Hawaii – An Energy Future Based on Renewables And Smart Grid

Hawaii’s electric companies plan to have more than 65% renewable energy generation capacity by 2030.
Published: Tue 02 Sep 2014

In response to an order from the Public Utilities Commission, Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), and its subsidiaries, Maui Electric Company (MECO) and Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO), have put forward plans that could see the state achieving the highest level of renewable energy in the nation, around 900MW, by 2030.

The wide ranging plans, which are also expected to lower electric bills and give customers more service options, are intended to form the foundation of the state’s energy future to 2030.

Changing energy environment

Hawaii’s energy environment is changing more rapidly than anywhere else in the country. Currently in Hawaii, more than 18% of the electricity used by customers comes from renewable resources, ahead of the state goal of 15% by 2015. Hawaii also claims one of the most diverse renewable energy portfolios in the country, including solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, biofuel, and hydroelectric sources of power. Ocean power is a promising option for the future.

“Our energy environment is changing rapidly and we must change with it to meet our customers’ evolving needs,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric vice president of corporate planning and business development. “These plans are about delivering services that our customers value. That means lower costs, better protection of our environment, and more options to lower their energy costs, including rooftop solar.”

Highlights of the plan include the following.

Rooftop solar

Working closely with the solar industry, the companies plan by 2030 to almost triple the amount of distributed solar. A clear, open planning process will let customers and solar contractors know how much more solar can be added each year. Grid enhancements will make possible increased integration of solar power. Optimized control settings for solar equipment will improve safety and reduce the risk of power outages. [Engerati-Learning From the Solar State-Hawaii]

As part of the PUC’s recently opened distributed generation docket, the companies will support policies that ensure fairness to all customers. This includes fair pricing both for customers who generate power but also rely on the company for additional electricity and/or backup, as well as for those who remain “full-service” utility customers.

Energy storage systems

Hawaiian Electric is evaluating proposals for energy storage projects on Oahu to be in service by early 2017. Energy storage projects are also in the works for Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Hawaii Island. [Engerati-Hawaii Calls for Large-Scale Energy Storage]

Smart grids

The companies are proposing to complete installation of smart grids in Maui County and on Hawaii Island by the end of 2017 and on Oahu by the end of 2018. [Engerati-Hawaii Gets a Smart Grid]

New products and services to customers

Community solar and microgrids will give customers new options for taking advantage of lower-cost renewable energy. Voluntary demand response programs will provide customers financial incentives for helping manage the flow of energy on the grid. [Engerati- Hawaii Encourages Energy Storage Development and Microgrid Technologies]

Switch from high-priced oil to lower cost liquefied natural gas

Energy needs not met by renewables will largely be met with cleaner and less expensive liquefied natural gas (LNG). Most existing oil-fired generating units will be converted to run on LNG. Older generating units will be deactivated by 2030 as new, more-efficient, quick-starting LNG fueled generators come online.

Customer bill reduction

The companies say that achieving this transformation will require significant upfront investment by the utilities and unaffiliated companies to build the necessary flexible, smart, and renewable energy infrastructure to continue to provide reliable service to customers. Nevertheless, customer bills are expected to decline, with some fluctuations, by an estimated 20% by 2030.

The Commission has indicated it will immediately begin evaluation of the plans to determine the extent in which these are consistent with the April order and the state’s energy goals.