Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Phoenix Motorcars, MECO To Test Electric Cars; Another Look at HCEI’s Renewable Energy Goal

Phoenix Motorcars CEO Dan Elliott (right) and Maui Electric CEO Ed Reinhardt sign their agreement today as Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares and Governor Linda Lingle look on.

Phoenix Motorcars announced today it will test up to 30 of its built-in-Korea electric vehicles on Maui starting in the first quarter of 2009 in partnership with Maui Electric Company.

The California company and MECO signed the agreement in Governor Linda Lingle’s office, where Better Place and Hawaiian Electric inked their own pact one week ago aimed at building a statewide network to service electric cars.

CEO Dan Elliott said its alliance with MECO is the company’s first partnership with a utility. When asked by an Associated Press reporter “what’s to test?” since electric cars have been around for years, Elliott and others said Maui already is studying how the mix of renewable energy resources can best be integrated on the island’s electric grid. Adding electric vehicles to the mix will result in valuable information for future vehicle rollouts, they said.

HCEI's '70 Percent' Goal

A comment made by the Governor today about the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative makes us wonder whether we and virtually all media have missed something about the HCEI goal. Just about every media piece we’ve seen since January has said HCEI's goal is to achieve 70 percent reliance on renewable energy in Hawaii by 2030.

The Governor today said the 70 percent figure is reached by combining 40 percent renewable resource reliance with 30 percent in improved efficiency. “That’s how we get to 70 percent,” she said.

Yet that’s not how HCEI’s goal has been described by the media. Google it yourself, but here are just a few typical citations:
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, January 29, 2008
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Hawaiian Electric Company
Renewable Energy World.com

That said, here’s a quote from the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism’s website on HCEI:

The goal is to decrease energy demand and accelerate use of renewable, indigenous energy resources in Hawaii in residential, building, industrial, utility, and transportation end-use sectors, so that efficiency and renewable energy resources will be sufficient to meet 70% of Hawaii’s energy demand by 2030."

So maybe what this boils down to is that the media essentially have given too little credit to the efficiency side of the equation and have inaccurately tied the 70-percent figure to renewable energy alone. If that’s the case, today’s press conference served a valuable purpose beyond the electric car test announcement by shedding more light on HCEI's goal.

It remains to be seen whether Hawaii and federal officials will consistently emphasize 40 percent renewable energy reliance instead of 70 percent when they discuss HCEI, as the Governor did today. Some observers already have said Hawaii's oil vulnerability makes even the higher number too conservative.

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