Hawaii takes a big (regulatory) step towards 21st Century Electric Web

October 22 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Environment   Year: 2009   Rating: 1

The future of Hawai’i will likely be shaped by its new vision of an energy web based on clean abundant resources.

Hawaii’s Vision starts with Regulatory Changes
On Monday, Governor Linda Lingle announced a comprehensive agreement to move the state away from its dependence on fossil fuels for electricity and ground transportation. The plan includes underwater electrical transmission wires across islands to tap more than 400 MW of wind power on neighbor islands of Honolulu,Oahu. The island grid could eventually tap other resources based on wind, solar, geothermal, and bioenergy (e.g. Jatropha and algae-based biodiesel).

There are few places on Earth that have as much pressing need (and desire) to become more reliant on local energy resources- than Hawaii. Now its political and economic development leaders have taken a very bold step forward in changing the regulatory framework of its local utility HECO to put the state on track for having 70 percent of its energy use come from clean energy sources by 2030. While state leaders are promoting the rhetoric of ‘energy independence’, the state might actually be enabling a future of cheap, clean abundant energy. And if local startups like Sopogy and Hoku Scientific succeed the state might become more integrated into global energy sector as they export energy systems around the world.

Recipe for growing renewables?
Change role of utilities, and focus on low cost renewables

Hawaii’s leaders understand that the key to expanding renewable energy resources is dependent on changing regulations that govern utility power generation. This means tackling ‘Big Grid’, not ‘Big Oil’. Leaders are rethinking the role of utilities beyond power generation in a world shaped by a ‘smart energy web’ shaped by the potent combination of software, sensors and storage.

Hawaii is now taking clear steps to end the era of a one way electricity grid in favor of a more integrated web based on distributed power generation and storage system. And HECO must explore new future roles as a 21st century utility.

The state appears ready to move beyond the era of liquid fuels and the combustion engine, as it prepares to reinvent its electricity grid to support batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and capacitors for electric vehicles. [Read: Startup planning to build out Hawaii’s electric vehicle infrastructure]

Continue with a detailed look at plan

Press Release highlights of the agreement include:

- A commitment to integrate as much as 1100 megawatts (MW) of already identified additional renewable energy on the Hawaiian Electric companies’ grids (700 MW to be implemented within five years).

- The construction of an undersea cable connecting Maui, Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i into one electrical grid to allow the integration of an additional 400 MW of renewable wind power generated in Maui County for transmission to O‘ahu.

- A requirement that 40 percent of electric power come from renewable resources by 2030, doubling the current Renewable Portfolio Standard requirement law.

- A “feed-in” tariff system designed to dramatically accelerate the addition of renewable energy from new sources by providing published purchased power prices for renewable power providers, which would encourage increased development of alternative energy projects.

- Seeking prompt approvals from the Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commission for the immediate deployment of advanced meters and for implementation of time-of-use rates that reward customers with lower electric rates for using power during off-peak times. This change will support the development of a “smart grid” to allow customers far greater control of their energy use and their electricity bills.

- Changing the way Hawaiian Electric is compensated by moving away from a business model that places reliance on increased electric sales.

- Commitment from the Hawaiian Electric companies to retire older fossil fuel powered energy generation plants as Hawai‘i moves to a renewable energy future.

- Conversion of existing fossil fuel generators to renewable biofuels, ultimately using crops grown locally and in a sustainable manner.

- A prohibition on the construction of any new coal plants in Hawai‘i.

- Expanding the Pay-As-You-Save program under which customers can install solar water heating systems without having to pay money up front, but can acquire energy-saving improvements through shared savings on their electric bills.

- Eliminating existing system-wide caps on net energy metering to allow customers on each island to produce their own renewable energy and obtain credit on their electric bills for any excess exported to the grid.

- Submitting a proposal to the PUC for establishment of “lifeline” rates, which provide a cap for certain low income customers.

- Committing the state and Hawaiian Electric Companies to a program that will identify and implement incentives needed to encourage adoption of electric vehicles for individual and fleet use, and also lead by example by acquiring hybrid or electric-only vehicles for government and utility fleets.

Hawaii Government Press Release

Honolulu Advertiser

Enterprise Honolulu

Comment Thread (2 Responses)

  1. It seems like Hawaii is way behind Iceland in this arena. Shouldn’t the islands be tapping hydro power? Nevermind Reykjavik generating 87% of their heat and hot water needs from geothermal! Imagine what you could do with that energy when already in a warm climate.

    Posted by: AdamEdwards   October 27, 2008
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  2. Sorry for the delayed response!! Just discovered my feed for Comments!

    There is definitely strong potential for tapping geothermal power in the region… and I suspect things will evolve in that direction.

    but there are intense local debates about cultural/spiritual violations of attaching power plants to sacred volcanoes and such… So it’s more of a local issue, than a technical challenge.

    Re: Hydro - (though I think u were only talking about geothermal) Hawaii is surrounded by water but doesn’t have running water in abundance. It could certainly tap wave power and thermal differences—but neither of these systems are close enough to commercialization by most accounts.

    Posted by: Garry Golden   November 15, 2008
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