New Poll: Approval Ratings for Public Officials Plummet in Response to New Rooftop Solar Charges

Hawaii rooftop solar supporters
Solar supporters rally in front of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission

The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) released a poll today showing that an overwhelming majority of the public supports more rooftop solar in Hawaii and opposes the Public Utilities Commission’s recent decision to eliminate solar net metering, the fundamental policy for rooftop solar growth.

Three out of four respondents oppose the Commission’s October decision, which was made without holding a hearing or conducting an analysis of the costs and benefits of solar net metering, and without providing notice to customers. In response, dozens of people gathered today at a “Rally To Be Heard” in front of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

Solar supporters erected a large megaphone to demonstrate the desire for public participation. “I support greater solar growth,” saidCharlie Jeffries. “I’m disturbed that the PUC made a rash decision without giving the public an opportunity to make our voices heard.”

“The Hawaii Public Utility Commission failed to do a study of the costs and benefits of solar,” said Roy Skaggs. “How do you make sweeping decisions that impacts thousands of families and jobs without at least knowing the data?”

Those speaking at the rally share the public’s sentiment. A nearly-universal 97% of poll respondents support more rooftop solar inHawaii.

“The public overwhelmingly supports rooftop solar and believes that Hawaii is moving in the wrong direction on energy policy, but policy makers are not listening,” said Bryan Miller, President of TASC.  “This poll shows that Governor Ige and the Commission are ignoring the voices of their constituents.”

The poll found:

  • 70% of respondents feel that Governor Ige should ask one PUC Commissioner to resign after learning that the Commissioner applied to install a solar system, taking advantage of the existing net metering rules, before voting to eliminate net metering for future customers. The Hawaii State Ethics Commission is currently investigating the issue.
  • After hearing about the PUC’s recent decision to eliminate net energy metering, 4 out of 5 people view the PUC unfavorably. After learning that a Commissioner took steps to install solar before voting to eliminate net energy metering, the PUC’s favorability drops to about 1 in 10.
  • Similarly, Governor Ige’s approval ratings substantially decline after respondents learned that he publicly supported the PUC’s decision. Before learning about his support of the decision, his ratings were fairly even. After hearing about Governor’s Ige’s statements in support of the PUC’s decision to eliminate net metering, however, the support drops drastically: 16% favorable, 70% unfavorable, and 14% no opinion.
  • A strong majority, 63%, believe that driving people off of the electric grid would be moving Hawaii in the wrong direction. Despite this public sentiment, the PUC’s recent decision caps the number of customers who can export power back to the grid at about 4,000 additional homes for Oahu and far less on the outer islands.
  • If presented with an opportunity to lower monthly electric bills by disconnecting from the grid with PV and storage, 91% would consider making the switch. This is in spite of the fact that most people believe that this moves Hawaii in the wrong direction. Already one major company has publicized it will sell a cost-competitive off-grid solar product in Hawaii.

The Commission is currently developing optional time-of-use rates that could encourage families to invest in rooftop solar with battery storage, and then export power in the evenings when the grid needs the power most. This is the first opportunity to see if the Commission will change course in light of the overwhelming public support for more rooftop solar.

“Governor Ige must show clear leadership and support rooftop solar,” said Miller. “At the end of the day, the buck stops with him. The public can’t elect Commissioners. The public can only look to the Governor.”

The poll was conducted by Honolulu-based polling firm SMS and was paid for by Sunrun. It surveyed 400 Hawaii residents across the islands. The margin of error is +/-5% at 95% confidence.

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