EPA proposes its own plan for regional haze control in Hawaii

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to place a 3,550 tons per year cap on SO2 emissions from the residual fuel-fired boilers at the Hill, Shipman and Puna power plants on Hawaii’s Big Island, which represents a 1,400 tons per year reduction from the 2018 projected emissions from these units, EPA said in a May 29 Federal Register notice.

EPA said that this emission limit, together with certain ongoing requirements, will be sufficient to meet the progress goals for the first implementation period under the regional haze rule.

EPA said it found a revised State Implementation Plan to be inadequate so it is proposing to promulgate a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) to address regional haze in Hawaii. EPA said the FIP meets the requirements of the Clean Air Act and EPA’s rules concerning reasonable progress towards the national goal of preventing any future manmade impairment of visibility in mandatory Class I areas. EPA will take comment on this proposal until July 2.

In order to assess potential source retirements and replacements during the regional haze program’s first implementation period, EPA’s contractor, ICF International, reviewed the last set of integrated resource plans (IRPs) for Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO) and its subsidiaries. In its IRP, HECO indicated that Wauai Units 3 and 4 would be placed into emergency reserve or retired in 2011 and 2014, respectively. Hawaii Electric Light Co. (HELCO), Maui Electric Co. (MECO), and Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) had no plans to retire any of their units in their last IRP, EPA said.

Existing state legislation and voluntary measures by the Hawaiian utilities are likely to result in further reductions in oil-fired electricity generating units in Hawaii by 2018, EPA said. In particular, Hawaii’s current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires each electric utility in the state to achieve the following percentages of renewable electrical energy sales:

  • 10% of its net electricity sales by Dec. 31, 2010;
  • 15% of its net electricity sales by Dec. 31, 2015;
  • 25% of its net electricity sales by Dec. 31, 2020; and
  • 40% of its net electricity sales by Dec. 31, 2030.

Although the Hawaii RPS is a state law and is not federally enforceable, it is likely to result in significant reductions in SO2 and NOX emissions over the next 20 years, as existing fossil fuel-fired generation is replaced with renewable, EPA pointed out.

In addition, as part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, the state of Hawaii, Division of Consumer Advocacy of the Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs, and the Hawaiian electric companies have entered into an “Energy Agreement,” which includes an extensive list of renewable energy commitments and related provisions. “Although this is not a federally enforceable requirement, we expect that the output of the utilities’ existing oil-fired units will decrease over the period of the first implementation period and will be replaced by renewable energy generation,” EPA wrote.

BART process winnows down list of affected plants to one

In a process begun in 2008, the state identified these sources as Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART)-eligible under the haze program: Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. Puunene facility; Chevron Refinery; Tesoro Refinery; Hu Honua Bioenergy-Pepeekeo facility; MECO-Kahului facility; HELCO-Kanoelehua Hill; HECO-Waiau facility; and HECO-Kahe facility. Further evaluations dropped six of those sources off the list due to relatively light haze impacts.

Of the remaining two sources, the owner of the Hu Honua Bioenergy facility relinquished the facility’s existing permit in September 2010 and it was issued a new permit in August 2011 which allows the facility to burn only non-fossil fuels. Therefore, the only subject-to-BART source left in Hawaii is the HELCO Kanoelehua Hill facility on the Big Island. There are two residual fuel oil-fired boilers at this plant that are subject to BART (Hill 5 and Hill 6). Hill 5 is a 14 MW front-fired boiler. Hill 6 is a 21 MW tangentially fired boiler. Both boilers currently burn residual oil with a sulfur content not to exceed 2% by weight.

EPA has determined that no control for NOX and particulate matter (PM) at the Hill plant is consistent with BART, given the unique conditions in Hawaii. NOX reductions may need to be pursued in future planning periods, EPA added. As for the third regional haze pollutant, SO2, EPA said it requested the utility to consider switching to lower sulfur residual fuel oil as the cheapest option.

EPA said it considered the regional haze program in the context of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, a collaborative effort by the state of Hawaii, the U.S. Department of Energy and various other stakeholders. The initiative’s ultimate goal is meeting 70% of the state’s energy needs through energy efficiency and renewable energy by 2030. One of the key pieces of legislation aimed at achieving this goal is Hawaii’s 2009 Clean Energy Omnibus Bill, signed in June 2009. This statute calls for 30% reduction in the state’s energy use via efficiency and increases the state’s renewable portfolio standard to 40% by 2030.

Under the Clean Energy Bill scenario of future actions, the Shipman plant of HELCO is projected to cease operations by 2018 and HELCO’s Hill and Puna are projected to be operating at a significantly lower capacity factor and/or burning biofuels with a much lower sulfur content than the current fuel. EPA said these projections are based on optimistic assumptions about implementation of the Clean Energy Bill and are not federally enforceable. Therefore, EPA said it cannot rely on these projections to demonstrate reasonable progress.

Without further control, emissions of SO2 on the Big Island are projected to increase by nearly 4% between 2005 and 2018. Therefore, additional, federally enforceable SO2 reductions are needed on the Big Island to ensure progress. EPA has identified the fuel oil-fired boilers at Hill, Shipman and Puna as appropriate sources for further control because they are upwind of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, have high SO2 emissions and lack modern pollution controls. EPA believes that the SO2 control measure for these sources should be structured so that it can be met through increased energy efficiency and renewable energy. Therefore, EPA is proposing to cap total emissions at the fuel oil-fired boilers at Hill, Shipman and Puna at 3,550 tons of SO2 per year, beginning Jan. 1, 2018.

Hawaii utilities rapidly adding to renewables portfolio

The Hawaiian Electric website said about renewable energy initiatives: “In 2011, 12% of Hawaiian Electric companies’ sales were from renewable sources, up from about 10% in 2010. This included energy from renewable resources such as wind, solar, waste-to-energy, geothermal, hydro and biofuels. More than three years into Hawaii’s revived clean energy initiative, the regulatory foundation for change is established and projects are coming online. For example, First Wind completed Kahuku Wind in March 2011 and in February 2012 began work on a second Oahu wind facility at Kawailoa above Haleiwa.”

The website added: “As of early 2012, renewable energy projects in service, under construction, awaiting approval or in active negotiations totaled more than 1,000 MW. Other projects are in preliminary negotiations and are not yet public. This represents a significant share of capacity for Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light Company, which currently have a total of about 2,500 MW from utility generation and from independent power producers.”

Hawaiian Electric Industries (NYSE: HE) supplies power to 95% of Hawaii’s population through its electric utilities, Hawaiian Electric, Hawaii Electric Light and Maui Electric.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.