Report: HECO grid ran on 26% renewables in 2016

Dive Brief:

  • Oil consumption is down, renewable power is up and residents have a growing interest in electric vehicles, Hawaiian Electric said in an Earthday update on the utility's goals.
  • On Hawaii Island, customers used 54% renewable energy in 2016the first time clean energy's share on the system passed the halfway mark. On Oahu, renewables composed 19% of energy use last year.
  • The utility said it is on pace to reach 100% clean energy by the end of 2040, five years ahead of goals set in its Power Supply Improvement Plan.

Dive Insight:

Hawaiian Electric's oil use declined 21% between 2008 and 2016, with the bulk of the reduction coming on Oahu. Oil generators on the most populous island consumed 6 million barrels last year, down from 7.8 million in the reference year. That means big savings, as Hawaii's high energy prices are largely because of the state's reliance on oil-fired power.

For all three Hawaiian Electric territories, including Hawaii Island and Maui County, oil use fell to 8.5 million barrels from 10.7 million barrels. Renewable generation in Maui County reached a new high of 37%, up from 35%.

HECO said it expects to reach 38% renewable energy by the end of 2020, 72% by 2030 and 100% by 2040.

The utility also said the number of registered plug-in electric vehicles exceed 5,000 last year, "a promising milestone that makes Hawaii second in the nation after California in EVs per capita." A report last year found January 2016 vehicle registrations for plug-in vehicles totaled more than 4,000, about a 26% increase over 2015.

As part of its Drive Electric Hawaii program aimed at accelerating adoption of electric vehicles, HECO has partnered with Blue Planet Foundation; Hawaii State Department of Transportation; Hawaii State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; Rocky Mountain Institute; and other organizations.

While Hawaiian Electric is rapidly expanding the renewable energy on its system, officials say it will be particularly difficult to reach 100% clean energy on Oahu, where about two-thirds of the state's population resides, and the smallest amount of renewable energy is consumed. Colton Ching, senior vice president of planning and technology at HECO, told Utility Dive that a wide range of resources will be required to meet the goal.

"One of the things that makes the Hawaii grid different from the mainland is the reliance on distributed, connected resources. Whether they be solar PV or electric vehicles or dedicated storage, they are going to be relied on more heavily to actually operate the grid," said Ching. "Not just at the distribution level, but the entire system."

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Filed Under: Solar & Renewables
Top image credit: Flickr; Roxanne Ready