Hawaii renewable energy
renewables in Hawai'i
US research firm Institute for Local Self Reliance says a decentralised renewable power system is the best way to reduce reliance on expensive fuel oil imports

In the US, Hawaii can achieve a 100% renewable energy grid by 2045 by focusing on implementing a decentralised renewable power system.

The focus will mean an increase in the number of locally controlled utilities, installation of rooftop solar systems on one of 10 homes in the county, a reduction of consumer energy bills per year as well as a cost-effective energy storage system.

This is according to a new report Hawaii at the Energy Crossroads released by US-based research company the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) in early October.

The report states that the transition will result from islanders choosing to adapt to a burgeoning network of distributed energy and retreat from the large centralized power approach proposed by the Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) and US solar and wind power utility NextEra Energy.

By choosing HECO and NextEra Energy's policy to implement a distributed energy system in Hawaii, islanders will allow a:

  • Takeover of the grid from HECO by NextEra by Q3 of 2016.
  • Importing of liquefied natural gas to supplant fuel oil, which ILSR says is costly.
  • Plans for an inter-island transmission cable to support large-scale renewable energy projects that have, historically, failed to prove cost effective, and that aren’t likely to be economically or environmentally attractive to their customers.

The ILSR report forecasts a delay or derail of the progress towards 100% renewables resulting from the takeover of the HECO companies.

Renewable energy costings

The report findings state that the proposed importing of liquefied gas to supplant fuel oil will result in higher electricity prices and forecasts a return of over US$5 million in local benefits from installation of one locally owned one-megawatt solar array.

ILSR says energy efficiency is the cheapest of all supply options and renewable resources such as onshore wind and geothermal currently are by far the cheapest new electricity supply options in Hawaii.

Hawaii Electricity

According to ILSR, Hawaii depends entirely on imported fuel oil for its electricity. In 2003, more than 90% of the islands’ electricity came from fuel oil.

When crude oil prices rise, electricity rates follow. In the past few months, electricity in Hawaii cost more than 30 cents per kilowatt per hour, double or more than mainland prices, mirroring the per-barrel prices of crude oil.

The electricity system of the island has largely remained in the hands of regulated monopoly utility companies HECO, which includes the Maui Electric Company and the Hawaiian Electric Light Company.