No state is blessed with more potential for renewable energy than Hawaii. Abundant sunshine and strong trade winds are ideal for making electricity from photovoltaic solar panels and wind turbines. HECO, the state’s dominant public utility has a plan in place to achieve 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050. But recently, the company announced it foresees getting to that goal five years earlier than expected.
Its latest Power Supply Improvement Plan calls for an additional 360 megawatts of utility scale solar power, 157 megawatts of wind and 115 megawatts from advanced smart grid technology. It now thinks it will meet those goals by 2045. The accelerated schedule to meet the ambitious target means HECO expects to provide 48% renewable power by 2020.
The new plan seeks to meet the 100% renewable energy target without the use of liquefied natural gas. Last May, the company asked the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to review and approve a proposed contract with Fortis Hawaii Energy to import LNG for electricity generation. Those plans were dropped after the PUC rejected NextEra Energy’s US$4.3 billion bid to purchase the utility group. Instead, HECO now plans to leverage resource demand management, grid scale energy storage, and biofuels instead of LNG, which should allow it to meet its goal faster.
Rooftop solar is a key component in the accelerated plan. Forecasts estimate there will be 165,000 home solar systems connected to the grid by 2030. That number is more than double the 79,000 systems currently installed.
The new power plan estimates renewable energy will account for 72% of the total by 2030. The estimates expect Molokai could reach 100% renewables by 2020. Hawaii Island would reach 80%, Maui 63%, and Oahu 40% by the same year, thanks to expanded use of solar, wind, biofuels and storage.
The Plan seeks to achieve 52% of clean energy by 2021 as a result of adding 326 megawatts of rooftop solar and 31 megawatts of feed-in tariff solar generation, in addition to the additional utility scale resources that are part of the new power plan.