Hawaii’s Energy Transformation

The current population of Hawaii is estimated to be 1.43 million. In February 2019, state utilities used petroleum (68.8%), coal (14.4%) and renewable energy (16.8%) to generate electricity. Solar, wind and geothermal are the primary types of renewable energy in Hawaii.

Imported petroleum and coal contribute to Hawaii’s high electricity costs. In February 2019, the average cost of electricity in Hawaii was U.S. 33.6 ¢ per kWh, which is the most expensive price in the United States. The average price of electricity in the United States is 12.5 ¢ per kWh.

Over a decade ago, Hawaii set a course to transform their fossil-fueled utilities into clean energy power plants. In 2008, Hawaii and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) established the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) with the objective of moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The initial HCEI goal was for Hawaii to generate 70% electricity from renewable energy by 2030.

In 2015, the Hawaii’s legislature amended the renewable portfolio standard, mandating 100% of all electricity be generated from renewable energy. Hawaii also established a separate energy efficiency standard to reduce electricity consumption by 30% by 2030.

Recently, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (HPUC) approved the performance-based rates, tariffs and other regulatory mechanisms for the state’s investor owned utility, Hawaii Electric Industries. HPUC’s system will regulate Hawaii Electric Industries’ payment for electricity, based on costs, operating performance and safety. If HPUC’s system is successful, it may revolutionize the compensation system for utilities across America.

HPUC has also approved the construction of six new solar plus battery parks on the islands of Hawaii, Maui and Oahu. The six solar projects will have a total capacity of 247 MW and will generate electricity at a cost from 8 ¢ to 10 ¢ per kWh.

In 2005, Hawaii was almost solely dependent on expensive petroleum and coal imports to fuel their power plants. The state has not only taken legislative action but is actually putting a plan in place that will meet their 2045 goal of using 100% renewable energy for power.

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