Monday, October 20, 2008

‘Sweeping Agreement’ in Regulatory Changes Announced Between State, Utility, Others; Goal Is To Develop Renewable Energy, Get Hawaii Off Oil

L-to-R: Bill Parks, U.S. Department of Energy; Robbie Alm, Hawaiian Electric Co.; Catherine Awakuni, State Consumer Advocate; Connie Lau, Hawaiian Electric Indusries; Governor Linda Lingle; Maurice Kaya, former State Chief Technology Officer; Ted Liu, Department of Business Economic Development & Tourism.

Despite our intention to beat the mainstream media with details of today’s press conference attended by Governor Linda Lingle, numerous State energy officials, Hawaiian Electric Company executives, the U.S. DOE, the State Consumer Advocate, renewable energy developers and even U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, the length of the conference pushed us right up against the start of a granddaughter’s birthday party. (The Phillies and the Rays might well play half a World Series game this week in the time it took to conduct this one.) We "online journalists" can bust a deadline if we want to.

For now, we’ll simply direct you to the Governor’s website for most of the details. However, the statement that jumped out to us was the agreement among the parties to prevent the growth of fossil fuel generation on the five islands served by Hawaiian Electric -- Oahu, Maui, Lanai, Molokai and the Big Island. (Negotiations are underway with independently owned Kauai Electric to bring that utility into general agreement.)

There will be no future net gain in megawatts generated by burning fossil fuel, according to the Governor and HECO representatives. That alone seems like a major advancement in the effort to reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuel. If for whatever reason a new fossil fuel plant must be built, a like amount of carbon-based generation in an old plant will have to be taken down. That's how it sounded, at any rate; we'll have to review the video to get the exact quote. In addition, the overall agreement includes a prohibition on the construction of new coal plants in the state.

But there’s plenty more:

• A commitment to integrate as much as 1100 megawatts of additional renewable energy on the HECO companies’ grids, with 700 MW to be implemented within five years.
• Construction of an undersea cable connecting Maui, Molokai and Lanai into one electrical grid to allow integration of 400 MW of wind power generated in Maui County for transmission to Oahu.
• Changes in how HECO is compensated by moving away from a business model that places reliance on increased electric rates.

And the list goes on, but we'll have to leave it there until tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Hi Doug-
Thanks for the post and the photo. Hope the party went well!
Just in case you were looking for it, the 52-page Agreement is here:

Doug Carlson said...

Thanks, anonymous, for your comment and link to the agreement. I didn't do justice to the event in the 10/20 post for the stated reason and will follow up with links to the media coverage--some good, some less so--and additional comments. This was one of the more well-attended press conferences I've seen in Honolulu; the room was packed with mainstream and online media, military reps, developers representing wind, solar and ocean energy companies (one of whom left Paris on 10/18 after attending the Paris ocean energy conference), politicians, a cadre of HECO employees, chamber of commerce honchos, state energy employees, environmental organizations, and so on. The Administration sees this as a legacy agreement, and it's probably right.

Anonymous said...

The concept of shipping some 400 MW of power via cable to Oahu to displace some of the current fossil fuel consumption is sensible if the existing facilities can retain appropriate back-up. However, the investment will be very costly.

What has happened to the plans for biodiesel power on Oahu and possible jatropha farming of Oahu and other island lands? Is this becoming less feasible?

Doug Carlson said...

Re the question from "anonymous" above, HECO says the biodiesel plant is still officially in the plan, but media coverage about the fuel provider's closing its local office opens the door for questions. I plead ignorance about the jatropha farm potential except to note that it was highlighted in a January '08 TV special on a local station here. Thanks for the reminder.