Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022|
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Hawaiian Electric warned its Big Island customers last week of possible rolling blackouts because of the unavailability of electricity from Hamakua Energy Partners, where Hawaiian Electric gets a good portion of its electricity. The rolling blackouts would have occurred during periods of peak electricity demand, when Hawaiian Electric would not have enough electricity for all of its customers.
Electric utilities are supposed to have enough backup power that can be deployed when there are unanticipated shortages like this one. The warning of possible rolling blackouts indicates that Hawaiian Electric has not been moving fast enough to develop enough electrical generation.
Electric utilities are required, for environmental reasons, to increase their use of renewable energy sources to generate electricity. The state has set a goal of 100% renewable electricity generation by 2045. The target for 2030 is at least 50% of electricity generation from renewable energy sources. Relatedly, the state has set another goal of net-negative greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.
By 2045, a great proportion of the energy produced in Hawaii should be not just from renewable sources, but from clean, renewable sources. “Clean” means that they do not emit greenhouse gases.
It is worrisome that the Hamakua Energy Partners facility burns “dirty” energy, which warms the Earth and causes climate change.
Alternatives that are much better for the planet are readily available. Solar and wind energy are both clean and renewable. Solar and wind energy, in conjunction with batteries for storage, can provide uninterrupted electrical energy for long periods. The uninterrupted periods are getting longer and longer because battery technology is improving so quickly.
Another benefit of solar and wind energy is that they are considered to be decentralized forms of electricity generation. Decentralized systems are less prone to shortages. Part of a decentralized system may fail, with only a minor effect on the system as a whole.
By contrast, the Hamakua Energy Partners facility represents a form of centralized electricity generation, which is more prone to shortages. The Hamakua Energy Partners example shows that when a generation plant in a centralized system goes offline, the impact on the entire system can be widespread.
The Clean Power Task Force has recently been organized to hasten the transition of Hawaii’s electric utilities to clean, renewable energy generation sources. Fortunately, Hawaii’s weather patterns are conducive to solar and wind energy generation.
Furthermore, the cost of solar energy in particular has declined sharply due to technological advances. Solar and wind are now the cheapest sources of energy, costing less than gas, geothermal, coal, or nuclear.
Climate scientists now say that climate change is happening more quickly than we had thought. Drastic action must be taken to control climate change. Hawaii should take a quick, direct path to a clean, renewable energy future.
Mark A. Koppel
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