- Hawaiian Electric wants to move quickly on competitive energy solicitations it is preparing for Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island, but state regulators have hit pause on the process while they consider how to move forward and prepare guidance for the utility.
- Phase 1 yielded seven solar+storage projects, and those power purchase agreements are now being reviewed by the Public Utilities Commission. But HECO did not acquire all the energy it sought in the first procurement round, teeing up a second round the utility wants to launch in May.
- HECO's most pressing need is to replace an AES purchased power contract that expires in September 2022. The coal-fired plant is the largest generator on the Hawaiian Electric system and the utility says the "energy MWh and capacity MW supplied by AES must be replaced in order to meet customer energy requirements."
HECO officials say they need to move quickly to find replacement power for retiring generators, and believe procurements focused on energy storage will be faster than an all-resource call that could take significantly longer to work though. The PUC is evaluating that point, but the utility is ready to move ahead.
Along with the AES plant on Oahu, HECO says it will also need to replace the Kahului Power Plant when it retires in 2024. "We have a time crunch now, with two of the islands," HECO spokesman Jim Kelly told Utility Dive. "The clock is ticking."
On Oahu, the utility says it will seek 160,000 annual MWh in the second RFP that was not acquired in the Stage 1 solicitation. On Maui, it will need 65,000 annual MWh that the first RFP did not turn out. On Hawaii Island, the utility is seeking 70,000 MWh.
But right now, "we're waiting," Kelly said.
The PUC asked HECO to discuss the second phase solicitation and on Thursday the utility had a meeting at the commission. According to Kelly, HECO raised the concurrent need to replace the capacity and energy from firm generating units on Maui and Oahu, along with how the necessary procurements will be structured and the resources they will consider. The utility is advocating for a more targeted procurement that would focus on storage projects to meet this need.
Kelly said HECO is confident it can meet its energy needs through energy storage as well as energy storage paired with renewable resources, and wants to focus its efforts there.
"The timing is right and we want to get going on this," said Kelly. "I'm hoping we will get some guidance soon."
The state has some of the highest electricity prices in the county, because Hawaii generates almost two-thirds of its electricity from oil-fired plants. But now Hawaii is attempting to transition to 100% renewables by 2045. The seven solar+storage projects now under review could displace 1.2 million barrels of oil per year, say HECO officials.