If you know Hawaii mostly for beaches and golf courses, you need to understand how unique the islands are when it comes to energy. Each island is a stand-alone grid without interconnections.
When sugar was king, plantations renewably supplied up to half the electricity on some islands. As plantations vanished, imported oil grew so today oil powers 75 percent of Hawaii's electric generation and 90 percent of all non-aviation energy use.
This is not a recipe for sustainability. The 2008 Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative aims to protect Hawaii's energy, economic and environmental future.
October 2010 marked the second anniversary of this landmark clean energy agreement between the State of Hawaii and the Hawaiian Electric companies. The agreement set Hawaii on the path to a 70 percent reduction in fossil fuel consumption by 2030. The targets are a 30 percent reduction statewide in fossil fuel use through energy efficiency and 40 percent through renewable energy substitution in just over 20 years.
At Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light companies, we are committed to a three-pronged goal: 1) reduce fossil fuel consumption, 2) protect our customers from the volatility of highly variable fossil fuel costs and 3) reduce customer cost to below what it would have been had we continued today's near-total dependence on fossil fuels.
Part of the clean energy agreement calls for changing Hawaii's regulatory model. A newly approved ratemaking model called decoupling disconnects utility revenues from sales to encourage energy conservation and renewable energy. A feed-in-tariff will make it easier for renewable energy developers to enter the market. More dynamic clean energy scenario planning will replace an older, less flexible process. And newly approved electric vehicle charging rates are making Hawaii EV-ready.
With 10 percent of electricity from renewable sources, Hawaii is already among the top half dozen states. The "Big Island" of Hawaii has reached nearly 40 percent renewable generation from geothermal, wind and other sources. Maui is not far behind.