DOE issues enviro review on Hawaii plans for renewable energy development

The U.S. Department of Energy on Sept. 10 released its final programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) that evaluates DOE’s proposed action to develop guidance that can be used to support the State of Hawaii in achieving the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) goals.

For the PEIS, DOE and the State of Hawaii grouped 31 clean energy technologies and activities into five categories: Energy Efficiency, Distributed Renewable Energy Technologies, Utility-Scale Renewable Energy Technologies, Alternative Transportation Fuels and Modes, and Electrical Transmission and Distribution. For each activity or technology, the PEIS identifies potential impacts to 17 environmental resource areas and potential best management practices that could be used to minimize or prevent those potential environmental impacts.

The Final PEIS considers comments submitted during the 90-day public comment period on the Draft PEIS and from eight public hearings held on six islands in Hawaii in May 2014. The Final PEIS contains revisions and new information based in part on comments received on the Draft PEIS.

The information in the PEIS could help DOE, the public, other federal and state agencies, Native Hawaiian and other organizations, and future energy developers better understand and plan for greater use of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Hawaii. With about 85% of its energy derived from imported petroleum and petroleum products, Hawaii remains the most oil-dependent State in the nation, DOE noted. Roughly equal amounts of petroleum are used for electricity generation, ground transportation, and commercial aviation (about 28% each), with the rest used for marine transport, military, and other uses.

Unlike other states, Hawaii relies heavily on imported oil to meet its electricity generation needs. Whereas less than 1% of electricity on the U.S. mainland is generated using oil, in Hawaii, the figure is 74%. Furthermore, electricity prices in the state are three times higher than the United States national average.

Section 355 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) directs the DOE to assess the economic implications of Hawai‘i’s dependence on imported oil as the principal source of energy and to explore the technical and economic feasibility of increasing the contribution of renewable energy resources for both electricity generation and fuel for various modes of transportation.

In support of HCEI goals, the Hawaii State Legislature passed and the governor signed into law House Bill (HB) 1464 in 2009, establishing the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard in the State of Hawaii. In the 2015 Legislative Session, the legislature amended the state’s RPS by passing HB 623, which increases the RPS to 30% by the end of 2020; 70% by the end of 2040, and 100% by the end of 2045. Gov. David Ige signed the nation’s first 100% RPS into law on June 8, 2015.

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.