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Business Energy Guide 2012

Making the Transition Helping Hawaii's Businesses Become Energy Efficient

By: Sherie Char

(page 3 of 8)

Breaking Our Dependence on Oil

“Hawaii’s Clean Energy Initiative is geared to break our dependence on oil as a state,” says Scott Seu, vice president of energy resources at Hawaiian Electric Co. “The price of oil is so volatile and expensive that when the price of fossil fuel rises, it greatly impacts our customers’ electricity bills, the cost of gasoline, air fares and many other goods and services.”

As imported oil prices continue to increase, it’s becoming a challenge for businesses to manage and budget for unpredictable energy costs. For businesses to be successful, they need more control over these costs, says Seu.

“It makes a lot of sense for businesses to use more renewable energy in order to help their overall financial viability,” he says. “Energy is a huge part of one’s operating costs. Businesses can also benefit from promoting themselves as being clean and green.”

It’s equally important for Hawaii’s utilities to switch to renewable energy instead of using oil. Using renewable energy at stable prices will help stem the impact of volatile and increasing oil prices on electric bills. From an environmental perspective, Hawaii can use clean technologies to reduce its carbon footprint. From a business perspective, there is a huge potential for the development of new clean energy industries in Hawaii.

“It makes a lot of sense for businesses to use more
renewable energy in order to help their overall
financial viability.”
—Scott Seu, vice president of energy resources,
Hawaiian Electric Co.

Hawaiian Electric has been contributing to Hawaii’s renewable energy transition by partnering with businesses to develop a diverse portfolio of renewable resources including solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal, waste-to-energy and biomass.

With the 30-megawatt Kahuku Wind farm in operation, wind power is now helping to meet the energy needs of customers on Oahu. Other wind farms are serving Maui and Hawaii Island. Additional wind projects on Oahu’s North Shore and on Maui are in development.

By working with solar providers, Hawaiian Electric has been honored as one of the top 10 utilities nationwide for solar watts added per customer in 2010. All four Hawaii utilities are in the top 10 for total solar watts per customer. And it continues to work toward adding more solar power.

“On the biofuel front, the Campbell Industrial Park generating station has been operating successfully on 100 percent biodiesel for more than a year now,” says Seu. “As far as we know, it’s the only commercial power plant that operates on 100 percent biodiesel in the world.”

In 2011, Hawaiian Electric also tested biofuel at Kahe Power Plant on Oahu, which now uses the refined petroleum residue called low sulfur fuel oil.

“We blended different amounts of biofuel with our normal fuel at Kahe,” he says. “Eventually, we were able to use 100 percent biofuel. The results showed us that this change reduced our emissions.”

Photo: istockphoto.com

Maui Electric Co. also recently conducted tests using biodiesel in one of its generating units usually fired on petroleum diesel.

“Whether it’s at Hawaiian Electric or on Maui Electric, our goal is to become green with our existing power plants by using sustainable biofuel,” Seu said.

Hawaiian Electric has also partnered with the Hawaii Department of Transportation to jointly develop a biofuel-powered emergency generating power plant at Honolulu International Airport which will be available to send power to the grid when there is no emergency. Maui-based Pacific Biodiesel has been contracted to produce and supply the local biofuel.

“In addition to our power plant projects, we’re seeking new utility-scale projects to deliver renewable energy to Oahu,” he says. “We are welcoming proposals from all different renewable technologies, including wind and solar farms. We are looking at all options, including how we can expand geothermal on the Big Island.”

As Hawaiian Electric continues to work with developers of projects that produce renewable energy, the company wants to build energy management systems to help customers attain a better sense of how electricity is being used.

And the utility continues to provide practical information to customers about how they can help manage their electric bills.

“We’re all in this together,” says Seu. “Depending on imported oil is not really a viable option for our state in the long run. We have to work together with Hawaii’s businesses and residents, and move forward to pursue a diversity of clean energy alternatives.”

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