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Charging Ahead

Hawaii Looks beyond Oil

(page 5 of 5)


Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI)

A Sampling of Goals and Projects

• A HECO commitment to purchase as much as 1,100 megawatts of already identified renewable energy
• Construction of an undersea transmission cable connecting Molokai, Lanai and Maui with the Oahu grid
• 70 percent “clean” energy by 2030
• Doubling the current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 40 percent by 2030
• Establishment of a “feed-in” tariff describing purchase power prices for renewables
• Deployment of Advanced Metering and time-of-use rates, allowing customers to better control their energy use
• “Decoupling” HECO’s compensation to encourage conservation and efficiency
• Retire older, dirty generation plants as Hawaii moves into a renewable future
• Convert existing generators to renewable biofuels
• Prohibit any new coal plants in Hawaii

One of the real problems with replacing fossil fuels with clean alternatives is simply, “How do we get there from here?” According to Fesharaki, it’s pretty clear that Hawaii will continue to depend upon fossil fuels for a large part of its energy needs well into the future. The reason is in your driveway. Only about 30 percent of the fuel produced at Hawaii’s two refineries goes to power generation. The other 70 percent supplies the state’s seemingly insatiable transportation needs: jet fuel, bunker fuel, gasoline and diesel. If, indeed, through the use of renewables and higher efficiencies, HECO is able to reduce its consumption of fossil fuels for power by 70 percent, that still means the state will have to rely on oil for nearly 80 percent of its total needs.

Because of that, we will continue to depend upon the two local refineries to fuel our economy. Yet, Fesharaki notes, the state’s new energy policy may prove lethal to them. “It’s unlikely we can actually reach a 70 percent reduction,” he says, “but let’s assume, for the moment, that they’re actually able to reach a 30 percent reduction. Go ask the people at the Tesoro or the Chevron refinery if they can survive with a 30 percent decline in demand. I don’t think so. Maybe one of them would survive, but then you’d be relying on just one. What do you think they’re going to charge you?”

That’s why transportation remains the bugbear of the renewable energy landscape. It’s also why the successes of Better Place and the HCEI are so intertwined. Hawaii is the ideal venue for a company like Better Place to test its business model. The short driving distances and high fuel costs make electric cars practical, and Hawaii’s visibility as a major tourist destination makes it a powerful marketing tool. But Better Place is also the ideal test for the HCEI, an opportunity to see if this new energy paradigm is revolutionary enough to make real change possible.

Whatever doubts or skepticism the HCEI may provoke, in one respect, at least, it’s already achieved its goal. Its sheer ambition has clearly attracted the attention of companies like Better Place and others. For Alm, it’s all in the numbers. He points out that the 40 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard truly sets Hawaii apart. “Basically, we agree to be legally bound to that — 40 percent of the power we buy will be derived from renewables. That number is by far the highest in the United States.” Will this be enough to attract the investment and brainpower to make Hawaii a global model for energy high-tech? Alm certainly thinks so.

Fesharaki, always somewhat more circumspect, notes archly, “In the fullness of time, as the British say, everything is possible.”

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