By Brittany Moser
Part 2 of 3 stories in our “Renewable Energy of Maui” series.
Solar energy, wind energy, biofuels and battery storage are the key components of the effort to have Maui County go to 100-percent renewable energy use by 2045, meeting the timeline established by the State of Hawai’i, utility officials said at the Feb. 9 public forum.
There’s a long way to go. Hawai’i is more dependent on fossil fuels than any other state.
“We can’t do everything at one time” said Todd Kanja, Hawaiian Electric general manager of system planning, noting it will take more than a quarter-century to reach the goal.
With more than $10 billion needed and the island’s current grid already at its limit, the idea of obtaining 100 percent of Maui’s energy from renewable sources may seem farfetched, even with 28 years to work on it. But, according to Utility Dive, a mobile dashboard that provides news and analysis for energy and utility executives, Hawai`i’s utilities are on the right track.
The state was getting 21 percent of its energy from renewables in 2015 and is projected to reach the 65-percent milestone by 2030. So, State of Hawai`i Act 97 (2015), which set a statewide 100-percent renewable portfolio standard by 2045, can be satisfied with continued effort.
The law, which passed the state legislature with only two dissenting votes and was signed into law by Gov. David Ige, is intended to limit the consumption of imported oil, protect the environment and reduce the state’s impact on global warming by phasing out the use fossil fuels to power electric utilities.
Sharon Suzuki, president of Maui Electric, said during the open discussion at UHMC that details of the plans to go 100-percent renewable will always be in flux.
“No plan is set in stone,” she said. “So we want your input, we want your ideas.”
The Maui News reported last year on some of the advances in battery-related technology being made on Maui as part of the push for renewable energy. MECO lauded the first installation of a solar self-supply home battery system, a Tesla Powerwall, the newspaper noted.
The Powerwall is a battery unit that gets its charge from both solar panels and the grid. The unit’s electricity can cleanly and efficiently power a home’s lights, appliances, devices and even provide backup power for future outages.
Relevant scientific research has been achieved through the Maui Smart Grid Project, operated by Hawai`i Natural Energy Institute, and JUMPSmartMaui, the electric-vehicle project funded by Hitachi, Suzuki noted. More information on Maui County’s 100-percent renewable energy plan, is available on MECO’s website.