Regulators have approved for implementation the Hawaiian Electric Companies' multi-year grid modernization strategy, paving the way for upgrades that will create renewable-ready island grids and improve reliability.
The Public Utilities Commission, in its Feb. 7 order, said the strategy "presents a holistic view of how Hawaii's electric grid can evolve." The commission commended Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light for its "robust and early stakeholder engagement" in developing the plan, which incorporates a wide range of technologies to enable greater private rooftop solar adoption as well as grid-scale renewables.
"The fact that customers from across the state participated in the creation of this strategy along with technical experts and other stakeholders from Hawaii and the mainland is one of the reasons we believe it will be successful," said Colton Ching, senior vice president for planning and technology at Hawaiian Electric. "Early on, the commission directed us to broaden our outreach efforts and as they noted in their decision, those efforts paid off with a much more customer-focused plan."
The cost of the first segment of modernization is estimated at about $205 million over six years. The plan focuses on near-term improvements that provide the most immediate system and customer benefit but don't crowd out future technological breakthroughs.
Highlights of the near-term work outlined in the strategy include:
- Reliance on advanced inverter technology to enable greater private rooftop solar adoption.
- Expanded use of voltage management tools, especially on circuits with heavy solar penetration.
- Enhanced outage management and notification technology.
- Strategic distribution of advanced meters rather than system-wide, primarily for enhanced sensing and monitoring purposes, i.e., customers who want to participate in programs such as demand response and variable rates or who seek usage data.
The plan and related documents are available at www.hawaiianelectric.com/gridmod.