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Energy Storage Technology Can Cut Costs Now

Thielen’s Turf…Rep. Cynthia Thielen

The Energy Storage North America (ESNA) Expo and Conference Sept. 30-Oct. 2 in San Jose was the largest gathering of energy storage leaders, government officials and utilities addressing grid-connected energy storage. I was one of the invited keynote panelists, along with PUC commissioner Lorraine Akiba, Hawaiian Electric vice president Colton Ching and moderator Leslie Cole Brooks, executive director of Hawaii Solar Energy Association. We discussed the role of energy storage in achieving Hawaii’s Clean Energy Initiative.

The first point to make is that energy storage is a mature, commercially available technology in use nationally and internationally. The second point to make is that HECO has known about this technology and only recently put out a request for energy storage proposals.

As I explained to the 1,000-plus ESNA attendees, HECO halted all photovoltaic (PV) hookups a year ago, leaving 4,500 residential customers stranded. With the federal tax credit expiring the end of 2016, and thousands more residents wanting to install PV before that deadline, HECO has prevented residents from taking control of their energy production and reducing monthly utility bills.

Setting a road map for Hawaii, California’s measure AB 2514 created energy storage targets, a step yet to be enacted by the Hawaii Legislature. SB 2932, which would have established energy storage portfolio standards, stalled in conference committee. HECO’s moratorium on PV and its delay in integrating available energy storage shows the company still relies upon its antiquated road map that uses the Model-T instead of the Tesla.

ESNA did provide hope for the 4,500-and-counting residents in the HECO queue. Energy storage provides the solution to HECO’s grid stability, allowing it to accept more renewable energy power.

Another immediate solution is for HECO to honor its commitment made at the recent legislative hearing (Sept. 20 Star-Advertiser) and let residential customers hook up in “three weeks” as promised by executive vice president Jim Alberts, if these systems do not export power to the grid.

In the alternative, residential-sized battery systems, about the size of a broom closet, coupled with PV even now can deliver and store adequate power for homes, enabling residents to leave HECO and the grid. Battery storage and PV companies together will be able to empower residents to switch their energy production into the hands of their household at more affordable cost.

Contact Rep. Thielen, R-District 50 (Kailua, Kaneohe Bay) at 586-6480 or repthielen@capitol.hawaii.gov.