Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) – which currently serves more than 32,000 electric accounts on the fourth-largest of the main islands in the Hawaiian archipelago – announced plans on September 22 to conduct a Time-of-Use (TOU) Solar Pilot Program that offers discounted electric rates to a group of residential customers.
Under the plan approved by the Public Utilities Commission on September 21 (Decision and Order No. 33146), the objectives of KIUC’s TOU test are to broaden community participation in renewable energy programs and to reduce the potential for solar energy to be curtailed.
The program will offer a 25 percent discount on standard electric rates from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. That’s a reduction of about 8 cents from the September kilowatt hour (KWh) rate of 31 cents.
As another incentive, each participant will receive a digital display that monitors real-time usage, and a $200 payment toward the installation of a water heater timer or any other device that facilitates load shifting.
Participation in the one-year program will be limited to 300 residential customers with smart meters. They will be recruited to ensure diversity of household sizes and patterns of electric use – including customers who, for various reasons, are unable to install rooftop solar systems.
With more than 50 megawatts (MW) of electricity generated during the day by utility scale and rooftop photovoltaic systems on Kauai, a key measure of the program’s success will be the ability of customers to move a significant amount of their energy use from night to day to take advantage of the lower rates, a practice known as “shifting load.”
If substantial shifting occurs, KIUC could avoid having an oversupply of solar during the day, a also would also mean there’s less demand for electricity at night, allowing KIUC to power down some of its oil-fired generators.
KIUC will collect and analyze usage data from each participant before, during, and after the experiment, in order to determine the extent to which their consumption profile changes. That data will be used to help KIUC determine whether the program will be expanded to include all customers – potentially including commercial users.
Recruitment of participants is expected to begin in October, with the program starting in the first quarter of 2016 and ending in early 2017.
The Consumer Advocate has recommended that the pilot program should include an evaluation period at 35 weeks – which will be midway through the TOU pilot – in order to “facilitate the opportunity to better evaluate the program by allowing different price points or expanding the program to a larger pool of customers.”
KIUC represents that it will not, at this time, seek to recover through its Resource Cost Adjustment surcharge, the estimated costs of $125,000 associated with implementing the pilot program.