CUB Active Power Newsletter Jan/Feb Issues

King Kong superimposed



5 Years, 2 Distribution Rate Hikes,1 Merger and $Hundreds of Millions Later,
The Public Service Commission Keeps Ratepayers On Hold....
Yet on the Other End of the World, Hawaii is Already Producing 30% of its 100%  RSP Goal by 2045!

Dear Friends,

It's more likely King Kong (here's his skull in the Kualoa Valley, below) will rise from the ashes of his box office receipts, cross the Pacific and confront The Monster That Ate DC before the Public Service Commission grants ratepayers the right to participate in planning an electric distribution grid that meets their need.

Visiting Hawaii, I marvel how the US's most remote and most diverse state, is already producing 30% of its power from renewables (for a population more than twice DC's) and is on track to reach its RPS goal of producing 100% power from Renewables by 2045. 

For DC residents who care about the environment and want to see more renewables, increased efficiency and distributed generation, Hawaii is a trailbrazer and model where DC could be by 2030.

For DC residents who care about the environment and want to see more renewables, increased efficiency and distributed generation, Hawaii is a trailbrazer and model where DC could be by 2030.

The Hawaiian Islands

The State of Hawaii's 1.4 million residents are spread across six main islands, (NW to SE) Kaua'i, O'ahu (home to Honolulu and Waikiki, Moloka'i, Lana'i, Maui, Kaho'olawe and Hawai'i (The Big Island).  The Hawaiian Islands were formed by volcanos, and some remain acive today on the Island of Hawai'i.  Each Hawaiian Island has a distinct windward side--from which the prevailing winds typically blow --that is breezy, sunny & rainy, and lush; and a leeward side that is sunny and dry.

City-County Government


Hawaii resident are served by combined city/county (C&C) government structures. The Big Island of Hawaii and O'ahu are single-island C&C governments; the islands of Moloka'i, Lana'i and Maui are all part of Maui County; the tiny, privately-owned island of Ni'ihau,with only about 130 permanent residents, is part of Kaua'i County, and the island Kaho'olawe, formerly used as a military ordance range, is virtually uninhabited.

Recent Energy History

Due to  its temperate climate, the Hawaiian Islands have the fourth lowest per capital energy use in the US.   But, until 2013, 90% of its power was generated by imported pertroleum(1) . And, because  petroleum had to be shipped to the most remote island chain in the world, Hawaii residents pay the highest electricty costs in the US. For example, on the most poulous island's (o'ahu) residential rates average about 35 cents per kilowatt per hour today.  Legislative steps to make Hawaii energy self  go  back to Act 96,  enacted in 2006. That  legislation set in motion the public and private efforts to open access to cheaper and cleaner solar and renewable energy now embarached by residents on all eight islands. By 2014, interconnection and net metering programs had been established and renewables were providing 18% of Hawaii's electricity. That rose again in 2015 when 24% of the electricity sold was generated by rene).

In June of 2015, Hawaii's legislature adopted a Renewable Portfolio Standard mandating 100% of the electricity sold by 2045 be produced by renewable energy source. 


We have not confirmed the current percentage of electricity produced by renewables in Hawaii, but many believe it has passed the 30% mark.  "one single family residential home in three is solar," stated Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee (D-51) Chair of the Committee on Energy.  He also noted solar has been embraced enthusiastically by low-and fixed income families and indicated he is considering legislation to provide these constituencies with greater access to solar.

In Hawaii, the principal renewable energy resources, in order of magnitude are: solar, wind, hydro, bioenergy, geothermal, thermal and wave energy (produced by the ocean), and hydrogen (produced from renewables). 17% of Hawai'i's renewables are produced by utiity scale geothermal power - one of only 7 states with this renewable resource.

Electric Utilities, Service Territories, and Competitors. 

The structure of Hawaii's commercial utilities is complex,reflecting the diffuse geographic nature of the islands themselves.  Each of the six main islands has its own electrical grid. Four utilities make up 'HECO Companies': 

  • the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) which serves the island of O'ahu (93% of the state's 1.4 million residents).
  • Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO), which serves the island of Hawai'i;
  • Maui Electric Company (MECO) which serves the islands of Lana'i, Mau'i and Moloka'i; and, 
  • Kauai Island Utility Corporation (KIUC) with 33,000 customers on the island of Kaua'i.   

Also, on the Island of Hawaii, 900+members make up the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative (HEIC), a Hawaii-registered and IRS-designated 421C onon-profit cooperative association. Both HEIC and KUIC are developing an investing not just in wind and solar projects but in wind and solar, battery storage, SmartGrid and. others.

The HECO Companies and HEIC are all regulated by the Hawaii Public utilities Commission.  The Hawaii PUC reviews and approves electricty rates, determines the allowable rate of earnings for utilites, and acts on request for the acquisition or sale of utility properties.  Last yuear, NextEra's (owner of Florida Power & Light) highly unpoular bit to acquire HECO was turned down by the Hawaii PUC.

Two Recent Regulatory Developments, for Better or for Worse...
In 2015 Hawaii's Public Utilities Commission issued an order to stop processing Net Metering Applications under the Interconnection and Net Metering program after October 12, 2015.  Instead the PUC substituted the Customer Grid Supply (CSC) and the Customer Self Supply (CSS) programs. This has produced a marked reduction in solar pemit applications in 2016.


Government Leadership for Energy Policy
In Hawaii, there is visible evidence that, unlike jurisdictions whose departments and agencies pay lip service to sustainability and istribured generation policy but demonstrate little leadership to implement them, Hawaiis Department of Education has publicly pledged (see attachment on artaicles on Hawaii's renewables) "to reduce its reliance on fossible feul-based energy by 90 percent by 2040, as directed by the Board of Education." Throughout the state of Hawaii solar arrays are found on all public schools.


Another conspicuously aggressive solar generator in Hawaii is the US Department of Defense, one of HECO's largest customer.  Their Net Zero policy for energy is movingin faster and further even than the state's.  A Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, large housing developments are 100% solorized.


Tough Policy Decisions Remain

A recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser article focused on above-anticipated rates at which bats are killed by wind farm turbines.  And, on the North Shore of O'ahu hand-painted signs advocating "NO MORE WIND-MILLS" demonstrate why state legislators are considering more culturally and environmentally enlightened policies around the siting of utility scale wind and solar.  I noticed with some dismay the wind turbines that doinated the view planes above the beautifully lush and culturally sacred Waimea Valley.


Solar Contributes Significantly to Farming, Ranching and Tourism


As solar advocates in DC have pointed our for years, solar generation benefits local communities by creating permanent businesses and jobs leading to higher employent, a more diversified business sector, and more tax dollars.  In Hawaii, where ranching and agriculture are essential, cultural and envionmental preservation is a high priority, and tourism is the #1 industry, solar is in evidence everywhere.  Solar panels are found on electric fences corralling catle at Kualoa Ranch; Kahuku Wind Frms' Turbines loom over a huge riding arena covered by a 4.8 Megawatt solar roof; Waimea Valley Preserve's roofs support solar; multiple solar arrays on Dole lands power a pineapple processing facility and the Dole Plantation Visitors Center; and, on the fabled North Shore of O'ahu you'll find solar-powered turtles recharging on many popular surfing beaches! And Hawaii's US military installataions are relentlessly pursluing Net Zero goals.

Me ke aloha pumehana, 

Robert Robinson, Chair
dcConsumer Utility Board