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Aug 29

Recently, Hawaiian Electric filed a series of plans, intended to guide the utility’s path through 2030. We have applied to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to take part in evaluating the plans. In our initial review, we have questions about the plans and whether it achieves the transformation needed. Blue Planet will be working with experts to understand exactly what has been proposed, what the changes mean for customers, and how the plans can be improved.

Below are our initial comments and questions, triggered by the plans’ own description. Some aspects of the plan are positive: They begin to take a more realistic picture of the value and benefits of renewable energy. For example, when Hawaiian Electric thought there was a “close call” between a renewable and non-renewable option, the renewable option was chosen. The effects of volatile fossil fuel prices were considered, with a preference toward renewable energy with a known cost. The utility has shown a willingness to collaborate with industry and community stakeholders to optimize Hawaii’s energy plan.

We encourage additional feedback and questions from everyone. The utility exists to serve its customers. When customers ask questions, that process can be a powerful driver for improvement.

Hawaiian Electric Plan:

“Increases customer-owned distributed generation three-fold”

Clean Energy Viewpoint and Questions:

Although the plans do allow for gradual installation of rooftop solar over the next 15 years, the plans will slow down annual solar growth by a factor of 20, by making it much more expensive for customers to use rooftop solar power. At recent growth rates, customers would choose to triple the amount of solar power in the next three years. Under the plan, it will take fifteen years.

In recent years, customers have installed rooftop solar panels at a growth rate of around 100% annually (2011-2013). Because the new plan proposes to make solar power more expensive for customers, Hawaiian Electric forecasts that solar growth will slow to less than 5% annually (2014-2030). In addition, thousands of customers are already waiting for utility approval to install solar panels. Slowing the growth of solar means that once this backlog is cleared, the plan could severely limit customers who wish to go solar in the future.

The plans’ suggested “DG 2.0” (distributed generation) rate design will eliminate the popular net energy metering plan, and will increase the fixed charge for solar customers to $71 per month. The price that customers receive for their excess solar power will be cut in half. The result will be larger solar systems installed by fewer people, with customers incentivized to over-size the system to make up for the lower rate. These fewer, but bigger, solar systems will make it harder for low-income households to install solar, and could contribute to circuit penetration problems. This will also have the effect of minimizing the degree to which PV acts like efficiency by offsetting coincident load (i.e. when solar power is used at the same house where it is generated). Currently, around 8000 net energy metering customers export excess energy to the grid, at no charge to the utility.

A better approach would optimize the costs and benefits of solar power, perhaps by establishing a time-of-use and dynamic rate structure to encourage load shifting (i.e. maximizing PV production with coincident load). Fixed charges should be rationally related to the actual standby/capacity required for the PV owners—for example, a charge based on how big the system is and how much energy the customer will demand when the sun isn’t shining. Customers who don't export energy to the grid should be charged differently than customers who do. The grid benefits of distributed generation, such as reduced transmission losses, eliminating the daytime capacity peak, excess solar energy exported to the grid, and progress toward clean energy goals, must be accurately accounted for. A forward-thinking business plan will find ways for the utility to make money by making it easier for customers to plug solar power into the grid, rather than making it harder.

Hawaiian Electric Plan:

Utilize energy storage and demand response to minimize the amount of ‘must-run’ fossil-fueled generation needed to provide essential grid services”

Clean Energy Viewpoint and Questions:

This is encouraging. Finding ways to incorporate energy storage will support the utility’s shift from a company that sells kilowatt-hours, to a company that makes it possible to use more and more clean energy.

The risk here is underestimating the market. In 2008, for example, the utility and the state planned for 23 megawatts of rooftop solar power on Oahu by 2015. Customers beat that estimate ten times over, with around 200 megawatts installed today. With the right market incentives, could we beat the plan’s storage estimate by a factor of ten? Will the system and the company be ready to use that much storage, and the renewable energy it will enable?

Hawaiian Electric Plan:

“Procures liquefied natural gas (LNG) coupled with modifying certain generating units to burn LNG”  and “Installs new LNG-fired combustion-turbine and combined cycle capacity to replace retired thermal units, which provides the generation flexibility necessary to accommodate high penetration of distributed and utility-scale renewables”

Clean Energy Viewpoint and Questions:

The utility anticipates swapping oil for large quantities of imported industrial gas (LNG). Are more fossil fuels the answer to the problems created by fossil fuels?

Under the industrial gas plan, LNG will be imported to Hawaii after it is drilled from the ground via hydraulic fracturing process—fracking. Fracking will expose communities to numerous environmental, safety, and health hazards. Also, industrial gas is mostly made of methane, a greenhouse gas roughly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. That methane will leak to the atmosphere during the drilling, extraction, processing, liquefaction, and transportation stages. This toxic leakage can pollute groundwater and create climate impacts that are just as bad as the oil we are currently using.

The cost of swapping from oil to industrial gas is still unclear. The plan forecasts the price of gas dropping by around 25% in 2022. If this prediction doesn’t materialize, can an industrial gas plan really deliver the promised 20% electricity savings? Once we add the cost of shipping the gas to Hawaii, the cost of modifying existing generators to burn the gas, the cost of building new power plants to burn the gas, the cost of building storage for the gas, and the cost of paying for the environmental impacts, how long do we need to use gas to recoup that upfront cost? Who will pay the price if gas can’t deliver the promised savings—customers or utility shareholders?

In some scenarios, a gas plant plus a solar farm is cheaper than a gas plant alone. This is because the biggest expense for fossil-fueled electricity is the cost of the fuel. By using the solar farm when the sun is shining, the gas plant can burn less fuel and save money. If industrial gas is part of Hawaii’s energy plan, how can we be sure that it is used as little as possible and retired as soon as possible?

Hawaiian Electric Plan:

Converts AES Hawaii from 100% coal to 50% biomass and 50% coal”

Clean Energy Viewpoint and Questions:

Burning less coal is certainly a step in the right direction. But the plan seems to contemplate a long-term agreement to continue burning 50% coal. Oahu would be reliant on imported coal for nearly 10% of its electricity needs in 2030 and beyond. Is this the right balance for Hawaii? Large generators like AES coal are large, inflexible powerplants that lack the ability to follow the shifting needs of system powered largely be renewable energy.

Hawaiian Electric Plan:

"Result in more than 65% of the Companies' energy being provided by renewable resources”

Clean Energy Viewpoint and Questions:

This 65% target is encouraging, and it illustrates that the current state target (40%) is just a floor for Hawaii’s energy possibilities.

However, it appears that a large portion of the 65% is derived from waste-to-energy and burning biomass in the AES coal plant. While waste and biomass can be smart strategies to back up a system powered by local and sustainable energy resources, they need not be the primary clean energy components.

Hawaiian Electric Plan:

Deactivates all the existing oil-fired generators”

Clean Energy Viewpoint and Questions:

This is encouraging, and it illustrates that old energy infrastructure is not a barrier to moving into a more modern system. The key will be to replace oil-fired generators in a ways that do not limit the utility’s flexibility in adopting new technology.  If we simply replace old fossil fuel power plants with new ones, will that limit our clean energy options?

Hawaiian Electric Plan:

“Adds large amounts of new utility-scale solar” and “Adds modest amounts of new utility-scale wind”

Clean Energy Viewpoint and Questions:

Over the next five years, the plans allow for the addition of solar and wind power from projects that have already been proposed. After that, the addition of new solar, wind, and geothermal power is relatively limited.

The plans call for 324 MW of new wind and solar over the next five years. Many of those projects are already “in the pipeline.” Hawaiian Electric has selected a number of proposals for energy at less than 16 cents/kWh (for comparison, oil-powered electricity is at around 22-23 cents/kWh), and approval from the PUC is awaiting submission of final agreements between Hawaiian Electric and renewable energy companies.

Over ten years from 2020 to 2030, the plans call for only 170 MW of new solar, wind, or geothermal power (around 14% of Oahu’s current peak load). Further, some types of resources, such as offshore wind farms and wave energy, which are already used in other parts of the world, were not included as options for this future timeframe.

Hawaiian Electric Plan:

“Aggressively expands our demand response programs”

Clean Energy Viewpoint and Questions:

This is encouraging.Demand response means using energy in a way that matches local supply. A truly aggressive approach to demand response will mean that this is more than just a utility program; it will be a core function of the utility’s business and revenue model. Are we finding all the demand response opportunities?

Hawaiian Electric Plan: 

Create a state-of-the-art energy delivery system (the grid) as the platform for the new energy portfolio and customer options”

Clean Energy Viewpoint and Questions:

The utility’s most important asset is the grid and the ability to improve the grid’s ability of creating options for customers, so making this a focus is encouraging. Does the plan envision developing a diversity of revenue streams that support and complement this core strength? Can the utility help customers, and also generate revenue from things like:

  • Electric vehicles, to allow customers to lower commuting costs, while making it easier for the grid to use more renewable energy?
  • Community solar, to allow renters and condo residents to use solar power?
  • Distributed storage, to enable customers to use their energy more effectively?
  • Leasing programs like solar or grid-interactive hot water systems, so that customers get the services they need at a lower price?

A first step for this state-of-the-art energy system is installing smart meters to enable a more dynamic approach to the utility business. The utility has begun the process of installing smart meters, with a plan to upgrade most meters by 2018.



Jul 21

The State Energy Office has released their most recent ranking of current clean energy projects that are leading the way in Hawaii's transition away from fossil fuels. As stated on their website: "Energy leaders have been identified based on public information about (a) their projected size, (b) status of permitting, (c) status of power or fuel off-take agreement, and (d) site control. Pertinent data comes from a variety of media including company press releases, company websites, newspaper articles, Internet publications, agency notices, and filings with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission." Here are the Top 10:

1. Honolulu Airport Emergency Power Facility / State Department of Transportation, HECO

2. Green Energy Agricultural Biomass-to-Energy Facility / Green Energy Team, LLC

3. Honua Power Project  / Honua Technologies

4. Hu Honua Bioenergy Facility / Hu Honua Bioenergy, LLC

5. Hawaii BioEnergy Integrated Biorefinery Facility / Hawaii BioEnergy

6. Anahola Solar / Homestead Community Development Corporation, REC Solar, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative

7. Koloa (KRS2) Solar Project / Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, Grove Farm, SolarCity

8. IC Sunshine Solar Project / IC Sunshine, SunEdison, Axio

9. AKP Kau Renewable Fuel Facility / Aina Koa Pono

10. Schofield Generating Station Project / Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc.

There's also a directory where you can search through renewable energy projects in progress.

Apr 09

There's a lot of talk about grid modernization these days. What is a smart grid, and why is it important? We're pleased to introduce Miso Smart to tell you why. Please enjoy "Miso Smart Makes a Speedy Delivery," the first episode of The Supercharged Adventures of the Blue Planeteers.

Mahalo to cartoonist extraordinaire DrewToonz for bringing the Blue Planeteers to life! Do you have ideas for future adventures for our energy superheroes? We'd love to hear them. Send them to [email protected].

Feb 03

Legislative Hearings


2/4, 2:45pm, Room 225:  SB2934 RELATING TO RENEWABLE ENERGY. Establishes the Hawaii community-based renewable energy program to make the benefits of renewable energy more accessible to a greater number of Hawaii residents.

Read Blue Planet's testimony here.

Submit testimony in support of SB2934 here. Or send testimony directly via email to [email protected].


2/4, 3:15pm, Room 225: SB2181 RELATING TO RENEWABLE PORTFOLIO STANDARDS. Increases renewable portfolio standards to seventy per cent by 2040 and one hundred per cent by 2050.

Read Blue Planet's testimony here.


2/4, 2:45pm, Room 225: SB 2656 RELATING TO THE MODERNIZATION OF THE HAWAII ELECTRIC SYSTEM. Requires the public utilities commission to adopt rules for improved accessibility to connect to the Hawaii electric system for any person, business, or entity on the Hawaii electric system. Requires the commission to initiate a proceeding no later than July 1, 2014, to discuss upgrades to the Hawaii electric system for anticipated growth of customer generation.

Read Blue Planet's testimony here.


2/4, 2:45pm, Room 225: SB2932 RELATING TO ENERGY STORAGE. Establishes energy storage portfolio standards that will facilitate increased use of renewable energy and reductions of fossil fuel consumption in Hawaii, while maintaining reliable and affordable electric service. Requires the public utilities commission to evaluate the energy storage portfolio standards every five years.

Read Blue Planet's testimony here.

2/4, 3:15pm, Room 225: SB2933 RELATING TO ENERGY STORAGE. Establishes an energy storage tax credit for utility scale renewable energy storage property.

Read Blue Planet's testimony here.

2/4, 8:30am, Room 325: HB2618 RELATING TO ENERGY STORAGE. Authorizes an individual or corporate tax payer to claim a tax credit against the Hawaii State individual or corporate net income tax for each grid-connected energy storage property that is installed and placed in service in the State by the taxpayer during the taxable year after December 31, 2014. Effective July 1, 2014.

Read Blue Planet's testimony here.

2/4, 8:30am, Room 325: HB2619 RELATING TO ENERGY STORAGE. Requires the public utilities commission to establish energy storage portfolio standards. Requires reports by the Public Utilities Commission.

Read Blue Planet's testimony here.


2/4, 3:15pm, Room 225: SB2662 RELATING TO NATURAL RESOURCES BENEATH THE SURFACE OF THE LAND. Requires agreements to purchase geothermal and nonfossil fuel generated electricity to contain provisions that provide independent power producers with compensation for excessive curtailment.


2/6, 3:30pm, Room 225: SB2196 RELATING TO ENERGY.Re-establishes the energy systems development special fund, which was repealed on June 30, 2013. Increases the amount of the environmental response, energy, and food security tax to be deposited into the environmental response revolving fund, energy security special fund, and agricultural development and food security special fund. Extends the repeal of various allocations of the environmental response, energy, and food security tax from June 30, 2015, to June 30, 2030.

Local Industry News

Pacific Business News: Larry Ellison says Lanai can show 'green energy can be economical'

Civil Beat: Lawmakers may let Public Utilities Commission keep more special fund money

Star-Advertiser: Protect ratepayers as HECO evolves

PBN: Honolulu solar PV industry showing mixed signs so far this year

Civil Beat: Is Hawaii afraid to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases?

PBN: EPA says toxic chemicals releases in Hawaii rose in 2012

Blue Planet's 2014 Policy Priorities

Read about Blue Planet's key issues at the legislature this year.

Sep 09

Blue Planet is pleased to announce the first annual Energy Report Card for Hawai‘i. This morning, Blue Planet founder Henk Rogers introduced the report card during his keynote address at the Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit. The data-rich, 42-page progress report provides a wide-angle perspective on Hawai‘i’s energy transformation, taking a look at five key metrics including Transportation, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, and Economics. Supporting drivers are also analyzed to identify gaps in current industry efforts, areas of success, and opportunities for improvement. In the 2013 report card, Hawai‘i receives an overall grade of C–.

Blue Planet developed the report card in response to the need for an objective examination of Hawai‘i’s progress to a clean energy future. The grades were determined as a reflection of the state’s progress toward the benchmark of energy independence by 2030.
Some highlights:

Positive performance in energy efficiency stands out as a bright spot, with per capita electricity generation dropping steadily below the target trend since 2008.

The report card also shows that transportation, which accounts for two-thirds of Hawai‘i’s fossil fuel consumption, remains an area that demands improvement. Land transportation offers the most immediate opportunities for reducing fuel consumption. Greater fuel efficiency, alternative fuels, lowering mileage, and electric vehicles all have roles to play. The key challenge is identifying substitutes for aviation fuels, highlighting the need to focus on local biofuels for transportation rather than electricity generation.

Blue Planet plans to update the Energy Report Card annually to keep progress toward energy independence on track and focus solutions in areas that need it most. We welcome your input to help make next year's report card even better. Questions and comments can be addressed to [email protected].

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: [email protected] 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).

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.

Apr 09
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Mar 02

Posted on in Blue Planet Updates
We get this question a lot: "Why don't we just put solar panels on all the rooftops in Hawai‘i? Wouldn't that provide enough electricity for everyone?" Someone just asked again yesterday, so I thought I'd share our answer:

It's a good question. Let's do the first order approximation.

First, how much electricity to we use? According to the DBEDT energy trends, we use about 10 terawatt-hours (TWhs) of electricity annually. In fact, 10125.94 gigawatt-hours (GWhs) in 2009, 10013.10 GWhs in 2010, and about 9985.55 GWhs in 2011. So that's our (hopefully shrinking) target.

Second, how many roofs do we have to cover? Let's just look at residential. According to the 2011 US Census, Hawaii has 519,508 housing units, 39.2% of which are multi-family. So let's just look at the single family units (we'll be more conservative here and more generous elsewhere). So that gives us 315,861 single-family home rooftops. Now let's say for each rooftop we can fit a 4 kilowatt (kW) system. This is probably being a bit generous, given the size and possible shading issues. With all those rooftops tiled with 4 kW of PV each, we have 1,263,443 kWs, or 1263 MWs of PV (which, BTW, approaches the total system capacity on Oahu).

Of course, the sun isn't always shining. In fact, for PV, the "capacity factor" is between 15% and 20%--meaning that at any given moment you will have able to produce between about 15% and 20% of the rated PV capacity. Let's use the generous 20%. For our rooftops this means (20% X 1263) 253 MW of PV capacity. Now we can look at the total production over one year (at the already "de-rated" PV installation). So 253 MW X 8760 hours in a year = 2,213,553 MWhs, or 2,214 GWhs, or 2.2 TWhs. This would provide about 22% of our overall electricity use.

This 22% is probably conservative--we ignored all of the commercial rooftops. Plus we are seeing more and more large ground-mounted PV arrays (usually in 5 MW blocks because that is the largest size before the utility needs to competitively bid). Nonetheless, it reminds us that we need a mix of renewable energy sources. And yes, we hope to shave our 10 TWhs of usage by 30% come 2030 (the HCEI target), but we're also adding a bunch of electric vehicles to the grid (which could just cancel out that efficiency gain--which is fine for the big picture).

By the way, any guess of how much all of that PV would cost? About $10 billion. It would pay for itself in about 13 years.

Clearing the Path for Clean Energy