology that will upgrade the existing electric grid, making it more automated and energy efficient.

The system will improve outage detection and restoration.

In addition, smart meters will provide electricity usage information to help customers better manage their bills, and enable automated services such as remote meter reads and move-in/move-out requests.

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Customers will also have access to a personalized energy portal, easily accessible on computers and mobile devices, to give them more control over their energy use and electric bills.

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Smart grids will provide system operators and engineers with the data and tools to help the state achieve its 100% renewable electricity goal by improving the safe and reliable integration of greater amounts of renewable energy.

“Modernizing our electric grid is a critical part of our commitment to better serve our customers and achieve a clean energy future for Hawai‘i,” said Alan Oshima, Hawaiian Electric president and CEO. “This investment will lay the technological foundation to enable us to provide our customers with better service, more options to manage their bills, more renewable energy and other services in the future.”

HECO started the development of the smart grid program in 2014 by upgrading portions of the electric grid that serve approximately 5,000 customers on O‘ahu—in Moanalua Valley and sections of Pearl City, Diamond Head, Kaimukī, Kāhala, and Waikīkī.

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This initial phase engaged both residential and commercial customers, and demonstrated the effectiveness of the technology across areas of diverse terrain.

Under the proposal submitted yesterday, customers will be informed ahead of meter installation, and despite the benefits, can choose not to upgrade to a smart meter.

Under HECO’s proposal, similar to the program implemented by the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative and other utilities across the country, residential customers who choose not to have a smart meter installed would pay a monthly charge of about $15 to help pay for the cost of continued manual reading and maintenance of their non-standard meters.

The $340 million project is a key building block of an overall smart grid roadmap for Hawaiʻi. The project must be reviewed and approved by the PUC, with input from the Hawaiʻi Division of Consumer Advocacy.

If approved by the PUC, installation of smart meters is expected to begin as early as 2017 on Oʻahu and 2018 on Hawai‘i Island and in Maui County.

Assuming approval of the proposed merger with NextEra Energy, smart meter installations across the HECO’s service territories will be accelerated by two years.

Implementation costs for customers are estimated to be $22 million lower, resulting from NextEra Energy’s extensive smart grid technology expertise and experience, particularly in the area of system integration.

To answer questions and inform customers about the power of a smarter grid, Hawaiian Electric is collaborating with other organizations, such as the Blue Planet Foundation, Kanu Hawaii, Hawaii Energy and IBEW Local 1260.

Blue Planet is currently collaborating with HECO on a smart grid technology pilot project to test how detailed energy information can affect customer behavior.

“If done right, a smart grid will become a key piece of Hawai‘i’s clean energy future,” said Blue Planet Foundation Executive Director Jeff Mikulina. “Modernizing the grid has been a priority for Blue Planet because it can enable more customer choices and control over energy bills.”

“Like much of the technology in our lives today, we believe that a smarter grid can become a platform for innovative solutions from a variety of companies,” Mikulina added. “Ultimately, this can mean more local, renewable, affordable energy. We look forward to reviewing Hawaiian Electric’s proposal and working toward these goals.”

“We firmly believe smart meters can help bring a bit more equity and solutions to electricity customers who have been chronically underserved,” said Nicole Brodie, executive director of Kanu Hawaii, an organization focused on environmental sustainability through individual commitment.

“Renewable resources such as solar and wind power are just part of our state’s energy future,” said Brian Ahakuelo, IBEW Local 1260 business manager and financial secretary. “A smart grid will provide the foundation for other programs, such as taking advantage of advances in energy storage, greater adoption of electric vehicles, and expanded programs that will help customers take greater control of their energy use.”

“We believe that smart grid initiatives are an essential component to address Hawai‘i’s energy challenges, and we anticipate that engagement and collaboration will continue as all stakeholders move forward to Hawai‘i’s smart grid of the future,” said James Gariepy, Leidos vice president of energy efficiency services.

Smart grid technology has matured with more than 50 million smart meters installed across the country. Silver Spring Networks Inc., a leading smart grid platform and solutions provider, will provide the communications network and is a strategic partner in this effort to modernize Hawai‘i’s electric systems.

“Hawai’i faces unique challenges in meeting its energy needs in an environmentally sustainable and cost-effective manner,” said Mike Bell, president and CEO of Silver Spring Networks. “Hawaiian Electric has put forth a bold plan that will serve the people of Hawai‘i for generations to come. We are honored to be a partner in this effort.”

A HECO press release stated that NextEra Energy subsidiary Florida Power & Light was an early leader in the installation and use of smart grid technology, installing smart meters for 4.8 million customers in Florida.

Over the past five years, smart grid technology has helped FPL improve its service reliability by more than 25 percent.

In 2015, FPL was recognized for its industry-leading reliability with the “2015 ReliabilityOne National Reliability Excellence Award” by PA Consulting Group, an international firm that analyzes electric utility performance across the US.

For more information, call (808) 440-4977 or visit www.hawaiianelectric.com/smartgrid.

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