Hawaiian Electric alters blueprint for renewable energy development

The Hawaiian Electric Companies (NYSE: HE) on Dec. 23 outlined a detailed plan charting the near-term actions that will lead to the use of renewable resources to meet 100% of Hawai’i’s power generation needs by 2045.

The Power Supply Improvement Plan Update filed with the Hawai’i Public Utilities Commission describes the work that will form the foundation to meet or exceed the state’s renewable energy milestones. The updated plan describes greater and faster expansion of the companies’ renewable energy portfolio than in the plan filed in April 2016 and emphasizes work that is in progress or planned over the next five years on each of the five islands the Hawaiian Electric Companies serve.

It also stresses the need to remain flexible so that decisions made today don’t crowd out future technological advances in power generation, distribution and storage.

The companies forecast that they will exceed the state’s renewable energy milestones in 2020 and can exceed the milestones in 2030 and 2040 by attaining a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of:

  • 48% by the end of 2020; the mandated goal is 30%
  • At least 72% by the end of 2030; the mandated goal is 40%
  • At least 100% by the end of 2040; the mandated goal is 70%. This would be five years ahead of the 2045 deadline to reach the goal of 100% renewable energy.

The plan estimates that the RPS after 2030 could exceed 100% when taking into account customers’ generation of electricity for their own use as well as the anticipated widespread use of battery storage.

In the near-term, using a proposed mix of solar, wind, battery storage and biofuels, the plan aims to achieve an RPS of 100% on Moloka’i by 2020. By 2020, Hawai’i Island is forecast to reach an RPS of 80%, Maui 63%, Lānaʻi 59% and O’ahu 40%.

The plan includes the continued growth of private rooftop solar and describes the work to expand and upgrade grid infrastructure and to use the newest generations of inverters, control systems and energy storage to help reliably integrate an estimated total of 165,000 private systems by 2030, more than double today’s total of 79,000. Hawaiian Electric already has the highest percentage of customers using rooftop solar of any utility in the U.S. and customer-sited storage is seen as a key contributor to the growth of the renewable portfolio on every island.

In addition, the plan forecasts the addition of 360 MW of grid‑scale solar, 157 MW of grid‑scale wind and 115 MW from Demand Response, which can shift customer use of electricity to times when more renewable energy is available, potentially making room to add even more renewable resources.

A change from the document filed in April is that this update does not include the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to generate power in the near-term. While LNG remains a potential lower-cost bridge fuel to be evaluated, the companies’ priority is to continue replacing fossil fuel generation with renewables over the next five years as federal tax incentives for renewables begin to phase out.

An interisland cable is not in the near-term plan, which states that its costs and benefits should continue to be evaluated.

The plan also provides a solid foundation for the electrification of transportation, reducing the use of fossil fuels for ground transportation. For example, charging electric vehicles during the day when renewable energy is abundant could create an additional demand for renewables.

The Hawaiian Electric Companies are exploring additional actions and resources beyond those described in the plan. For example, working with land owners and developers, planners are exploring pumped storage hydropower, run-of-the-river hydropower, hydrogen and wave energy. As part of this ongoing exploration, the companies recently issued a Request for Information to land owners who may be interested in teaming with a developer to host a renewable energy project.

“We have a solid plan that accelerates our progress to get to 100 percent renewable energy. We can do this,” said Alan Oshima, Hawaiian Electric president and CEO. “We want to work with parties from all segments of our community – government, business, community, and environmental groups – to refine the plans for Hawai’i’s energy future.”

The companies followed an open, collaborative process to develop these plans, participating in multiple stakeholder workshops and technical conferences to share information and ideas. Planners ran and analyzed multiple scenarios to balance the desires for reliability, affordability and sustainability. Among the stakeholders who provided input are the state Consumer Advocate; Ulupono Initiative; Blue Planet Foundation; Hawai’i Gas; Paniolo Power on Hawai’i Island and the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Additional independent technical analysis was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and the Electric Power Research Institute.

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.