Utilities and alternative energy providers have felt the economic effects of the COVID-19 shutdowns. Demand has fallen, but both groups also hope to be part of Hawaii’s eventual recovery.
For Hawaiian Electric’s utilities, demand dropped immediately the week of March 22: down 7% on Oahu, 14% on Maui, and 7% on Hawaii Island, it was 7%. It’s been the same for the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, where year-to-date revenue as of July 31 was down 11%. David Bissell, president and CEO of KIUC said that to offset those losses, the utility received a forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loan of $2.8 million, and restructured debt.
The Hawaii Solar Energy Association surveyed its members and found that they lost a combined $6.7 million in revenue just between mid-March and mid-April.
Despite these hits, industry leaders are optimistic they can play a role in stimulating the economy through projects already on the books, and which will also advance Hawaii’s clean energy goals. Hawaiian Electric has nearly $4 billion in projects to be built while KIUC is on schedule to finish its hydro-plus-storage project this year.
The solar association and its peers, meanwhile, have been working with the Public Utilities Commission to expedite permits for projects that could be putting people to work. Together, they’ve managed to shave two months off the time it usually takes to approve a solar project.