HSEA July Monthly Report

Posted on Wednesday, July 06, 2016


Hajime Alabanza

(808) 232-8371


NEWS Release


July 6, 2016




Mid-year data suggests that the outlook of Hawaii’s solar energy industry is STORMY.  A confluence of deteriorating employment statistics, declining permit data, and a lack of progress in key policy areas embody one of the worst six-month periods in the solar industry’s recent history. 

Job Losses

The HSEA asked its members and other companies to provide employment numbers from two points in time: pre-October 2015 figures (prior to the cessation of the Net Energy Metering Program ("NEM")) as well as the most recent figures. In total, companies reported 1,131 employees prior to the October decision versus 692 current employees—a 39% decrease. Additionally, 88% of the companies polled reported job losses. Unless the PUC approves a motion filed by HSEA and its solar allies to increase the Customer Grid Supply Tariff Cap, employment is expected to decline with the end of this program looming in Oahu and Hawaii Island (Maui’s Grid Supply cap was already reached last month).  

Building Permit Data Analysis

Number of closed building permits from January to June 2016 are 38% below previous three-year average 

Unlike pulled permits, closed permits represent solar projects that have been completed in their entirety; therefore, it is more indicative of the pulse of the solar industry. From 2013 to 2015, closed permits from January to June averaged 5,118. This year, there were only 3,175 closed permits in that same six-month period. This figure represents the lowest amount of permits closed in the past four years. 

Number of pulled building permits from January to June 2016 are 37% below previous three-year average

Solar contractors pull permits when they anticipate developing a project in the near future. From 2013 to 2015, total closed permits from January to June averaged 4,148. This year, only 2,616 permits were pulled from January to June—the lowest in the past four years.

Solar Project Applications and Approvals

Grid Supply Approvals Up; Self Supply Still Stagnant 

Grid Supply approvals grew by 235 applications, a 16% increase from last month, which marks three consecutive months of growth.

Although this uptrend in approvals sends a positive signal that more solar projects could be available, the current structure of the Grid Supply program indicates that any activity will be short lived. The interim Grid Supply program has already hit its cap in Maui and could come to an end as early as August on Oahu if the interim 35MW cap is not raised. Total submitted Grid Supply applications represent close to 22.7MW, or 65% of the interim cap.

Interconnection Analysis

Systems energized in June 2016 are up 1% from last month

Since last month, the number of energized systems has gone up by 1%. A large portion are backlogged NEM customers—currently, 10,782 NEM applications are approved, but not installed. Many of these customers have been waiting 6-12 months or more for approval. 151 Grid Supply and no Self Supply systems have been energized since the inception of these new programs (October 2015), which is around 2.5% of systems energized since December. The oldest Self Supply application—at this point, more than four months in-queue—has yet to be given permission to operate by the HECO companies, despite being installed over a month ago. Finally, as the NEM backlog is exhausted, the number of energized systems will more strongly reflect Grid Supply/Self Supply programs.


The past six-months unassailably ranks as one of the solar industry’s worst. Employment has gone down significantly and will continue to drop if significant regulatory action is not taken very soon. Furthermore, permit figures from January to June indicate that activity has significantly slowed down in comparison to previous years. “I feel like I’m watching the sequel to the documentary ‘Who Killed the Electric Car’,” said HSEA’s Hajime Alabanza. “Local companies and advanced technologies that benefit consumers are being unreasonably suppressed, and the only benefactor of this approach is the monopoly utility.”


Founded in 1977, the Hawaii Solar Energy Association is a Non-Profit organization and is comprised of installers, distributors, manufacturers, auditors, and financiers of solar water heating and photovoltaic systems. The majority of our member companies are locally owned and operated, making HSEA the leading voice of Hawaii’s solar industry.

The Hawaii Solar Energy Association (HSEA) issues its July report assessing the strength of Hawaii's solar energy industry. A rating, SUNNY, OVERCAST, CLOUDY, or STORMY will be issued each month based on solar sales, jobs, and installations data. Pro or anti-solar policy, regulation, and legislation will also factor into the monthly rating.

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