The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Kokua Line column
May 04, 2012 (Menafn - The Honolulu Star-Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Question: The city is constantly encouraging us to conserve energy. In response, more people have been installing photovoltaic systems as part of Hawaiian Electric Co.'s Net Energy Metering program. After a PV system is installed, it has to be approved by a city electrical inspector before the homeowner can take advantage of the NEM program. Unfortunately, an inspector on the Windward side has been very slow in approving PV systems, saying it is a low priority for him. Some installed last year have still not been approved. Why does the city encourage homeowners to install PV systems while an inspector delays approving them?
Question: I had solar panels put on my roof back in December. I have been waiting more than four months to get the new net metering panel from HECO, but the city has not completed the electrical inspection, which needs to be done before they can put in the new meter. Who can I call to speed this up? I live in Kailua.
Answer: After we brought up your complaints, the city Department of Planning and Permitting said it is looking at ways to speed up the inspection process.
The inspection backlog is not because of any inspector deciding they are a low priority, but because of the large number of new photovoltaic systems being installed and not enough inspectors.
"We've seen a tremendous increase in the number of residential photovoltaic systems being installed in recent years as a result of streamlining efforts by the department, including online permitting for PV systems," said Art Challacombe, DPP's chief of customer service.
There's been a nearly fivefold increase in the number of PV permits issued between 2009 and 2011: 631 in fiscal year 2009 compared with 3,102 in fiscal year 2011.
But while the number of permits has risen significantly, the number of electrical inspectors has not because of budget constraints, Challacombe said.
"We are conducting the inspections as quickly as we can, based on called inspections from the contacter, and servicing consolidated areas for efficiency and not on a 'priority' basis," he said. "Since being brought to our attention by Kokua Line, DPP is examining options for improving our PV inspection turnaround."
One option is amending the electrical code to allow "contractor certification," which would eliminate the need for an inspector to visit a home.
"We expect to go to the City Council with a new electrical code later this month," Challacombe said. "The city appreciates the overwhelming response by residents to calls for energy conservation."
Question: I went to a University of Hawaii Wahine softball doubleheader where there was no admission charge. But there were two guys manning a table with a donation box. I made a small donation to support the program. What are the donations used for?
Answer: Donations collected by the Na Wahine Softball Booster Club go "straight to Rainbow Wahine softball," said Kara Nishimura, assistant director for the UH sports media relations office.
The money is used to buy food for postgame meals and in-between snacks for the team, additional equipment, even professional development for the coaching staff (such as attending the National Fastpitch Coaches Association meeting this year) -- basically, "anything that their budget does not cover," Nishimura said.
Outright cash donations this year totaled about 1,500, not including what was collected last weekend. Club dues also support the team.
According to the booster club's website, nawahine.com, its mission is "to provide financial and moral support, attract new fans, and promote a positive environment that will maintain one of the nations (sic) elite softball programs."
Kokua Line will be on vacation until May 22.
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email email@example.com.
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