By Shanelle Macaraeg
Part 3 of 3 stories in our “Renewable Energy of Maui” series.
Maui Electric Co. has released an update to its Power Supply Improvement Plan that allows for Maui County to shift from relying on fossil fuels to 100-percent renewable energy.
This is the third update since the plan was initially proposed in August 2014. For the plan to advance, it needs approval from the state Public Utilities Commission, which is tasked with regulating to ensure protection of the public and the state’s future economic, operational and environmental needs.
“One of the feedbacks we got (from the PUC) was that the plans were not flexible enough to embrace emerging technologies” said Todd Kanja, Hawaiian Electric Co.’s general manager of system planning, in the Feb. 9 public meeting on campus.
This most recent revision preserves long-term flexibility, allowing for future technologies to be incorporated in future plans. In an ever-changing energy world, new technological advances allow for improvements in cost and efficiency, according to Kanja and other officials with the Hawaiian Electric Industries family of companies.
MECO plans to reach 100-percent renewable energy on Lana’i by 2020, Moloka’i by 2030 and Maui by 2040. By moving the county’s smaller islands to the 100-percent milestone first, MECO will be able to use knowledge gained along the way when it finally comes to changing Maui’s energy systems.
While the 2045 renewable-energy goal does not include transportation, MECO has transformed its plans to integrate transportation and electricity.
MECO representatives including President Sharon Suzuki said they are focused on modernizing the outdated grid system that Maui currently runs on and on giving consumers better information on their energy use.
“We want to also take advantage of demand and response programs,” Kanja said. “Instead of building new generators or building new resources, we ask the customers to actually alter their behavior so that we actually change the way people are using energy.”
Kanja said MECO seeks to leverage the federal tax credits that are available today, nothing their future availability is questionable.
While the current plan is available to all, there is a section that has been redacted from public inspection.
“It is an analysis of the customer-exit scenario,” Doug McLeod, vice president of Maui Tomorrow, said of the redacted section. “In other words, our people are going to find that it is cost effective for them to leave the grid.”
The PUC’s review process is expected to take several months. More information on MECO’s plan and PUC agendas are available online.