Distributive policy

Bill passed by legislature could thwart energy policy | News, Sports, Jobs

Electric utility rates in Hawaii are already the highest in the country — by far — and SB 2510 is likely to push them even higher.

This bill, which was recently passed by the Legislative Assembly, stipulates that one-third of all electricity on each island produced by utilities from renewable energy sources must come from “firm renewable energy.”

The problem is that “firm renewable energy” is, in many cases, more expensive than other forms of renewable energy, especially in Maui County.

“Firm Renewable Energy”, is defined by SB 2510 as uninterrupted renewable energy, although some of its forms are subject to disturbances.

Perhaps the most common form of “firm renewable energy” is biomass, which includes burning trees. Excluded from “firm renewable energy” are photovoltaic and wind, which are the most common forms of renewable energy in Hawaii.

Hawaiian Electric uses renewable energy to produce half of Maui County’s electricity, and most of it is photovoltaic and wind. Virtually none of the renewable energy produced in Maui County is “firm renewable energy.” This is where the problem lies.

To comply with SB 2510’s third-party mandate, Hawaiian Electric may have to shut down its wind and PV units until it builds “firm renewable energy” production facilities.

This would likely disrupt power distribution to Hawaiian Electric’s Maui County customers. It would also likely increase the cost of generating electricity, and these increased costs would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher electricity rates.

Governor David Ige is expected to veto SB 2510.

Douglas J. Hagan


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