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Hawaiian Electric utilities seek approval of $340M plan to modernize island grids


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Hawaiian Electric utilities seek approval of $340M plan to modernize island grids

'slocal utilities are proposing a smart grid project for more than 455,000customers on Oahu and other islands of Hawaii.

The $340million Smart Grid Foundation Project is a key building block of an overallsmart grid roadmap for Hawaii, the utilities, known collectively as the HECOCompanies, said in a newsrelease March 31 announcing the filing of the plan with stateutility regulators.

TheHawaii Public Utilities Commission must first review and approve the proposalwith advice from the Hawaii Division of Consumer Advocacy. If approved,installation of smart meters would begin as early as 2017 on Oahu and 2018 onHawaii Island and in Maui County, which includes Maui, Lanai and Molokai.

TheHECO Companies are HawaiianElectric Co. Inc. on Oahu, HawaiiElectric Light Co. Inc. on Hawaii Island and on Maui.

Tomake Hawaii's most populous island grid more automated and energy efficient,Hawaiian Electric wants to install a wireless communication network on Oahu toimprove outage detection and restoration and smart meters to enable automatedservices such as remote meter reading and quick responses to connect anddisconnect customers. Advanced meters will also provide electricity usageinformation to help customers manage their bills, HECO said.

Customerswith computers and mobile devices will be able to access personalized energyportals, the company said.

Thesmart grids will provide grid operators and engineers information and tools tointegrate large amounts of renewable energy, HECO said, pointing to Hawaii's100%-by-2045 renewable portfolio standard.

HawaiianElectric President and CEO Alan Oshima said the project is a crucial requisitefor HECO to achieve the RPS goal over the next three decades.

"Modernizingour electric grid is a critical part of our commitment to better serve ourcustomers and achieve a clean energy future for Hawaii," Oshima said inthe news release. "This investment will lay the technological foundationto enable us to provide our customers with better service, more options tomanage their bills, more renewable energy and other services in the future."

HawaiianElectric started a smart grid program in 2014 by upgrading portions of the gridthat serve about 5,000 residential and commercial customers at locations in ornear Honolulu on Oahu. This initial phase demonstrated the effectiveness of thetechnology across diverse physical terrain, HECO said.

Ifthe PUC approves NextEra EnergyInc.'s proposed acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Industries, smartmeter installations across HECO's service territories will be accelerated bytwo years at $22 million less by using the expertise of NextEra's Floridautility subsidiary Florida Power& Light Co., which has installed smart meters for 4.8 millioncustomers in Florida. Over the past five years, smart grid technology hashelped FPL improve its service reliability by more than 25%, HECO said.

HECOsaid it is collaborating on the smart grid project with the Blue PlanetFoundation, Kanu Hawaii and IBEW Local 1260, among other organizations. BluePlanet and Kanu are environmental groups that support sustainable energy.

Customerswill be able to opt out of the smart grid program as they can do with a similarprogram Kauai Island UtilityCooperative has implemented. However, residential customers whochoose 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 oftheir non-standard meters under terms similar to those utilities have in otherparts of the nation, HECO said.