Inter-Island Solar Supply is a Stem distribution partner and full line solar, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and automation distributor, serving the contractor, design professional, government, OEM, and industrial end-user markets in Hawaii. Together, Stem and Inter-Island provide solutions and equipment for behind-the-meter energy storage projects serving commercial & industrial (C&I) businesses.
Tom Schmidt, Vice President of Business Development at Inter-Island Solar Supply, discussed the decision to partner with Stem, the evolving energy needs of Inter-Island’s C&I and EPC customers with Hawaii’s Battery Bonus Program, the state’s unique energy capacity issues, and how Stem’s smart energy storage expertise complements Inter-Island’s other offerings.
Tell us about Inter-Island and the markets you serve.
Inter-Island Solar Supply is one of the oldest and most experienced renewable energy equipment distributors in the world. Incorporated in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1975, our dedicated sales and technical support team has over 300 years of aggregate solar industry experience. We have five branch locations in the Hawaiian Islands located in Honolulu, Kahului, Lihue, Kailua-Kona, and Hilo. We serve over 650 wholesale customers with top-tier clean energy equipment. As a 100% employee-owned business, our guiding mission is to provide clean energy solutions that will eliminate Hawaii’s dangerous and expensive dependence on polluting fossil fuels.
As the oldest and largest clean energy equipment distributor in Hawaii, we have always felt a responsibility to help shape beneficial policies for renewable energy. Today, our C&I solar installer and EPC customers increasingly want to pair solar plus storage, making Stem’s partnership and energy storage expertise critical to our mission.
As the VP of business development, I’m located in Honolulu and work with our branches to bring new technology and training to the installers. I’m the main point of contact with Stem for these larger commercial projects. With a background as an electrical engineer, I started in solar doing commercial installations as a project developer. I’m excited to be the liaison here with our EPCs and serve to help all our customers increase Hawaii’s already impressive attachment rate of energy storage to solar projects
With Hawaii’s Battery Bonus Program, Oahu is recognizing the needs of C&I customers to prepare for power outages and incorporate long term resilience strategies. How have current events and demand for power quality shaped the top energy concerns of your customers today?
The Battery Bonus Program was developed by the public utility commission to offset the resources lost when the AES coal-fired plant is retired in September 2022. The consumer performance payment provided by the program is a critical consumer signal to aid the grid from energy storage when demand for electricity is highest in the evening. Everybody comes home from work; the sun is going down when daily demand for electricity is increasing. That’s the main driver of the Hawaii Battery Bonus Program.
Further, the program makes sense for the economics of solar plus storage here. Peak shaving electricity is very expensive. Hawaii has the highest electric rates of all states due to most of our generation coming from burning imported oil. Of course, there is inflation that raises electricity rates as well as the very nature of having isolated island grids that aren’t connected. Outages are real and costly threats.
Learn more about Stem’s solutions for Hawaii’s Battery Bonus Program at www.stem.com/resources/incentives-programs/hawaiis-battery-bonus-program.
Why did you choose to partner with Stem to provide smart energy storage solutions with your offerings to C&I customers?
Stem has years of experience in the Hawaiian market, so we’ve known this is a good partnership for our local and regional EPCs seeking to add C&I scale storage and to improve the economics of their projects. Inter-Island and our customers can rely on the expertise of Stem’s competent team and have confidence in Stem’s smart energy storage software, energy service agreements, and storage hardware technology. Those concepts are all huge value adds to our EPCs here who are trying to bid solar plus storage projects. Stem is the best partner to have to help navigate those things.
I think the financial and technical analysis from the project evaluation side is also important, and Stem already has a best-in-class process for determining project designs, equipment, and data analysis. So that is very helpful in determining the potential opportunity of a project.
Stem also has superior access to solar plus storage hardware that is sometimes hard to procure during today’s supply hiccups. This is always a priority for Inter-Island – there is no such thing as just in time delivery when you do business in the middle of the ocean. In that way, working with Stem has helped set us apart.
How is Hawaii unique in its energy capacity and power quality issues?
I think most people outside the construction industry still don’t realize that our islands are not electrically connected; each island is their own islanded grid! This presents a truly unique challenge in managing generation, transmission, and distribution. Obviously, it also makes each islanded grid uniquely vulnerable to events impacting centralized generation. Distributed generation, such as solar + storage, provides greater security to isolated island grids.
How does energy storage align with or complement your other solutions?
Since net energy metering (NEM) has gone away and Hawaii has had tariffs with less and less return on investment for standalone solar, residential and C&I energy storage is now integral to 90% of our new solar installations. This makes energy storage very relevant to all our solutions -in fact Hawaii has by far the highest attachment rate in the country of energy storage to residential solar. All the Inter-Island’s products and solutions revolve around renewable energy and energy efficiency in some way.
What are some of the best practices you see your C&I customers deploying to cut facility energy costs and/or obtain energy on demand?
Encouraging our customers to oversee load management and monitor load profiles within their overall usages to find efficiency problems or opportunities to save.
Many companies have contracts on their existing solar installations, so that keeps their existing investment producing as much as possible. Monitoring their load profiles down to specific industrial loads and usage patterns can pinpoint new solar plus storage opportunities that reduce peak demand and overall utility costs.
Learn more about Stem’s Athena®️ smart energy software for real-time monitoring at https://www.stem.com/solutions/athena.
Stem’s Athena®️ smart energy software operates the world’s largest energy storage network and has the most experience in utility bill optimization and demand response program participation of any commercial storage software, ensuring that customers get the most value possible out of energy decision making. Athena ExplorerTM is a real time digital application within the Athena ecosystem that provides our customers a window into the value being delivered by their energy resources, aides in decision support for long term energy strategies to achieve resilience, solar plus storage, and sustainability goals. The application provides live visualization of savings and system performance. It also provides facility managers, sustainability leaders, asset owners, and other end users access to a historical view of the performance to support the energy spending, decision making process as well as further their environmental, social, and governance commitments.