Hawaii will soon get all of its electricity from renewables | RenewEconomy

Hawaii will soon get all of its electricity from renewables

Hawaii set to have greenest grid in the Union, with drafting of legislation that would boost its renewables target to 100% by 2045.


Climate Progress

Hawaii is on its way to having the greenest grid in the nation.

The state legislature sent a bill to the governor’s desk this week that moves the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) up to 100 percent by 2045 — which means that all electricity provided by the electric companies will have to come from renewable sources like solar and wind. Nationwide, electricity generation makes up about a third of all carbon emissions.

“We’ll now be the most populated set of islands in the world with an independent grid to establish a 100 percent renewable electricity goal,” State Senator Mike Gabbard (D) told ThinkProgress in an email. “Through this process of transformation we can be the model that other states and even nations follow. And we’ll achieve the biggest energy turnaround in the country, going from 90 percent dependence on fossil fuels to 100 percent clean energy.”

Gov. David Ige (D) has until May 15 to veto or sign the bill. If he fails to act by then, the bill will automatically become law. Hawaii would be the first state in the nation to have an RPS at 100 percent. Its previous RPS called for 40 percent renewables by the end of 2030.

Hawaii already has the greatest solar penetration in the nation. One out of every eight homes in Hawaii has solar, and roughly 10 percent of the state’s electricity comes from solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Another quarter of Hawaii’s electricity comes from geothermal sources, according to the federal Energy Information Agency (The EIA does not track residential solar electricity generation).

Hawaii already has the highest penetration of solar in the US

Hawaii’s dramatic shift to renewable energy over the past few years has been largely driven by the island state’s high electricity prices. Hawaii gets most of its electricity from oil-fired power plants, and all the oil is imported. Electricity there can cost three times as much as the national average, Gabbard said.

But the transition to solar has not been without problems.

HECO, the Hawaiian Electric Companies, which comprises the state’s three major utilities, has come under fire for not integrating solar quickly enough. Some residents who have installed solar have had to wait as long as 18 months for the utility to interconnect their systems to the grid. In March, HECO sent some costumers a notice that interconnections would be indefinitely postponed, but the Public Service Committee immediately fired back, telling the utility it has an “affirmative duty” to interconnect customers.

Without storage, utilities are hard-pressed to balance all the energy widespread solar can generate.

SolarCity co-founder Lydon Rive said his company plans to offer solar plus storage in Hawaii next year, allowing homeowners to go completely off the grid, as E&E News reported this week. The new Tesla battery can serve as a “hedge against bad policy outcomes,” Rive said.

A driving factor in the proliferation of low-cost solar has been a policy known as net metering, in which customers are credited for the electricity they put back on the grid, through, for instance, rooftop solar. But the practice has been heavily targeted by utilities in some states, such as Arizona, that claim solar allows customers to avoid paying their fair share of grid costs. High interconnection fees and monthly surcharges are just two other ways utilities can discourage residential solar investment — “bad policy outcomes” from a solar perspective.

Even before Hawaii’s legislature passed the RPS bill, its electricity sector was already in flux.

In December, NextEra Energy, a Florida-based utility company, agreed to buy all three of HECO’s electric utilities, for about $6 billion. NextEra is expected to invest heavily in transmission and distribution infrastructure, including a $600 million undersea cable connecting the Oahu and Maui power grids, as ThinkProgress reported.

The new RPS will mean NextEra inherits a system that is expected to be a testing ground for new technologies and methods of transmission in the coming decades.

“NextEra has much more technical expertise and resources than HECO, so in the grid modernization area, NextEra brings a lot more to the table than our existing utility,” Gabbard said. “Ultimately, it’s about what’s in the best interest of the people of Hawai`i. It’s very important for NextEra to be clear that they support continuing customer choice as it applies to PV.”

This article was originally published on Climate Progress. Reproduced here with permission

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  1. Jacob 6 years ago

    Oh no. Will houses be allowed to have LNG generators for use during very bad weather?

    • AnOilMan 6 years ago

      No. That would be worse than coal. LNG consumes 8% of its energy in compression and shipping. Then they leak, and Methane is really bad.

  2. Mark Roest 6 years ago

    Renewable energy, especially solar which tracks high temperatures and
    AC use, can be used for AC after the sun is low in the sky through
    the use of batteries, which are very shortly going to be selling from
    Tesla for an estimated $250 per kWh capacity, and will probably be sold installed by Solar City for about $600 per kWh for residential use. That means that the
    utility does not have to spend enormous sums, which are added to the rate base,
    for gas peaking power plants. All that expense for solar on residential
    roofs (except for a few programs where utilities horn in on the Solar
    City business model) is OFF THE RATE BASE! If you add it into the
    rate base hypothetically, and extrapolate ten years out when it will
    approach 60% to 90% penetration of the roofs that are appropriate for
    solar, you will see that the people who don’t install solar are getting a
    steal of a deal!

    The batteries can handle all the grid stabilization and timeshifting issues.

    • AnOilMan 6 years ago

      Its kinda funny/sad what has happened in Hawaii. They used to use coal, but you can imagine the cost of running a small rail system to ship the stuff to the various plants. So they switched to petrol which is far cheaper and easier to ship. Then the oil prices went up.

      Now people are rolling out solar to save money.

      I do think its a bit cruel to not sort out what is happening with the utility providers.

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