Thursday, July 29, 2010

HECO Electric Car Rate Could Be Just the Beginning; Lower Rate Would Be Good, but What About FOFOP?

Not to be curmudgeonly about Hawaiian Electric’s proposed lower rate for electricity used to charge electric cars in the overnight hours, wouldn’t the utility do well to offer the lower overnight rate to all customers?

HECO’s stated goal is “to make Hawaii EV-ready as new, highway-capable EVs are expected to hit the market in the coming year.” That’s well and good, but there’s presumably another goal (not mentioned in this story) in increasing demand in the late-night, early-morning hours.

Renewable energy projects like wind farms often have no market for their electricity when the load drops at night. Higher demand in the overnight hours provides that market and displaces to some extent oil-fired generation at the utility’s power plants.

Giving all customers a lower rate at night presumably would push off some of the demand from the peak hours between 5 pm and 9 pm and lessen the requirement for HECO to fire up its higher-cost peaking units.

The Equity Factor

We wonder also how important the lower electric rate will be in influencing potential customers to buy an electric car. They’re the ones with either the cash and/or a good credit rating to make the purchase, so they’re primed to begin with.

Other factors such as environmentalism, sustainability awareness and FOFOP – fear of future oil prices – could be at least as important as lower electricity rates in motivating someone to buy an EV.

As announced, the lower rates will apply to a tiny segment of the population – a total of 1600 customers in the three counties HECO serves. Left out of the plan is the great majority without the buying power or inclination to participate in the coming EV craze. Without knowing the details of this new rate plan and how it would fit in with other plans, we have to presume that other categories won’t be increased over time to offset the lower EV rate.

Let’s hope the Public Utilities Commission recognizes the good intent of the lower EV-charging rate but expands the concept to a bigger good thing. Lowering the rates for all customers in the overnight hours would encourage expansion of wind and other clean-energy sales to the utility and benefit everyone – not just those who can afford the cash outlay for a new electric car.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Catching Up with OTEC – News from Elsewhere

Afternoon Update: Dr. Stephen Schneider, the noted climate scientist and co-Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (with Vice President Al Gore and other members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), died today in Europe. He twice was a guest on Hawaii Public Radio's "Energy Futures" program last year; we interviewed him on al variety of topics, including global warming's implications for Hawaii. The interview has been archived on the Internet.
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We hope the day will come when media stories about ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) – many many stories – will be datelined Honolulu. For now, we have to be content with news from around the world.

Like this one out of Tamil Nadu state in India. A new renewable energy park there will feature a number of green technologies, including OTEC.

Or this one and its companion piece that mention OTEC’s potential to generate ammonia and hydrogen for transportation fuel purposes, as well as generate clean electrical energy.

OTEC news related to Hawaii is on holiday, it seems. We’re pretty sure the U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin and the State Energy Office are all quietly at work on their parts of the puzzle.

For now, we’re content to let places like North Carolina keep the OTEC vision front and center, even though the players in the nation’s acknowledged favorite OTEC location – Hawaii – are content to keep it quiet.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Oahu’s First Wind Farm in 25 Years Breaks Ground

It’s been a wait of 9,253 days since ground was last broken for a wind farm on Oahu (Hawaiian Electric Renewable System’s Kahuku project – February 4, 1985), but Kahuku Wind Power LLC ended that wait today. The company has commenced building its 30-megawatt project in the hills above Kahuku on Oahu’s North Shore.

It’s somewhat ironic that the state’s most populous island has had to wait until 2010 to participate in the wind technology revolution. The Big Island and Maui have been on that path for years. It hasn’t been for a lack of trying; Hawaiian Electric’s plans for a plant in the Waianae mountains were done in by local opposition to the visual impacts.

The Kahuku region has a tradition of accepting what others reject. HECO called the area the “wind energy capital of the world” (maybe just a tad aggressively) after the HERS project and the world’s largest turbine, the Boeing MOD-5B, were in place in the Kahuku hills.

That description was shelved after every one of those turbines was dismantled due to machinery failure over the next few years, but Kahuku’s back – at least as wind energy capital of Oahu.

And that’s a good thing.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Kauai Publishes Its Energy Sustainability Plan

No two ways about it: We’ve been lax in staying abreast of energy developments in the Aloha State, but the guilt is too great. Here’s something that’s already a couple weeks old but worth mentioning before it’s truly ancient:

The County of Kauai has completed its Energy Sustainability Plan, and it’s now available online. The Plan seems pretty aggressive in some areas, including an increase in the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative franchise taxes by 30 percent.

It appears on the surface at least that the revenues would be devoted to supporting energy efficiency initiatives. That would contrast with the new$1.05 tax on each barrel of oil imported to the state; most of those revenues are going into the state’s general fund.

We’ll be watching developments on Kauai and the community’s efforts to build sustainability in the energy sector.