Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Top Ten Energy Stories in Hawai`i, 2015

Whew, it’s been a big year for energy in the Islands—big enough that it’s risky to pick just 10 of the biggest Hawai`i energy
stories of 2015.

But we’re not shrinking violets at RaisingIslands, so with the caveat that folks can disagree, here we go.

Number One: The top energy story of the year is certainly the controversial proposal by the Florida electric behemoth NextEra Energy to merge with Hawaiian Electric Industries, the corporation that includes Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light. The merger was announced in December 2014 and the PUC docket seeking approval on January 14, 2015. 

It seems like every community group in the state asks to intervene in the HECO/NextEra. The PUC approves 28 intervenors, among them the Renewable Energy Action Coalition of Hawaii, Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, Hawaii Water Service Co., Ka Lei Maile Alii Hawaiian Civic Club, Maui County, Sun Edison, Hawaii Solar Energy Association, Friends of Lanai, Puna Pono Alliance, Hawaii County, Ulupono Initiative, AES Hawaii, Blue Planet Foundation, SunPower Corp., Tawhiri Power, Hawaii PV Coalition, Paniolo Power, The Gas Co., Hawaii Renewable Energy Alliance, the state Office of Planning, Sierra Club, Hina Power Corp. and the Honolulu Board of Water Supply. Those, and a few others. Some have since dropped out, but still… 

2. The state announces that its goal is for Hawai`i to be100 percent powered by renewable energy by 2045, although it is something of a theoretical standard. Under the language of the commitment, the state could meet the 100 percent standard and still burn some oil. 

3. Gov. David Ige announces in August that he’s against Hawaiian utilities using liquefied natural gas (LNG) to replace oil and coal for energy production, arguing that it would detract from the state’s movement toward renewable energy solutions. 

4. The Kaua`i Island Utility Cooperative dedicates the state’s largest to date solar array, at Anahola, Kaua`i, which replaces the previous largest array at Koloa, also on Kaua`i, which in turn replaced the next previous largest array, also on Kaua`i. KIUC has more solar power per customer on its grid than any other utility in the country. On sunny days, most of the island’s electricity is generated by solar. 

5. It’s not purely a Hawai`i story, but the federal government’s extension of renewable energy tax credits means Hawai`i’s solar and wind industries get a big boost—federal tax credits stay at 30 percent through 2019. 

6. NextEra/HECO merger announcement prompts neighbor island utility self-determination proposals:  Hawai`i Island Energy Cooperative is formed in hopes of capturing Hawaii Electric Light if it becomes available ; and Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa studies a municipal power utility for Maui County. 

7. The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands announced a contract with NextEra affiliate Boulevard Associates LLC for a 60-megawatt wind farm at Kahikinui on Maui, which is a little smaller than the state;s biggest,  the 69 megawatt Kawailoa wind farm on O`ahu. But if built, the Kahikinui windfarm would make Maui the wind capitol of the Islands, adding to the 51 megs of wind power at Kaheawa and 21 megs at Auwahi.

8. KIUC announced plans with Solar City to build the biggest dispatchable solar/battery plant in the nation: a 13-megawatt solar array with a 52-megawatt-hour battery. 

9. Continuing on the battery front, Tetris owner Henk Rogers, through his company Blue Planet Energy, starts selling Sony’s lithium ion phosphate battery technology along with Blue Planet’s own software suite, under the name Blue Ion. And several other vendors are also marketing battery systems for solar arrays.

10. Finally, solar development rolls on. The PUC approved nearly140 megawatts of new solar for O`ahu. Three projects are by Sun Edison and one by Eurus Energy. These, if built, will finally knock Kaua`i out of first place in the biggest-solar-farm category, since each of these plants is bigger than the biggest one on Kaua`i. 

(Full disclosure: This blog’s author, Jan TenBruggencate, serves on the elected board of directors of the Kaua`i Island Utility Cooperative.)

© Jan TenBruggencate 2015

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