In 2015, Governor Ige signed into law what has been called the nation’s most aggressive clean energy goal: to generate 100 percent of electricity sales from renewable resources by 2045. This new law marks a turning point for the islands in moving from the most oil-dependent state in the country to one of the greenest.
Q. Why is the goal of 100 percent clean energy for electricity by 2045 so important to the state?
A. Hawai‘i spends roughly $5 billion a year to buy foreign oil to support our energy needs. Instead of sending money out-of-state, we can invest in developing our own indigenous, renewable energy resources — solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, wave, waste-to-energy, and hydroelectric. This will keep more money at home to improve our economy, environment and energy security and establish the islands as a leader in conservation and fighting global warming
In practical terms, what will it take to reach this goal — and what does it mean for consumers in the years ahead?
We’re combining energy efficiency measures with new technology that can deliver electricity at costs below imported fossil fuels. It’s up to each island community to decide what new technology they can support at utility scale. The biggest challenge for achieving 100 percent is energy storage so electricity can be available when we need it, and I’m confident the technology can be developed.
Q. What progress have we made, and are we attracting international investment?
A. Currently, we have renewable energy projects on every island with the potential to add more. There’s huge interest from other countries, such as Japan, Korea and China, in investing and learning with us. Hitachi, for example, is a partner on Maui in their smart grid research and development. The company is also interested in battery storage, photovoltaics and wind energy.
Q. How do we integrate these different technologies and what would the utility of the future look like?
A. The challenge and the opportunity in 100 percent clean energy is that the business model has to be different. The old model is based on the utility doing everything from generation and distribution to storage. The 21st century model is more customer-centered, with distributed local solutions. No matter who owns our utility company, the energy vision for Hawai‘i is clear. We need to create a process to determine what works best for the utility, local consumers, and the state’s clean energy goals. (At press time, the Public Utilities Commission hadn’t announced its decision on a proposed merger of Hawaiian Electric Industries and NextEra Energy Inc.)
Photo: Gov. Ige, Mayor Carvalho and Green Energy team