Energy News

Nov 05

News round-up:

PBN: Hawaiian Electric seeks OK for 6 more renewable energy projects

Star-Advertiser op-ed by Alex Tiller of Sunetric: Solar gardens aim to offer PV for all

Star-Advertiser Letter to the Editor from Sen. Mike Gabbard: Bill would help cut electric costs


Integrated Resource Planning - Docket 2012-0036

Nov. 4: Zilkha Biomass submits comments stating that "Zilkha can provide a less expensive fuel than the options discussed in the IRP at a lower overall capital cost."

Sep 13

Jeff's blog on Huffington Post:

"If the development of our indigenous energy resources proceeds expeditiously, the potential exists for Hawai'i to become self-sufficient in terms of our electrical energy and highway transportation fuel needs in the next 20 to 30 years..."

These words accompanied a 1977 plan for Hawai'i's energy independence by the year 2010. The plan--developed for the state senate by more than 100 Hawai'i experts--reminds us how elusive the goal of weaning Hawai'i from imported oil has been.

Not anymore. With a combination of smart policy, committed residents, and breakthrough technologies, Hawai'i is beginning to realize its potential for energy independence. The Hawaiian Electric Companies recently announced that they achieved almost 18% renewable energy for O'ahu, Maui, and Hawai'i Island in the first half of 2013--exceeding the 2015 requirement two years ahead of schedule. That's exciting progress.

Here are four current bright spots helping to drive Hawai'i's clean energy transformation:

You've seen the ads (BJ Penn?), you've heard from the neighbors, or maybe you've already bought--solar is everywhere. Tens of thousands of Hawai'i households have taken control of their energy costs by putting a personal power plant on their roof. The growth is staggering, with as much solar photovoltaic installed in 2012 as nearly all of the previous years combined. Growth has leveled somewhat due to unfortunate changes in how the state tax credit is administered, but competition, decreases in equipment costs, and new financing tools make solar more affordable than ever. Hawai'i also continues to lead the nation in solar water heaters per capita. What's more, thousands of residents work in the solar industry. Putting the sun to work means we exchange purchases of imported fossil fuel for local paychecks.

What's next? Community-based renewable energy, such as shared "solar gardens," to allow more residents (especially renters and apartment dwellers) to pa

rticipate in the benefits of solar.


Energy efficiency--the yin to solar's yang--is the cleanest, cheapest, largest, and fastest new energy source in Hawai'i. New energy source? Yes, energy savings from efficiency improvements (think LED bulbs, ENERGY STAR appliances, behavior changes) actually eclipsed the amount of new renewable energy installed in Hawai'i last year. Hawaii Energy--the efficiency "utility" for the Hawaiian Electric territory--offers sizable rebates for solar water, lighting, and high efficiency appliances. They also have aggressive programs to help commercial ratepayers cut their energy bills.

What's next? Demand response, or the ability to use communication technology to better manage power demand, can decrease energy use while enabling more clean energy. Non-essential uses of electricity can be momentarily dialed back by the utility, helping to match renewable energy supply with demand.

On-Bill Financing
Solar and efficiency are great, but both usually require upfront investment before the savings pile up. On-bill financing changes that. This new program will allow residences and businesses--including renters--to install energy efficiency improvements such as solar water heaters and pay for them using their energy bill savings. What's more, the governor enacted an innovative policy this year to secure low-cost capital from the private sector to help kick-start on-bill financing. Called "green energy market securitization (GEMS)," the program can provide attractive financing options to renters and low-income households that otherwise can't afford energy improvements.

What's next? Implementation of on-bill financing. The Public Utilities Commission established a working group that is currently hashing out program details for a scheduled start date in 2014. We need to make sure that the program lives up to its big potential, and is not whittled down to a "pilot."

Electric Vehicles
More than one-third of the oil we use in Hawai'i powers our cars and trucks--nearly half a billion gallons of gasoline and diesel annually. Fortunately, the rapid adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) promises to reduce this amount. Like solar, we are seeing a near doubling of the purchase of EVs annually. While we're not leading the globe in EV uptake (that badge likely goes to Norway, where over 3% of vehicles sold this year are electric), Hawai'i will have more than 2,000 registered EVs by the end of September. This number will continue to increase with a dozen new models hitting the market over the next year, expanding the range of options in price, size, and style. And that dreaded "range anxiety?" It's disappearing as battery capacity and performance rapidly improves, and Hawai'i leads the nation in the number of available charge spots per person. While most of the grid energy currently charging Hawai'i's EVs is fossil-based, EVs go further on a gallon of oil than the typical gasoline car. That's because they are more efficient, they capture the braking energy, and they don't waste gas idling. Plus, they become increasingly clean as more renewable energy is added to the grid.

What's next? Putting EVs to work as part of the larger clean energy ecosystem, storing energy and regulating fluctuations in variable renewable energy resources. This requires a smart grid, two-way inverters in the vehicles (to both charge and discharge batteries), and an intelligent networked system that seamlessly interacts with thousands of vehicles plugged into the grid.

These bright spots--the growth in solar, efficiency, and EVs, and the availability of new financing programs--are clearing our path to energy independence, and are drawing attention from communities elsewhere that are also transitioning to clean energy. As long as we don't fall into the same trap that slowed us down in 1977, we will continue to get closer to the day we no longer refer to it as alternative energy, and just call it energy.

Sep 06

News from our friends at The Energy Excelerator... who recently received $30 million from the US Navy to help fund clean tech start-ups!

The Energy Excelerator is a startup program dedicated to helping solve the world’s energy problems, starting in Hawaii. Hawaii has the best economic conditions for launching a clean energy company on the planet. We would like to invite to you apply for up to $1M of non-dilutive funding to bring your energy solution to Hawaii and the Asia Pacific.

Here’s how it works:
1.       Apply today until September 27 at
2.       Begin with a full-immersion week in Hawaii to kick off a 6-month program for seed-stage startups and a 12-month program for growth-stage startups. You do not have to relocate to Honolulu, but you will spend 2 to 6 weeks in Hawaii over the course of the program.
3.       Non-dilutive funding up to $1M cost-reimbursable grants to growth-stage companies for projects in Hawaii or the Asia Pacific and $30K to $100K in fixed-price grants to seed-stage startups to develop and execute their go-to-market strategies.   
4.       Work with a core group of experienced mentors to refine and execute your go-to-market strategy.


To find out more check out the applicant package and visit our website, Please get in touch with us if you have any questions: or on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
We know energy innovation requires an entire community and we would love for you to be a part of ours.
The Energy Excelerator team

The Energy Excelerator is a startup program dedicated to solving the world's energy problems starting in Hawaii. We help innovative companies succeed in Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific region with non-dilutive funding, strategic relationships, and a vibrant ecosystem. The Energy Excelerator is a program of the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR).

Nov 20

Cutting emissions 25% per facility in the next 8 years after probably a century of steady growth? Yeah, that's huge. That's our take on the state's proposed greenhouse gas rules, which will reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 by targeting Hawaii's biggest polluters. If you can make it to one of the public hearings to voice your support, absolutely do so.

Hawaii’s GHG Rules Update

This November marks an important time for Hawaii’s clean air and energy standards. Just this month, the Governor’s office approved a request to notify the public about the proposed greenhouse gas (GHG) rules that have been in motion since 2007. In the next month, four public hearing meetings for the GHG rules are scheduled throughout the islands. 

The public hearings are an opportunity to learn more about the proposed GHG rules, to hear commentary from interested parties, and even contribute to the dialogue and decision making. The Department of Health is also accepting any written comments and recommendations via mail or hand delivery to:

Hawaii State Department of Health, Clean Air Branch
919 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room 203,
Honolulu, HI, 96814


The comment period ends on January 14, 2013. You can view Blue Planet Foundation's comments here.

To view the official proposed GHG rules, the Department of Health website may be accessed at The RISE Program and interns have been supporting the GHG rule-making process since January 2011, and the following is our interpretation of the publicly available materials relating to the proposed rules.



The schedule is as follows:



Tuesday, November 20, 2012, 5pm

Waiakea High School, Hilo, Big Island

Wednesday, November 28, 2012, 2pm

919 Ala Moana Boulevard

(AAFES Building), Honolulu, Oahu

Thursday, November 29, 2012, 5pm

Wilcox Elementary School, Lihue, Kauai

Friday, November 30, 2012, 6pm

Pomaikai Elementary School, Kahului, Maui



Background to Hawaii’s Proposed Rules:

Hawaii’s proposed GHG rules are a direct result of Act 234, Hawaii’s Global Warming Solution Law, signed in 2007 by Governor Linda Lingle. The Act seeks to reduce Hawaii’s GHG emission levels to that of 1990 levels by January 1, 2020. Since the signing of the Act, the Department of Health Clean Air Branch has been under fire to implement rules that will have a large effect on Hawaii’s electricity generation (see this 8/18/11 Civil Beat article for background on the delays).  The proposed GHG rules will aid in achieving this goal by setting a statewide GHG emissions limit that identifies and requires emissions reductions from the State’s largest GHG emitters. The proposed rules may incur costly effects on major GHG sources, including energy producers and landfills, as they seek to modify their operations in order to reduce their overall emission levels. However, the benefits of these GHG rules includes reducing the state’s dependence on imported fossil fuels; reducing the State’s emissions and contribution to global climate change; and supporting the goals of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.  

Hawaii from a National Perspective of GHG Rules:

Eighteen states have now passed mandatory GHG reporting measures, as illustrated in the map (Source: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, July 5, 2012). The following outlines the major ways in which state rules may differ, and a short summary of Hawaii’s proposed rules:

1.     The sectors required to report – GHG is emitted from sources of all sizes, so each State’s legislating body needs to define sources to require reporting from at an achievable and manageable scale.  The State of Hawaii’s draft rules targets existing electric power producers, refineries, and landfills, while excluding Municipal Solid Waste Combustors such as H-Power, and deferring biogenic emissions until 2014. New or modified sources are also covered, to ensure emissions aren’t being displaced.

2.     The size of facilities that are required to report – Hawaii’s proposed rules target larger sources with potential emissions above 100,000 tons CO2equivalents/year – which is estimated to effect 25 sources in Hawaii.

3.     The setting of GHG Limits – Reporting GHG emissions doesn’t necessarily mean reducing emissions.  Hawaii’s proposed rules seek to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 (as set by Act 234), which equates to 13.66 MMT CO2e – a number taken from the 2008 Hawaii GHG Inventory report by ICF International, which excludes aviation and international bunker fuel emissions and includes carbon sinks.

4.     The setting of fees – Fees may be associated with reporting in order for the State to have the capacity to manage the reporting process. Hawaii’s proposed rules change fees for only federally regulated covered sources, and the fee is based on the amount of emissions emitted.

Comprehensive information about GHG reporting by State is also available on the EPA’s website.

What you can do:

Hawaii’s GHG regulations, though technical, will have a major impact for all of Hawaii’s energy users, Hawaii’s energy producers, and anyone impacted by GHG emissions and global climate change (read: everyone!). If you cannot make it to the above public hearings, please contribute your thoughts by mail or hand delivery by January 14, 2013 to:

Hawaii State Department of Health, Clean Air Branch
919 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room 203,
Honolulu, HI, 96814

Nov 07

Here's a ranking of Hawaii's largest carbon polluters. Note that the top 3 sources pollute as much as the next 21!

Nov 05

A photo journal of the eviction of the Riverdale mobile home park residents in north-central Pennsylvania. From the most excellent website "BURN":

The Riverdale mobile home park used to sit on the banks of the Susquehanna River in north-central Pennsylvania. It housed working families with modest incomes. Earlier this year, all the Riverdale trailer families were evicted to make room for a pump station and pipeline that would move Susquehanna water to fracking sites elsewhere in the state.

Some from Riverdale went willingly. Some did not. Some stayed to fight the evictions. Everyone shared in the hardships. The disruption unsettled families and undermined their support networks as they wondered what to do and where to go.

BURN host Alex Chadwick visits the stories of Riverdale with free lance photographer and Pennsylvania resident Lynn Johnson, who works on assignment for National Geographic.

Check it out here.

Oct 08

Let’s call LNG what it is. LNG is a fossil fuel, just like oil and coal. It’s 90-percent methane (CH4), a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Hawai‘i Gas likes to call methane a “cleaner-burning fuel.” But that handy phrase hides the fact that methane leaks out of the ground during drilling (hello, fracking) and that fossil fuels are consumed to ship it across the sea. LNG is liquefied methane. It’s not clean. It’s not renewable. It’s not local. It’s not sustainable.

Read the rest of our commentary posted at Civil Beat.

Jul 23

DBEDT recently updated their "Top 40" list of renewable energy projects that are currently underway or online. The largest is Kawailoa Wind, a 69 MW wind farm on the North Shore of O‘ahu that will produce enough energy to power 14,500 homes. On the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative website, you can also find Hawai‘i renewable energy projects mapped by island.

Jun 12
Ivory's editorial piece on the benefits of smart meters was published in Kaua‘i's The Garden Island newspaper on Monday. Explaining how the smart grid works can turn into a pretty in-depth conversation, but that doesn't mean it's hard to understand or that it's conspiratorial. For those who prefer simplicity, here's the 5-7-5 version.

Let them do their job

Smart meters do what?
Measure electricity?
Oh, that’s what they’re for.

Burning down the house

Smart meters cause fires?
No, poor wiring causes fires.
Power 101.

Why baseload is so big

It’s frickin’ hot out!
Everyone cranks the A/C.
Gotta have power.

Demand response, part one

Someone needs extra
Borrow from ova’ dea
No need burn more oil.

Demand response, part two

Clouds wen’ block the sun?
Then unplug things for a sec.
No need burn more oil.

Time-of-use rates: You choose

Cheap nights and weekends?
Rollover power minutes?

Jun 08

Posted on in Energy News
It's Aloha Friday and World Ocean Day today! Let's celebrate with lots of aloha for the ocean. The ocean provides us so much: food, medicine, therapy, recreation, scenery. Seawater also serves as a natural, abundant source of power, in the form of endless waves and changing tides, and also by way of the coldness of its deep water. Here's an editorial that appeared in yesterday's Star-Advertiser that talks about why sea water air conditioning is an ideal energy solution for Honolulu:

As we consider strategies for kicking Hawaii’s 5-million-gallon-per-day oil habit, our tendency is to focus on alternative sources of fuel and electricity. We look to clean, renewable energy sources to replace dirty fossil-fuel power. We also look for ways to reduce the amount we use — and waste — through efficiency and conservation.

What we often overlook is that fuel and electricity are means to an end. Electricity is not what we really want. What we really want is light when it’s dark, hot water for a shower and a comfortable temperature indoors.

What if we could cut out the middle man and put an abundant natural resource to work in place of electricity?

Seawater air conditioning is an energy solution that does just that.

Air conditioning is a voracious consumer of electricity. On Oahu, more than 20 percent of the electricity sold is used just to cool buildings. Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning (HSWAC) has proposed a solution for downtown that precludes the need to cool water with electricity, one that could save more than 70 million kilowatt hours of power annually.

Applying the same technology that has been cooling buildings in Toronto, Stockholm and Amsterdam, the Honolulu SWAC team has proposed a district cooling system that will serve the downtown vicinity by 2014.

This fall, it will begin installing a pipeline four miles offshore Kakaako that will pump seawater from a depth of 1,700 feet to an onshore cooling station. There, the 44-degree water will pass through a heat exchanger that transfers the seawater’s coldness to a pipeline of freshwater that circulates in a closed loop. The chilled freshwater connects to downtown buildings’ existing air conditioning infrastructure, providing natural AC that doesn’t require large, electricity-hungry chillers in each building.

The seawater, slightly warmer than when it left the ocean, returns home through a diffuser at 330 to 425 feet — deep enough that no coral ecosystems are affected. The underwater pipe actually becomes an artificial reef, providing substrate to new coral and shelter to fish.

The Honolulu district cooling system has a capacity equivalent to 25,000 tons of ice, enough to cool some 40 buildings. Currently, more than 18,000 tons have been reserved for customers, including the First Hawaiian Center, Hawaiian Electric Co., One Waterfront Towers and the Finance Factors buildings. Those who have signed on recognize the savings they’ll reap thanks to the stabilization of long-term energy costs.

Electricity is versatile, but it is difficult and costly to make and store. The genius behind SWAC technology is that the cold seawater can chill buildings 24/7, much like solar water heaters provide hot showers even after the sun has set. The project’s seawater system design engineer, Makai Ocean Engineering, also designed the deep water pipes off Keahole Point that have successfully provided cooling for the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in Kona.

The district cooling system will generate an estimated $200 million in construction spending, creating more than 900 new construction jobs. Besides lowering greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 75,000 tons per year, it also will save 260 million gallons of potable water and reduce wastewater discharge by 84 million gallons a year.

On World Ocean Day, observed Friday, we appreciate how much the ocean directly improves our lives in so many ways: food, medication, therapy, recreation, scenery. Let’s also recognize its enormous potential in helping to meet our energy needs.

While researchers continue to work on ways to harness wave power and ocean thermal power, buildings in downtown Honolulu should readily convert to seawater air conditioning, a renewable energy solution that is practical and proven.