Hawaii far from 100% renewables — but running ahead of schedule, state finds
- A new report from the Hawaii State Energy Office (HSEO) outlines a state grid in flux: the bulk of its electricity is coming from oil, with rapid renewables growth towards a goal of 100% by 2045.
- Last year, the state's renewable portfolio stood at 27.6%, leaving a long path towards all-green power. But the analysis also notes the state is more than 12% ahead of the interim statutory 2015 target of 15%.
- While electricity use and bills have been falling in Hawaii for years, the state still has the highest rates in the country because it is forced to import its fuel. Less than 1% of electricity is generated with oil across the U.S., whereas oil accounts for more than two-thirds of generation in Hawaii.
An all-renewables grid is a tough proposition, but Hawaii seems uniquely equipped to tackle the goal. Its population of 1.5 million is relatively small, solar energy is abundant and almost anything looks affordable compared to imported oil.
The price of imported oil is the key reason for the state's ambitious energy plans. And if successful, officials believe the results will spill over into other industries.
The new report from HSEO opens with a damning assessment of the current situation: "As a community of isolated islands, we drain our economy with costly payments of billions of dollars annually for imported fuel - dollars which should remain in our economy to grow our economy. We pay, yet we are richly endowed with a wealth of natural resources."
Electricity prices in Hawaii are more than double the United States' average, but the growth of residential solar and the state's efficiency goals are making an impact.
Hawaii's energy efficiency portfolio standards mandate a 4,300-GWh reduction in electricity use by 2030. The state easily beat the 2015 interim energy efficiency portfolio standards target, the report notes, thanks in part to "the robust issuance of energy performance contracts."
In 2011, the average monthly electricity use across Hawaii was 584 KWh — last year it was 482 KWh.
There are six utility territories in Hawaii, and generally rates have been falling in all of them. On average, the state paid $0.35/KWh in 2011, and $0.30/KWh last year. But 2017 prices ranged from $0.28/KWh on Oahu, to $0.36/KWh on Lanai and Molokai. Average monthly bills have dropped from $202 in 2011, to $145 in 2017.
Hawaii is not the only state looking at 100% renewables, but it is the only one so far to codify the goal into law. California, however, may be getting close. This week a state Assembly committee voted 10-5 in favor of raising the state's renewable energy target — reviving a proposal that had stalled last year.
- Hawaii State Energy Office Hawaii Energy Facts & Figures
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