Hawaiian Electric is the latest utility to face the skepticism of its Public Utility Commission over the benefits to ratepayers from smart meter deployment. The Hawai’i Commission turned down the utility’s request for an additional 18 months to expand its smart grid test and charge ratepayers $1.35 million to install 5,000 new electricity meters on Oahu on top of its existing pilot 9,400 smart meters.
The ruling means that Hawaiian Electric can continue to install smart meters but it must file a new rate case after the fact seeking to recover the costs. This action means that the Commission shifted the risk back to shareholders instead of allowing ratepayers to pay now and wait for smart grid benefits later.
This action follows a similar decision made earlier in Maryland when that state PSC turned down the Baltimore Gas & Electric company smart meter request because it said the benefits to ratepayers were too far off into the future.
Renewable power advocates argued that the State and utility should spend more money on wind and solar energy projects before tackling smart meters. Since Hawaii is not connected to the mainland power grid, advocates argued smart meter deployment does not benefit ratepayers nearly as much as other options.