By - Michael Drost

Hawaii legislature wants 100 precent renewable energy by 2045


Energize Weekly, May 13, 2015

In a first-of-its-kind move, the Hawaii legislature passed a bill last week requiring that 100 percent of the country’s electricity be generated by renewable sources by 2045, significantly upping the ante when compared to other states that have reformed or toughened their renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS).

The bill represents a new phase in Hawaii’s ambitious goal to wean itself off of fossil fuels. Through a combination of aggressive policy measures and incentives to develop renewable generation and storage technology, including the country’s most aggressive RPS of 40 percent by 2030, the state has been aiming to reduce its dependence on expensive fossil fuels which help make its residential electric power rates the most expensive in the country, about 175 percent of the national average.   While these measures have helped increase the state’s share of electric generation from renewables to 22 percent, the bill, if it were to become law, would make it clear that the state is intending to do away with fossil fuel generation for good.

“This is a significant step in our effort toward reducing Hawaii’s dependence on expensive imported oil and putting the state on the path toward greater energy, environmental and economic security,” said Mark Glick, Hawaii State Energy Office administrator.

Not only does the bill put Hawaii on a “path of no return” with regards to fossil generation, it also blows past any comparative RPS of its kind. Most states that have an RPS aim to increase renewable generation somewhere between 15-30 percent by 2030. California Governor Jerry Brown has introduced an ambitious proposal to see his state’s current RPS of 33 percent increase to 50 percent, while New York currently has an RPS of 30 percent. If the Hawaii bill becomes law, it would be the first state to have an RPS of 100 percent. While Hawaii is not the first jurisdiction in North America to propose a goal of producing all its electricity from renewable sources (cities like Vancouver, BC and Georgetown, TX have announced similar plans, while Burlington, VT has already accomplished it), Hawaii would certainly be the largest.

Hawaii energy experts conclude that shifting the state’s electricity generation to renewables would be a serious challenge, but not impossible. Hawaii already has the greatest solar penetration in the country, with one out of every eight homes powered by solar. Hawaii’s primary utility, HECO, produced a report suggesting that a goal of 40 percent renewable generation by 2030 was easily achievable, and that the utility could even feasibly reach 70 percent. The utility also suggested that the Big Island, the second biggest grid in HECO’s network, could reach over 90 percent by 2030.

The presence of large amounts of geothermal and biomass in Hawaii, both baseload sources of power, also makes the transition to 100 percent renewables more doable, and combined with the rapidly advancing energy storage markets, Hawaii is probably in the best position to make the shift than any other state, even though it still imports around 93 percent of all its energy.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige has not yet indicated whether he will sign the bill. If the Governor fails to sign or veto the bill by May 15, the bill will automatically become law.

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