By Tasha Chang

With the constant change of rules and regulations, and the rising costs on your electric bill, it seems like the simple solution is to invest in solar. However, while exploring this option myself, I got extremely overwhelmed with my choices, terminologies and acronyms. What did it all mean? Here are some of my takeaways.

The first step is to install a solar hot water system. This is a great option if you cannot afford a full system or are not quite ready to commit. At a minimum, you should at least explore installing a solar hot water system. I took this first step and it cut my electric bill down 40 percent. I was ecstatic and it made me a believer in this complicated solar process. Hawaii Energy currently offers a $500 instant rebate on all new solar hot water system installs — it also qualifies for the 30 percent federal tax credit and the 35 percent state tax credit for 2017.


Next on the list is committing to photovoltaic (rooftop panels). When asked if I had a NEM (Net Energy Meter Agreement) or a DER (Distributive Energy Resource Agreement) from Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), I had no idea what that meant. The NEM program was a first generation agreement from HECO that credited back homeowners kilowatt-hours (kwh) any “extra,” unused energy generated off their system, allowing it to feed back to the grid. I learned quickly that this program was no longer available, but was the best program offered. The NEM program is what allowed my neighbors to have $18-$25 electric bills for the rest of their lives.

The DER program, not quite as lucrative, but still allowed homeowners to get a “credit” of approximately 15 cents per kwh for any extra energy produced that could also feed back to the grid. In September 2016, the DER program closed as the grid was considered full. However, as homeowners with approved NEM and DER allowed their approvals to expire, space became available on the grid allowing for HECO to accept DER applications again. It is estimated that the program will close (grid full) by October 2017. I applied for the DER program and am still awaiting HECO approval. It’s a process, so you want to act now.

Tasha Chang is the general manager of HI Power Solar.

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