Ff Pollution

Hu Honua Meltdown

No amount of political influence is going to change the outcome for the Hu Honua Biomass project.

While there continues to be an effort to somehow rescue this ill-conceived power plant, the principals are already locked in litigation. Kind of a fitting end considering how many years they wasted in court as Ian Lind,  has exposed in his excellent coverage.

 Construction related litigation, suits against HELCO and NextEra, and even now they are trying to get their way using a writ of mandamus to the Hawaii Supreme Court and short cut the legal appeals process. The irony being that they want special expedited treatment because they are financially crumbling.

 Ian Lind, (Hawaii-based investigative reporter) recently exposed the curious case of certain elected officials attempting to bully the PUC into granting a waiver from the competitive process. Threatening to cut agency funding. This behavior was even brazenly put in writing which will likely attract attention from federal law enforcement tasked to prevent public corruption. Something that should bring immediate censure from their colleagues at the very least.

The PUC denied the waiver from competition because they found that Hu Honua wanted too much money for electricity and that it wasn’t in the public interest to raise rates for all consumers including State and County facilities on the Big Island as well as hard hit businesses and homeowners suffering through the pandemic economy. This at a time when solar farms have been approved and more are proposed at a fraction of the cost to ratepayers. Rates will actually go down for huge savings and creating lots of jobs in the process. Why would our elected officials jump on board an effort with this as the result?

 Finally, we really don’t need Hu Honua to get Hawaii island to 100% renewables. We don’t need an antique technology like burning trees to create energy that is hugely inefficient and represents the old central generation model with high transmission and distribution costs that get added on to our electric bills, when low cost and zero emissions wind and solar, and with Beyond Kona Banner Co2zero fuel costs, offer Hawaii clean and abundant self-sufficiency energy options.   With global heating on the rise, we certainly don’t need to be spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when Hawaii has climate-compatible generation alternatives available for half the energy cost of Hu Honua.

 Governor Ige has already committed federal CARES Act funding toward workforce development and training to ensure that as we create the grid of the future that we are hiring locally. That is something we can all embrace. Help diversify our economy and recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

 We can also support a County ESPC or energy saving performance contract to save millions and reduce grid demand. Leverage this third party financing approach to build green infrastructure and create jobs without the need to float bonds.


Steve Holmes is the former Energy and Sustainability Coordinator for the City and County of Honolulu. He won the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Champion Award in 2002.
He served 12 years on the Honolulu City Council putting large areas into parks and preservation.   He was a state energy analyst in Hilo, a Park Ranger at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Executive Director of Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, Hawaii Chapter Conservation Chair of the Sierra Club, President of Kokua Hilo Bay, and has won numerous awards for his efforts on behalf of Hawaii’s environment.
Beyond Kona Powerlines Solar Field

Big Island Electricity Prices Could Fall or Rise Dramatically

Donald Trump campaigned in 2016 pledging to save the coal industry. The problem is that coal and biomass have high unchangeable price points. Not so for solar energy.

The Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) is a term which describes the wholesale cost of the power produced by solar and sold to HELCO over a contract term. The wholesale cost is about 50-60 percent of the retail price that HELCO sells electricity to customers.

The Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission approved the HELCO-Hu Honua Power Purchase Agreement in December 2013. Hu Honua failed to meet contractual deadlines and HELCO canceled the contract.

The Commission approved the Amended and Revised HELCO- Hu Honua Power Purchase Agreement in July 2017.

The Consumer Advocate noted that the LCOE for the Hu Honua project in 2013 was consistent with other contracts: Hu Honua (25.3 cents/kWh), Kahuku Wind (22.5 cents/kWh), H-Power (22.4 cents/kWh), Interisland Wind (22.0 cents/kWh), and Kalaeloa Solar (21.8 cents/kWh)

The Public Utilities Commission described how the LCOE had changed between 2013 and 2017.

The LCOE for the Hu Honua biomass project in 2013 was 25.3 cents per kilowatt-hour over the 20-year contract.

If this same contract was signed in 2017, then in 2017 dollars the cost would be 28.6 cents per kilowatt-hour over the 20-year contract.

But HELCO and Hu Honua agreed to extend the contract from 20 to 30 years, thereby spreading out the fixed costs. With the extended contract, the price fell to 22.1 cents per kilowatt-hour over the 30-year contract.

The price of Hawai`i solar electricity in 2010 exceeded 20 cents per kilowatt-hour. By the end of the decade, the price of solar combined with a battery energy storage system was below 10 cents per kilowatt-hour.Solar Costs 2020 A

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) recently documented how the price of various types of renewable energy changed from 2010 to 2020.

Over the period from 2010 to 2020, the price of solar fell from 37.8 cents to 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The price of on-shore and off-shore wind both fell, but not as dramatically. They had started the decade much cheaper than solar, but by the end of the decade, they were competitive.

Because wind turbines take longer to install, future projections are easier to estimate. The cost of contracted offshore wind scheduled to become operational in 2023 is 8.2 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The 2010-20 decade also saw the price of batteries fall by almost 90%. The prices are expected to drop dramatically in the 2020s as battery energy storage systems increase exponentially to meet electric grid and transportation needs.

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) published the Future of Solar PV report. “The price of solar electricity is expected to fall further from an average $0.085/kWh last year to $0.02-0.08/kWh by the end of the next decade and $0.01-0.05 by mid-century.”

Throughout this period, Hu Honua will have a locked-in price exceeding 20 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Hu Honua points out that they add diversity to the renewable mix on the Big Island: wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, and biomass. Hu Honua also points out that a portfolio of higher and lower-priced renewables are cost-competitive today.

The price of electricity on the Big Island is three times higher than the national average.

If all fossil fuel and biomass plants on the Big Island was replaced with solar, wind, and batteries, prices would fall sharply, except for the fact that ratepayers are still contractually obligated to pay for the outdated generation currently being used.

The Public Utilities Commission is wrapping up its two-plus year investigation of Performance-Based Regulation, seeking ways to incentivize Hawaiian Electric Company to reduce its costs. The current PUC has put the public interest and ratepayers ahead of utility inefficiencies and shareholder profits, a welcome change.

Dirty Power Plant Emissions

Hu Honua – An Open Letter to Hawaii’s PUC

ref: LETTER IN SUPPORT OF PUC DECISION – Docket No 2017-0122

To whom it may concern,

Hawaii’s PUC decision to deny Hu Honua’s exemption from a public and competitive power supplier process (in which all other power suppliers must compete to benefit ratepayers), was summed up by this well-reasoned PUC decision and explanation:

“The pertinent issue here is whether this particular Project (Hu Honua) should be exempted from competitive bidding against other renewable projects to determine the best value for HELCO and its customers. The Commission is aware that biomass resources offer different considerations than other renewable resources, such as solar and wind, but believes that these distinctions are better weighed and addressed in the context of the Competitive Bidding Framework.”

Hawaii Island (like much of the rest of the state) is on two divergent and transitional energy paths, and depending on which path we take, future energy costs to consumers and the state’s environmental impacts can range from beneficial-to-significant.   This energy transition is best exemplified by both good and bad fossil fuel replacements available to Hawaii Electric and ratepayers – enabled by present-day legislative deficiencies within state-mandated RPS rules.

Hawaii Electric’s PPA track record in addressing both cost and environmental considerations has not always been in the interest of ratepayers and our island residents.

What two better examples of clean energy versus dirty and renewable energy options for Hawaii Electric than the present day energy choices here on Hawaii Island between Hu Honua (the tree-burning) 21.5 megawatts bio-energy power plant in Pepeʻekeo, and the proposed Waikoloa Village 55 megawatt photovoltaic solar array with a 220-megawatt battery storage system – both offering on-demand power delivery options to the grid.

Which of these two examples of energy replacements options best serve the public interest and ratepayers?

We believe the graph below clearly illustrates the differences and which is best for Hawaii Island, ratepayers, and the state’s clean energy future.

Huhonua Comparison To Solar

Although not all the above points of consideration within the graph are within the regulatory purview of Hawaii’s PUC authority or mission, clearly there are other public benefits to the PUC’s decision to deny Hu Honua’s exemption from a competitive process, and considerations that exceed the strictly regulated elements of the Commission’s decision — a PUC decision the majority of Hawaii Island’s residents support, and with great appreciation.


Story Update: Sept 21, 2020

Lawsuit: Hu Honua ‘A Fiasco From The Beginning’

link: https://www.civilbeat.org/2020/09/lawsuit-hu-honua-a-fiasco-from-the-beginning/

Cadie Ev1

Electric cars, crossovers, pick-up trucks are the future… and the future is here

National Drive Electric Week is coming to Hawaii, beginning September 26 and concluding October 3rd. Hawaii Electric Vehicle Association (www.hawaiiev.org) will host statewide activities in support of this national event and celebration.

Transportation puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than any other sector in the U.S. economy. In Hawaii, the percentage of transportation-related pollution is higher, representing an excess of 40% of all local greenhouse gas emissions.  Hawaii is now following a global trend in the electrification of transportation, and off fossil fuels.

Whether you’re curious about electric vehicles or already an experienced EV owner, alternatives to gas guzzling cars, SUVs, and trucks may be closer than you think.

BeyondKona invites you to read this informative article on what’s here and just around the corner in the world of emerging electric vehicle alternatives for Hawaii’s drivers.



Billionaire value investor Mario Gabelli recently lauded Elon Musk as “phenomenal” and described electric vehicles as “the holy grail” in the current shift toward a green economy.

Meanwhile, Tesla’s competitors, the world’s automakers, are finally listening to the “silent” propulsion of electric vehicles — and have begun in earnest to chase Tesla’s taillights before its too late.

Tesla is the world leader in EV technology and vehicle production, and will likely remain so for some time into the future.  Most auto-truck manufacturers (for the time being) remain firmly lashed to fossil fuels and 20th century internal combustion engine technology, with a long overdue transition to the efficiencies battery-powered vehicles beginning to take hold a midst rising competition from companies like Tesla, and start-ups like Rivian, Lucid, and too many Chinese EV startups to count.

Every major legacy auto manufacturer is working on introducing (competitive) electric vehicles in a variety of models and formats.

What follows is a sneak preview of a new generation of electric vehicles that do not remotely resemble the half-hearted attempts at EVs of the past, mostly designed to simply off-set California’s strict air quality and regulatory emissions standards.

Buckle up your safety belt, new electric vehicle cars, SUV, and trucks are on their way and to showrooms (likely not all of the following EV models and make it to Hawaii) in the next few model years, but the list of new zero emissions vehicle options, loaded with new tech features, is impressive.


AUDI

Audi Ev1

As you might expect from its name, the Q4 e-tron will slot in between Audi’s Q3 and Q5 crossovers in size. But it will be different from both in that it will come only in an all-electric e-tron configuration.

Like many of the Volkswagen Group’s upcoming EV models, it will ride on the company’s MEB platform.

The Q4 e-tron concept pictured here offers a close look at what the production car will look like when it goes on sale in 2021.


BMW

Bmw Ev 1

 

 

 

BMW’s first “i” cars, the i3 and i8, relied upon wild, futuristic designs to make a statement. The next model in the electric sub-brand will have far more conventional styling, as it’s intended to be similar to the 4-series Gran Coupe four-door hatchback.

BMW has already announced that the i4 will have 523 hp and an 80.0-kWh battery pack, and it will start production in 2021.

The iNext (SUV), pictured here camouflaged, starts production in 2021 and should arrive in the U.S. sometime later. Europe will get it before we do. It’s intended as a flagship for BMW’s expanded “i” family of electrified vehicles. BMW says it will have a range of over 400 miles with Level 3 autonomous driving capability.


BOLLINGER

Bollinger

 

From a Michigan-based startup come a pair of utilitarian-looking high-end vehicles, including this B1 SUV and pick-up variant, each priced at $125,000.

It is likely we won’t see any of these on the Big Island or in Hawaii anytime soon.

Bollinger is expected to start delivering to customers in 2021.  Both SUV and truck are claimed to offer 614 horsepower, 668 lb-ft of torque, and a 4.5-second zero-to-6o-mph time.

The Bollinger B1’s 120.0-kWh battery pack is said to offer up to 200 miles of range. Other specs include a 5000-pound payload capacity and 15 inches of ground clearance.


BYTON (from China)

China1

 

 

 

Byton represents what is the leading edge of what’s expected to be a flood of electric vehicles from the Chinese startup, which has only been around since 2016.

European countries will get to buy them first, but we expect the M-Byte to start at $45,000 in the U.S.

 


GM:  CADILLAC – CHEVY – HUMMER

Cadie Ev1

In a major bid to compete with Tesla and other electric vehicle makers, General Motors unveiled the Cadillac Lyriq electric last month.

The Lyriq is the first fully-electric Cadillac introduced by GM, which is preparing to unveil a whole new lineup of electric cars, trucks and SUVs,

Chevrolet, whihc broke gorund in the EV space with 2011 introduced of the highly successful Chevy Volt, was fashionably late to the EV-pickup party, and only announced earlier in 2020 plans for a fully-electric Chevy pickup to go into production before 2025.

It would be different than the already teased GMC Hummer EV. Chevy can fit 24 battery modules between the frame and under the body with a battery pack that can store as much as 200.0 kWh of electricity on board.

Howver, not to be out done, Tesla’s Cybertruck will have planned 500 miles range and packing a huge 250 kWh battery pack. Also unfortunate for Chevy, Telsa’s Cybertruck will be deliveries late next year, and even startup companies like Lordstown, Nikola, and Rivian all have trucks planned to go on sale sooner that Chevy. But the real race will be a classic competition between Chevy and Ford to see who gets their EV pick-ups to market first.

The GMC Hummer EV is expected to come as both an SUV and pickup. It will be offered with a one-two-and three electric drive motor configurations, with a promised 1000 horsepower with an insane 11,500 lb-ft of torque. Although the real truck hasn’t been unveiled yet, GMC announced it would have removable roof panels. General Motors announced that although the Hummer debut was delayed to the global pandemic, they still plan to sell it sometime 2021, well ahead of the Chevy EV pick-up.

Hmmer Ev

GM – HONDA

 

Honda and General Motors are in talks over an alliance that could see them develop and sell vehicles together under their own brands, as well as cooperate in research and development, connected services and purchasing.

Chevy1The two auto giants have signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding, with plans to develop two new electric vehicles together for Honda using GM’s Ultium batteries and EV platform.

General Motors showed offed a future long-range, all-electric SUV, named the LYRIQ, is scheduled to be offered in 2024 and sold under its Cadillac luxury brand. The vehicle’s range and performance details are unavailable at this time.

CEO Mary Barra promised investors on Tuesday that would be the case—and the 2017 introduction and reception of GM’s first all-electric car since the EV-1, 20 years earlier, was the 238-mile range Chevrolet Bolt EV. The apparent sale success of the Bolt encouraged the company to accelerate its over transition plans to EV models.

Well before the Bolt EV launched, GM costs for Electric Vehicle battery packs was $145 per kilowatt-hour for the cells. The industry’s magic bullet costs for batteries, the most expensive component of EV production is $100 per kilowatt-hour, it is at this price point the major ICE car manufacturers claim profitability in producing EV’s will be achieved. The price for batteries, as measured in KWh costs has dramatically dropped over the past two decades, more than half by many measurements.

GM’s US rival Ford has teamed up with German giant Volkswagen to jointly develop electric and self-driving vehicles, and a pending merger between Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot also aims to hold costs down.


FORD

 

The company that introduced America to the first mass-market car Model T, it’s about to break ground again with its all-electric F-150 Pick-up (goes on sale next year, and all the new all electric Mustang crossover, the Mach E, available before the end of this year.

Building off its storied best-selling history and recent partnership with Rivian, Ford looks to make an all-electric pickup brawny enough to avoid alienating its central customer base while also drawing in new shoppers interested in owning a pickup, but without the carbon footprint of a gasoline engine.

The Ford F-150 electric pickup truck is expected on sale in 2021, putting it squarely in the middle of the fray when TeslaGeneral Motors, Bollinger, and others are bringing out their electric trucks.

 


JAGUAR

Jaguar Ev

 

Jaguar dove headfirst into the EV pool with the unprecedented I-Pace electric hatchback, and the company is doubling down by turning one of its most iconic models, the XJ luxury sedan, into an EV. We hear that the electric XJ will use the same platform, battery pack, and electric motors as the I-Pace, but it will surely be more elegantly styled, as is befitting a flagship luxury sedan. Expect it to arrive sometime in 2020.

The 2021 Jaguar I-Pace is a fascinating all-electric crossover that looks good and drives well. Its luxury designation and price will limit its mainstream popularity, but there’s no denying that the I-Pace’s futuristic facade captures the imagination. This iPace boasts an EPA-rated range of 253 miles plus fast-charging capability and instantaneous acceleration.

The i-Pace is available for delivery today from Oahu dealers. Auto review are unanimous on the way the crossover handles, “… more like a sports car than a five-seat crossover, with its controlled demeanor and tactile steering.”

 


HYUNDAI

Kona Ev

Hyundai introduced the Kona for the 2018 model year and followed up with the all-electric version last year. More awareness is sure to come, however, because the Kona Electric is one of the best EVs on the market.

Hyundai’s successful electric crossover, the Kona (price and model ranges from $37k to 45K), is presently not sold in Kona, Hawaii or the rest of the state at this time.  Kona has an estimated driving range of 258, standard fast-charging capability, and plenty of technology and safety features.

The Korean manufacturer current sells the Niro EV, and expected to beginning to sell in America this fall the Soul EV, but those plans have been scrapped.  Both Kia. and its parent company Hyundai. has several all-electric concept planned but specific plans for delivery to an American audience remain uncertain at this time.  Hyundai’s successful electric crossover, the Kona (price and model ranges from $37k to 45K), is presently not sold in Kona, Hawaii, but special delivery arrangements are available through KUHIO HYUNDAI in Kauai.

KIA

Kia’s Plan S, revealed in January, states that the South Korean company is committed to going electric and committing to a significant volume of electric vehicles in the future.  Under the plan, Kia will invest $25 billion by the end of 2025, with global aims to introduce 11 new Kia EVs by 2025 and sell 500,000 electric vehicles annually by that year. With that, Kia would have a projected 6.6% of the world’s electric vehicle sales.


LORDSTOWN

Loadstown Ev Pickup

 

 

The Lordstown Motors Endurance electric pickup truck, announced the same day as the Tesla Cybertruck (which is perhaps not merely a coincidence), is Lordstown’s first vehicle.

The pick-up price is said to begin at $52,500, will have a four-wheel-drive hub motor system, and it purported to have a 250-mile range, and will be built in Lordstown, Ohio, formerly the site of a GM plant.

Deliveries for the vehicle will start in late this year.

 

 


LUCID MOTORS

Lucid Ev

This California startup, founded in 2007 as a battery-technology company, announced it would build a Tesla-fighting electric four-door sedan in 2016, but the car’s actual arrival seemed in question until recently.

This year, though, Lucid Motors received a $1 billion investment in November last year, and since broke ground on its future assembly plant in Casa Grande, Arizona.

The company has also partnered with Electrify America’s network of chargers, so the promised luxury sedan looks a lot closer to reality now.

Lucid promises its “Air” model will deliver 517 miles of range, 1000 horsepower, a top speed of “over 200 mph,” and a zero-to-6o-mph time of 2.5 seconds, plus over-the-air updates and autonomous-driving technology.

Deliveries of the first Air models will begin in Spring 2021, but the car has already set several new and unheard-of records for the EV sector. Not only is the Air currently holding the benchmark for EPA-estimated range at 517 miles, but its “Dream Edition” variant also set a 9.9-second quarter-mile record, becoming just the third production car on Earth to ever accomplish that feat.

The company announced it will start production in 2021, after the factory’s first stage of construction is completed.

Lucid’s primary focus is similar to Tesla’s: Create a high-performance and efficient electric cars that help accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transportation.

 


Mercedes-Benz

Mb Ev

 

 

The EQC400 is Mercedes’s first all-electric vehicle, a compact crossover with a not too impressive estimated range of 200 miles.

The luxury vehicle starts at $68,895 and is slated to reach showrooms in early 2021, and is said to offer the values of most Mercedes: comfort, quietness, and precision in steering.

It comes with two electric motors which offer all-wheel drive and a claimed 4.9-second zero-to-60-mph time.

 

 


Nikola and GM — teaming up to take on Tesla’s cybertruck.

Nikola Badger pickup truck. [Credit: Nikola]

The electric truck startup announced Tuesday it has selected GM to be its manufacturing partner for its electric pickup truck dubbed the Badger. The Badger will use GM’s widely acclaimed Ultium battery technology. Additionally, Nikola will hand over $2 billion in stock to GM — giving the automaker an 11% stake in the company.

GM’s CEO Mary Barra said, “What we’re focused on is creating an all electric future and this announcement is very important today because it shows another very strong validation of our technology, our hydrogen fuel cell technology as well as our ultium batteries.”

Thus far, the Badger has been a mere rendering that has lit-up social media feeds.

The company did begin taking pre-orders for the electric super pickup truck in late June. On paper, the truck stands to be a beast. It’s expected to have 906 horsepower and have a 600-mile range using both battery and hydrogen fuel cells.

Nikola has said pricing will start at $60,000 for the electric vehicle version and $90,000 for the one that also includes the hydrogen cell.

The Badger is expected to be unveiled in early December. Production has been set for 2022.


NISSAN

Nissan Ev

 

Earlier this year,  Nissan took the wraps off the Ariya in its July world debut.

Nissan, after years of successful EV experience with its initial introduce of the Nissan Leaf in 2011, the company is finally preparing to introduce to the North American market a new EV model, the Ariya, an Electric Crossover with an expected 300-Mile driving range.

The Ariya is scheduled to be introduced in 2021 and 2022 model years

Looking remarkably close in appearance to the concept version that was unveiled last fall at the Tokyo motor show, the Ariya will start around $40,000 when it goes on sale in US as a 2022 model, and that’s before any federal tax incentives.

 

 


PORSCHE

Porcheev

 

 

Porsche recently announced the full electric Macan EV, scheduled for delivery in 2023, and is based on the Premium Platform Electric (PPE) platform of Porsche Taycan sports car, now available for sale in the United States.

The Macan is being co-developed with Audi.

It will have the same 800-volt tech as the next Taycan and will probably share its electric motors and battery packs. Price and other particulars are not available at this time, but like the very expensive Taycan, the Macan it is expected to be priced north of six figures when it finally hits the showroom floor.

 

 

 


RIVIAN

Rivian Ev

 

American startup Rivian has a production-ready truck, called the Rivian R1T (Expected: 2021), is preparing to take the EV truck fight to the likes of Bollinger and Tesla.

The R1T comes standard with all-wheel drive, the ability to tow up to 11,000 pounds, adjustable air suspension, and Level 3 autonomous-driving capabilities. The three battery packs that are available are 105.0, 135.0, and 180.0 kWh, with ranges of 230, 300, and 400 miles, respectively. Rivian claims that models equipped with the 180.0-kWh pack can hit 60 mph in a supercar-like 3.0 seconds. Look for Rivian R1T to start moving toward the marketplace in 2021 with a starting price of around $69,000.

The people at the startup Rivian aren’t just making an electric truck; they’re making an electric SUV, too. Built on the same platform as the R1T, the R1S shares the same battery pack options and ranges as its truck sibling.

In fact, the main differences between the truck and SUV are that the SUV can only tow 7716 pounds to the truck’s 11,000, and that the SUV can seat up to seven compared to the truck’s five. The R1S is set to compete against the likes of the Tesla Model X and will go on sale in 2020 just after the R1T, with a starting price of $72,500.


SUBARU and TOYOTA – Future EV Collaboration

Subaru and Toyota, both companies have been late in joining the transition to all electric EV models, but are now playing catch by jointly working together to produce a pair of electric SUVs that will share a platform, details are sketchy. It is ironic that Toyota, the company that introduced a hybrid line of gas-battery vehicles starting with the Prius missed the boat on EV’s which have since made their 20 year old hybrid technology now obsolete.

The platform the two manufacturers are collaborating on will be for “mid-size and large passenger vehicles.” Neither auto maker currently offers a fully electric vehicle in the U.S., but it’s possible the new EVs built on this platform will hit the market as soon as 2021.


TESLA

Tesla Cybertruck

Tesla is the world leader in EV technology and vehicle production, and will likely remain so for some time to come. Tesla’s Model S luxury sedan set the standard for 21st century electric vehicles nearly 10 years ago, and today still holds the title of best in class, performance, and technology.

Additions to the Model S in the family Tesla of EV’s now include the company’s luxury crossover Model X, and lower priced mass market electric vehicles in the Model 3 sedan, and the most recent addition, the Model Y crossover.

To say that the design of the Tesla Cybertruck is polarizing is a massive understatement, and the Cybertruck itself is massive—a hunk made of stainless steel that is estimated to weigh upward of 9000 pounds in its production version.

CEO Elon Musk has claimed as many as 200,000 would-be buyers have put down deposits in less than a week after the Cybertruck’s unveiling on November 21st of last year.

The Cyber Truck’s dimensions are similar to those for the market-dominating Ford F-150, and its stainless-steel unibody make it a vehicle designed to last the test of time and utility. The first, lowest-range version (250-plus miles) and is claimed to be priced starting under $40,000. Production is scheduled for late 2021.

Jay Leno takes a drive in the Cybertruck with Elon Musk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25ZuKkbHdqM

 


VW

Vw Ev1

Volkswagen’s journey from diesel crisis to the upcoming market debut of several EV models in Europe and the U.S. has not been easy, but Wolfsburg is rolling ahead and debuting several different models later this year and next.

The first on this side of the Atlantic is going to be the ID.4 electric crossover. Set to challenge several more-affordable electric crossover models including the Tesla Model Y and the Nissan Ariya when it goes on sale, the ID.4 will offer buyers an easy way into EV ownership.

VW CEO Ralf Brandstätter said, “Volkswagen has successfully completed the first phase of the Transform 2025+ strategy. The company is now embarking on the next phase“.

“The broad-based electric offensive will now become tangible with new vehicles on the roads. Volkswagen is paving the way to zero-emission mobility for everyone. By 2025, at least 1.5 million electric cars are to be sold. In addition to electrification, the brand will also forge ahead with digitalization over the coming years.”

When it comes to pricing, VW execs have hinted that the ID.4 will start in the low-$30,000 range, prior to the application of the $7,500 federal tax credit and other local discounts, and stretch to about $45,000 for the top.



Electric Vehicle Outlook – 2020

The Electric Vehicle Outlook, according to Bloomberg’s annual long-term forecast of how electrification, shared mobility and autonomous driving will impact road transport from now out to 2040.

It covers light duty passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, buses, and two/three-wheeled vehicles.

The report draws on our team of specialists around the world and looks at how these trends will impact the automotive, energy, infrastructure, and battery materials markets over the next 20 years.

Passenger EV sales jumped from 450,000 in 2015 to 2.1 million in 2019. They will drop in 2020 (pandemic impacts on worldwide auto sales) before continuing to rise as battery prices fall, energy density improves, more charging infrastructure is built, and sales spread to new markets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solar Pv Sun Image

Hu Honua – Hawaii’s PUC Rejects the Controversial Tree Burning Power Plant

Hu Honua – News Update

PUC Rejects Hu Honua

This news development is courtesy of Henry Curtis, Life of the Land, and Contributing Editor to BeyondKona –

The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission issued Order No. 37205 on July 9, 2020, denying Hawaii Electric Light Company`s Request for a Waiver from Competitive Bidding for the Hu Honua Biomass Project. As a result, the HELCO-Hu Honua Power Purchase Agreement is not considered and dismissed without prejudice, that is, Hu Honua may compete in the next request for proposal for renewable energy projects.

On December 31, 2018, as result of the RFP process in Docket No. 2017-0352, the Hawaiian Electric Companies submitted applications requesting Commission approval for seven PPAs for grid-scale, solar-plus-storage projects on the islands of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii.

These same Solar plus Battery Storage clean power generation options also feature dispatchable (on-demand) power delivery to the utility, previously a utility sticking point with solar and wind generation power options.

RDG-PPA (power purchase agreements) feature contractual provisions that represent significant improvements over previous renewable energy PPAs (including lower unit costs for solar energy projects, now competitive with all other forms of energy generation in Hawaii

The Solar + Battery power generation options offer Hawaii, HECO and ratepayers the reliability and grid stability of 24×7 on-demand power (dispatchable power), permitting complete operational flexibility that enables HECO/HELCO [the utility] access the cleanest power option available to them under Hawaii renewable portfolio standards (otherwise know as RPS 2045).

In effect, zero emissions (zero pollution) power generation and flexible power delivery options comes at a cost that is one-half less than the controversial Hu Honua power plant, and without all the environmental and pollution problems of Hu Honua — the true beneficiaries of these clean power options are Hawaii’s environment and utility ratepayers.

To date, the Commission has approved six of the RDG-PPAs, including two on Hawaii Island, both 30 MW renewable facilities paired with battery energy storage system (“BESS”) of 120 MW-hours (“MWh”), and which feature unit pricing of $0.08/kWh and $0.09/kWh, respectively.

These RDG-PPA projects have also transformed the renewable energy procurement market in Hawaii by demonstrating that competitive bidding can result in PPAs that provide firm, dispatchable renewable energy and ancillary grid services at increasingly lower prices.

  • Pertinently, the approved RDG-PPA projects for Hawaii Island, AES Waikoloa Solar, LLC {Docket No. 2018-0430) and Hale Kuawehi Solar LLC (Docket No. 2018-0432) are 30 MW in size, which is slightly larger than the 21.5 MW for the Hu Honua Project, and at $0.08/kWh and $0.09/kWh, respectively, are significantly less expensive than the Hu Honua Project’s estimated pricing of $0.221/kWh

But its more than just price that makes these newer clean power options more attractive than Hu Honua.  They contain the ability and commitment to the utility to provide fixed amount of dispatchable energy to the utility at the utility’s discretion (i.e., available capacity), thereby eliminating number a complicated and undesirable set of contractual provisions, such as seniority curtailment, “evergreen” renewal, and risk-adjusted pricing associated with traditional PPA’s (power purchase agreements) of the past.



HELCO, Controversial Power Plant Plans –

– Previously Published May 12th, 2020

HELCO  holds as a contingency on Hawaii Island, Solar and storage projects to serve as replacements for the company’s present day dirty energy power generation infrastructure and controversial plans to re-start the PGV geothermal plant and go foward with the Hu Honua tree burning power plant.

HELCO has proposed that the Big Island Request for Proposal (RFP) for solar and storage power replacement options be conditional depending upon whether the Hu Honua (21.5 MW) and/or the Puna Geothermal Venture (44 MW) go online as power suppliers to the grid.

HELCO has an existing Power Purchase Agreement with Puna Geothermal Venture for 38 megawatts. HELCO filed a proposed Amended and Restated Power Purchase Agreement to increase the amount to 46 megawatts. The Board of Land and Natural Resources approved 60 megawatts. The Public Utilities Commission wants to know why HELCO settled for 46 MW instead of 60 MW.

The Commission now has a better understanding of the different proposals for the Big Island, both in size and in cost.

Hu Honua was aware of the timing associated with competitive bidding events unfolding and the pending Life of the Land motions to compel the release of information.

Hu Honua reacted by sending a letter to the Commission dated May 8, 2020.

“Hu Honua believes it would be helpful for the Commission to hold a scheduling conference with the Parties in this matter regarding the Evidentiary Hearing and other related procedural steps.”

“On March 10, 2020, we spoke with Commission counsel regarding the remaining procedural steps to be established and we indicated that the Parties (and their respective witnesses) to the docket were available on certain days during the first half of May 2020 for the Evidentiary Hearing. On March 17, 2020, Commission counsel indicated that an order was being prepared but, understandably, in light of the transition to teleworking due to Covid-19 social distancing directives, estimated that it may take 1-2 months for the order to issue.”

“At this time, given the need to provide the Commission with additional alternative dates and to coordinate the availability of several local, mainland and international witnesses’ schedules for the Evidentiary Hearing, we thought it would be helpful to hold a scheduling conference to discuss the Parties’ and witnesses’ available dates.”

Hu Honua is challenging the Hawai`i County Planning Director`s requirement that Hu Honua filed an Amendment to its Shoreline Management Area (SMA) permit.

The Hawai`i County Board of Appeals hearing and possible contested case proceeding has been delayed due to COVID-19, It is now scheduled for July.

Over the next month, the winning bidders will reach out to the community to discuss their proposals.

 


Hu Honua’s Regulatory Journey

The Public Utilities Commission held four procedural rounds with one court ruling wedged in between:

  • PUC proceeding re HELCO Request for Waiver from Competitive Bidding (2008)
  • PUC proceeding re HELCO-HHB Power Purchase Agreement (2012-13)
  • PUC proceeding re HELCO-HHB Amended and Restated Power Purchase Agreement (2017)
  • Hawai`i Supreme Court re Life of the Land`s successful appeal (2017-19)
  • PUC Re-opened proceeding re HELCO-HHB Amended and Restated Power Purchase Agreement (2019-20).

Going Forward

  • April 2nd, today, Life of the Land filed a Motion to Compel with the Commission, requesting that the Commission order Hu Honua to answer Information Requests regarding their corporate structure, and agricultural and environmental impacts; the motion was filed earlier on March 16.
  • The County of Hawaii Director of Planning determined that Hu Honua must file for an Amendment to their SMA Permit 221 and possibly also file for a Special Permit.
  • Hu Honua will go before the County of Hawaii Board of Appeals on Friday, May 8, to argue that the  Director of Planning exceeded his authority.
  • Hu Honua is also revising their permits with the Department of Health regarding their injection wells and other issues (the same injection wells which polluted a local coastline and marine habitat in 2018)
  • The County of Hawaii Director of Planning determined that Hu Honua must file for an Amendment to their SMA Permit 221 and possibly also file for a Special Permit.

Hu Honua Graph In TotalThe long and jaded history of the Hu Honua plant is a twisted journey on a path littered with politics, state and County oversight and regulatory failures, unanswered environmental and social concerns, and burdened with the economics of a broken business plan intended designed to be subsidized by HELCO ratepayers and taxpayers.

The overall regulatory and legal proceedings promoting and challenging the plant’s operation is headed to the finish line, and potential approval  All testimony, exhibits, and Information Requests are pau (completed).

Limited (allowed) community input has previously sought to address public concerns on the prospects of the Hu Honua plant. The public’s feedback has been mostly hostile and skeptical about the plant’s purported community benefits presented by its promoters.

Community concerns were amplified in 2018 when the Hu Honua plant operators (not yet fully operational) managed to violate state law by discharging industrial wastewater into the ocean near Pepeekeo and into the reef marine ecosystem.

In previous BeyondKona articles and coverage on Hu Honua (see below for article links below), the many valid reasons for the PUC and other state and county regulatory bodies to deny Hu Honua’s their permit to proceed can summed up as:

  1. Hu Honua business case assumptions, from fuel to operations are flawed – failure in these assumptions comes at little risk the plant owners and operators, with HELCO ratepayers positioned to cover the plant’s many financial failings
  2. Hu Honua environmental impacts: from climate impacts -to air and water pollution -to deforestation and supply-chain impacts make little sense in terms of economic and social benefits, especially with much power generation options
  3. The only stakeholders who need Hu Honua plant power to proceed are its financial backers — HELCO doesn’t need it as a power supplier with much better clean and homegrown renewable energy supply options available to the utility and ratepayers
  4. Tree (fuel) requirements and assumptions are risky at best and flawed. Cutting down mature growth Big Island trees and replanting replacements sounds noble, but is better suited to long term forestry practices than a fuel source (see previous Hu Honua articles for details).
    • One of many unanswered questions, the road impacts from a supply chain of heavy-loaded diesel trucks carry freshly cut trees and running around the clock to feed the beast.
    • What happens when the plant’s dedicated mature timber supply runs out and is replaced with low BTU value (low energy producing) and immature (re-planted) trees? Time to import fuel?  At one point, Hu Honua floated the idea of importing timber to burn, once the island reserves were depleted, an admission that their 30 year plan of replanting and supply replenishment will likely fail to meet plant fuel demands
    • — Hu Honua is fraught with third-world power planning compared to Kauai’s utility track record of employing 21st century clean energy technology, including their highly successful, low cost, low risk solar plus battery storage on-demand power plant.
  5. Last, but not certainly least, the Hu Honua power plant (no matter how they juggle the numbers and lifecycle assumptions) will run at “twice” the cost of solar + storage power plant, and carry with it unnecessary costs to the public and to the island’s delicate environment.

Hu Honua can produce power, but at the expense of higher ratepayer power costs.

Dean Nishina, Executive Director of the Division of Consumer Advocacy, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and party to overall plant approval process, nailed it, when he stated for the record:  “I believe that the Company has not met the required burden of proof that approving the A&R PPA (Power Purchase Agreement with HELCO) is in the public interest.”

You don’t need to be an energy wonk to understand the Consumer Advocate’s conclusion in weighing the Hu Honua’s plant pollution, Hawaii Island deforestation, high operating costs and risks, as well as the loss of one of the island’s significant GHG carbon sinks, its forests.

Community objections aside, the pure economics of the plant does NOT make sense nor does it serve the public interest.

Hu Honua BioEnergy LLC (HHB) wants to clear-cut Big Island forests (trees) to generate electricity, serving as a long term power supplier to Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO).

Hawaii’s consumer advocate went on to say…“The Hu Honua project has not been the most expeditious means of adding renewable generation. There are other means of adding firm capacity and ancillary services, as evidenced by the recent dispatchable generation projects approved by the Commission.”   Hu Honua, is “more expensive than the recently approved dispatchable generation projects.”  “The current availability of lower priced alternatives supports even further questions about whether future savings from the Hu Honua project is a reasonable conclusion.”

Hu Honua was founded in April 2008, that was 4,360 days ago.  Hu Honua currently states they will be operational this summer (2020), and they go onto assert, will be faster than any new utility-scale solar plus storage system could go on-line.  The average solar plus battery storage power plant takes on average, from start to operation, of 6-12 months, not 12 years as has been the case with Hu Honua’s long history of missteps, misinformation, and omissions.

The Consumer advocate offered some very wise advice for Hawaii’s PUC to consider in the Hu Honua case…

I offer that, if the Commission will be required to consider GHG (greenhouse gas) and other environmental issues as part of its decisions, it may be reasonable to adopt a policy where the Commission will wait for completed actions by other agencies, such as completion of permitting processes before the Department of Health and environmental assessments/environmental impact studies, in order to incorporate those actions in the Commission’s future decision and orders.


BeyondKona has been tracking the Hu Honua power plant proposal and at the request of our readers, we provided this update on the plant and its prospects for activation. For previous articles on Hu Honua, and its environmental, social, and economic impacts on Hawaii island (if allowed to proceed) … we invite to you visit the following BeyondKona articles:     

 

Pv To Ev

Electric Vehicles of All Sizes Are Beginning to Disrupt Big Oil

The world’s oil companies are taking a hit due to the early adoption of electric modes of transportation and their increasing popularity.

A recent Bloomberg study indicates that EVs are removing around one million barrels per day of oil consumed around the world. Although this figure is only 1% of the 100 million barrels per day consumption rate from 2019, it is the beginning of an inevitable transformation to a global clean energy economy.

Interestingly, most of the impact of oil consumption is not coming from the market adoption of electric cars, but from two and three-wheeled vehicles powered by electric batteries – which all together are beginning to impact commercial oil use on a global scale.E Bike 1

Interestingly enough, scooters and other small-scale forms of personal; electric transportation are displacing more oil and contributing to positive environmental awareness on a larger scale than luxury electric cars.

Bloomberg’s Nathaniel Bullard stated that electric bikes, trikes, and scooters are disrupting global oil consumption on a massive scale.   In 2020, so far, this category of electrified transportation has accounted for around 60% of avoided oil consumption.

In a year that has been especially harsh to global automotive sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic, oil consumption is already at a low. Bloomberg’s analysts also foresee a 23% decline in the sales of internal combustion engine vehicles this year.

The two areas where the vast majority of the displacement of oil usage is concentrated is the United States and China; the two largest automotive markets in the world.Small Ev1

These two countries (markets) also account for a greater overall environmental and economic benefit through the widescale adoption of electric vehicles than most other parts of the world, and offer local incentives  and government subsidies in most areas, one exception: Hawaii.

It is evident that the pandemic, combined with the emerging electric transportation sector is causing significant disruptions in Big Oil plans.

Covid 19 Image

Don’t Expect a COVID-19 Virus Vaccine, anytime soon

First published in the Guardian, UK, May 22, 2020

Why might a vaccine fail?

Earlier this week, England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said the words nobody wanted to hear: “We can’t be sure we will get a vaccine.”

Vaccines are simple in principle, but complex in practice.

The ideal vaccine protects against infection, prevents its spread, and does so safely. But none of this is easily achieved, as vaccine timelines show.

More than 30 years after scientists isolated HIV, the virus that causes Aids, we have no vaccine. The dengue fever virus was identified in 1943, but the first vaccine was approved only last year, and even then amid concerns it made the infection worse in some people. The fastest vaccine ever developed was for mumps. It took four years.

Scientists have worked on coronavirus vaccines before, so are not starting from scratch. Two coronaviruses have caused lethal outbreaks before, namely Sars and Mers, and vaccine research went ahead for both. But none have been licensed, partly because Sars fizzled out and Mers is regional to the Middle East. The lessons learned will help scientists create a vaccine for Sars-CoV-2, but there is still an awful lot to learn about the virus.

A chief concern is that coronaviruses do not tend to trigger long-lasting immunity. About a quarter of common colds are caused by human coronaviruses, but the immune response fades so rapidly that people can become reinfected the next year.

Researchers at Oxford University recently analysed blood from recovered Covid-19 patients and found that levels of IgG antibodies – those responsible for longer-lasting immunity – rose steeply in the first month of infection but then began to fall again.

Last week, scientists at Rockefeller University in New York found that most people who recovered from Covid-19 without going into hospital did not make many killer antibodies against the virus.

“That’s what is particularly challenging,” says Stanley Perlman, a veteran coronavirus researcher at the University of Iowa. “If the natural infection doesn’t give you that much immunity except when it’s a severe infection, what will a vaccine do? It could be better, but we don’t know.” If a vaccine only protects for a year, the virus will be with us for some time.

The genetic stability of the virus matters too. Some viruses, such as influenza, mutate so rapidly that vaccine developers have to release new formulations each year. The rapid evolution of HIV is a major reason we have no vaccine for the disease.

So far, the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus seems fairly stable, but it is acquiring mutations, as all viruses do. Some genetic changes have been spotted in the virus’s protein “spikes” which are the basis of most vaccines. If the spike protein mutates too much, the antibodies produced by a vaccine will effectively be out of date and might not bind the virus effectively enough to prevent infection.

Martin Hibberd, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who helped identify some of the virus’s mutations, called them “an early warning”.


Another challenge: making a safe vaccine

In the rush to develop a vaccine – there are now more than 100 in development – safety must remain a priority. Unlike experimental drugs for the severely ill, the vaccine will be given to potentially billions of generally healthy people.

This means scientists will have to check extremely carefully for signs of dangerous side-effects. During the search for a Sars vaccine in 2004, scientists found that one candidate caused hepatitis in ferrets. Another serious concern is “antibody-induced enhancement” where the antibodies produced by a vaccine actually make future infections worse. The effect caused serious lung damage in animals given experimental vaccines for both Sars and Mers.

John McCauley, director of the Worldwide Influenza Centre at the Francis Crick Institute, says it takes time to understand the particular challenges each vaccine throws up. “You don’t know the difficulties, the specific difficulties, that every vaccine will give you,” he says. “And we haven’t got experience in handling this virus or the components of the virus.”


We should ‘end up with something’ … but what does that mean?

When UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, in a press briefing stated that a vaccine was “by no means guaranteed”, his chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, agreed, but added: “I’d be surprised if we didn’t end up with something.” Many scientists share that view.

In all likelihood, a coronavirus vaccine will not be 100% effective.

Those in development draw on at least eight different approaches, from weakened and inactivated viruses to technologies that smuggle genetic code into the recipient’s cells, which then churn out spike proteins for the immune system to make antibodies against.

Ideally, a vaccine will generate persistent, high levels of antibodies to wipe out the virus and also “T” cells to destroy infected cells. But each vaccine is different and today no one knows what kind of immune response is good enough.

“We don’t even know if a vaccine can produce an immune response which would protect against future infection,” says David Heymann, who led the response of the World Health Organization (WHO) to the Sars epidemic.

Early results from two frontrunner vaccines suggest they might have some use.

The US biotech firm Moderna reported antibody levels similar to those found in recovered patients in 25 people who received its vaccine.

Another vaccine from Oxford University did not stop monkeys contracting the virus, but did appear to prevent pneumonia, a major cause of death in coronavirus patients.

If humans react the same way, vaccinated people would still spread the virus, but be less likely to die from it.

How well a vaccine works determines how it is used. Armed with a highly effective vaccine that protects for several years, countries could aim for herd immunity by protecting at least two-thirds of the population.

Coronavirus patients pass the virus on to three others, on average, but if two or more are immune, the outbreak will fizzle out. That is the best-case scenario.

More likely is we will end up with a vaccine, or a number of vaccines, that are only partially effective.

Vaccines that contain weakened strains of virus can be dangerous for older people, but might be given to younger people with more robust immune systems to reduce the spread of infection.

Meanwhile, older people might get vaccines that simple prevent infections progressing to life-threatening pneumonia. “If you don’t have the ability to induce immunity, you’ve got to develop a strategy for reducing serious outcomes of infection,” says McCauley.

But partially effective vaccines have their own problems: a vaccine that doesn’t stop the virus replicating can encourage resistant strains to evolve, making the vaccine redundant.


So, is the virus here to stay?

The simple answer is: yes.

Hopes for eliminating the virus start with a vaccine but do not end there. “If and when we have a vaccine, what you get is not rainbows and unicorns,” says Larry Brilliant, CEO of Pandefense Advisory, who led the WHO’s smallpox eradication program. “If we are forced to choose a vaccine that gives only one year of protection, then we are doomed to have Covid become endemic, an infection that is always with us.”

The virus will still be tough to conquer with a vaccine that lasts for years.

“It will be harder to get rid of Covid than smallpox,” says Brilliant. With smallpox it was at least clear who was infected, whereas people with coronavirus can spread it without knowing. A thornier problem is that as long as the infection rages in one country, all other nations are at risk.

As David Salisbury, the former director of immunization at the Department of Health, told a Chatham House webinar recently: “Unless we have a vaccine available in unbelievable quantities that could be administered extraordinarily quickly in all communities in the world we will have gaps in our defences that the virus can continue to circulate in.”

Or as Brilliant puts it, the virus will “ping-pong back and forth in time and geography”.

One proposal from Gavi, the vaccine alliance, is to boost the availability of vaccines around the world through an “advance market commitment”. And Brilliant believes some kind of global agreement must be hammered out now. “We should be demanding, now, a global conference on what we’re going to do when we get a vaccine, or if we don’t,” he says.

“If the process of getting a vaccine, testing it, proving it, manufacturing it, planning for its delivery, and building a vaccine programme all over the world, if that’s going to take as long as we think, then let’s fucking start planning it now.”


How will we live with the Virus?

People will have to adapt – and life will change. Heymann says we will have to get used to extensive monitoring for infections backed up by swift outbreak containment. People must play their part too, by maintaining handwashing, physical distancing and avoiding gatherings, particularly in enclosed spaces. Repurposed drugs are faster to test than vaccines, so we may have an antiviral or an antibody treatment that works before a vaccine is available, he adds. Immediate treatment when symptoms come on could at least reduce the death rate.

Yuen Kwok-yung, a professor of infectious disease at the University of Hong Kong, has advised his government that all social distancing can be relaxed – but only if people wear masks in enclosed spaces such as on trains and at work, and that no food or drink are consumed at concerts and cinemas.

At restaurants, tables will have to be shielded from each other and serving staff will follow strict rules to prevent spreading the virus. “In our Hong Kong perspective, the diligent and correct use of reusable masks is the most important measure,” he says.

Sarita Jane Robinson, a psychologist who studies responses to threats at the University of Central Lancashire, says people are still adapting to the “new normal” and that without more interventions – such as fines for not wearing face masks – “we could see people drifting back to old behaviors”.

We might become indifferent to Covid-19 deaths when life resumes and the media move on, but the seriousness of the illness will make it harder to ignore, she says.

One last possibility could save a lot of trouble. Some scientists wonder whether the common cold coronaviruses crossed into humans in the distant past and caused similar illness before settling down. “If the virus doesn’t change there’s no reason to think that miraculously in five years’ time it won’t still cause pneumonia,” says Perlman. “But that’s the hope: that we end up with a much more mild disease and you only get a bad cold from it.”

Heymann says it is too soon to know how the pandemic will pan out. “We don’t understand the destiny of this virus,” he says. “Will it continue to circulate after its first pandemic? Or will it, like some other pandemic viruses, disappear or become less virulent? That we do not know.”

An Oily Planet

Earth Day, 50 – Part 2: Hawaii at the Crossroads of Energy and Transportation

The State of Hawaii established itself early on a leader in the advancement and transition to renewable energy. This early leadership took the form of today’s Renewable Energy Portfolio (RPS) and a statewide goal that by the year 2045 the state’s electricity grid would be 100% powered by renewable energy.

The idea behind the sea-change in Hawaii’s energy policy was two-fold.

First, achieve “energy independence” from imported oil and other fossil fuels powering the state’s electricity grid.

Second, address what was even back in the 1990’s an emerging concern, the of effects of “global warming” on Hawaii and the planet – since re-named by republican strategists to the less alarming title of “climate change”.

 

Here Comes the Sun

Hawaii is truly all-in with renewable energy and it was easy to understand why – the state’s abundant sun and wind coupled to obvious benefits of a ready made, zero emissions, and local energy supply. It was less so with the emerging field of so-called bio-energy, case in point, Hawaii Island’s controversial tree-burning power plant Hu Honua (pending approval).Pv To Ev

With solar and wind energy, there are no supply chain problems or petro resource wars to get in the way of the consumer, affordability, and sustainability when you’re energy is self-sufficient and locally produced, stored and ready when needed.

Globally abundant natural energy sources, like the sun and wind, have the added advantage of scale, and when coupled to low cost energy storage options (as compared to building and maintaining power-peaker plants), and they can easily become a 24×7 reliable energy source coupled to batteries (example, Kauai) to meet on-demand power requirements and the variability of weather and today’s electrical grid demands – and this begun in earnest, island-by-island with the objective of completing the state’s clean energy transformation.

 

The Promise of an All-Electric Future Must Include Transportation

In the recent past and present, significant advances are being made in the quest replace fossil-fueled aircraft and marine cargo vessels. The advancements have ranged from military to commercial bio-fueled and all-electric aircraft.

Boeing and AirBus are developing both all-electric and electric hybrid commercial scale passenger aircraft, all of which hold a promising future for clean fuel and zero emissions flight. In Asia, low emissions marine cargo vessels are also in development.

Hawaii’s near term prospects look good for the state’s transition off its imported energy needed to fuel cars and trucks, a transportation segment of the economy which accounts for a substantial portion amount of state’s local air pollution and greenhouse emissions.

 

The 21st Century (re) Birth of Personal and Electrified Transportation Options

What really kicked off the race to electrification of world’s economy was greater efficiency, advancements that date back to the space race of 1960’s.

Marked by the wide scale arrival of computerization, replacing mechanical gears and wheels with integrated circuits, this transformation help to create a communications revolution and what we take for granted today in the form of a global Internet.  Integrated circuits also made possible an array of electronic products and services, utility scale wind and PV solar energy, and a virtual and electronic driven economy that now produces electric vehicles (EV) at mass market scale — and technology advances that have laid the foundation for society’s transition to a totally-electrified economy powered by clean energy and powering electric power vehicles directly from the sun.

In a strange mix of politics, legacy business interests, massive technology innovation, an environmental and social mandates to move beyond our polluted past, electric vehicles morphed from golf carts to EV replacements for 100 year old ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles.Ev Charging Line Up

Several ICE (internal combustion engine) auto manufactures have put their toe in the water with select entries into the all-electric vehicle market. Examples include, GM’s Volt, since replaced by the all-battery Bold EV, and Nissan’s Leaf. The Volt and the Leaf date back to their introductions in 2012, and in EV tech years, that is a technological lifetime.

In the early 2000’s, half attempts at electrification also came from other manufacturers which arrived in the form of hybrid cars (mostly gas powered cars, with a little added battery boost).  These first battery-assist hybrid vehicles were EV-light – very, very light and built on an ICE drivetrains with small battery packs added almost as an afterthought, and to mostly meet California’s strict vehicle pollution rules.  First introduced by Toyota and Honda in 1999, hybrid vehicles remain with us to this day, but fail in efficiency, lifetime ownership cost, and performance compared to their pure battery-electric cousins.

Modern breakthroughs in the commercialization of EV vehicles came from the first new and successful American car company in the last 100 years… Tesla, now the considered the benchmark for all-electric passenger and cargo ground transportation trucks.

The simple fact is for the majority of manufacturers attempting to enter the EV market they have been slow to do so.  Beyond business transformation issues, EV’s are extremely difficult to build at mass production scale for traditional car companies.  Technology challenges in battery technology and software, combined with Tesla’s decade old technology head start has left legacy ICE manufactures in their own  dust; primary reasons for the current gap in EV vehicle selections in any showroom near you.

 

Electric Vehicle consumer demand is primarily driven by two things; product availability and value. 

For Hawaii, California, and other states working to electrify their roadways, limited EV selection, in both models and price ranges has been a diminishing barrier of entry for potential new buyers. Tesla’s broadening selection of EV models represents the company’s move to deliver desirable models that are within the price range of many of Hawaii’s residents. Tesla’s introduction of its popular Model 3 sedan, is now in a price configuration competitive with Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, BMW, GM and other popular brands in Hawaii.  Ford, Rivian, and Tesla will also be delivering all-electric pick-up trucks and SUV’s, over the next two to three years. Tesla began delivering its new low cost SUV, the Model Y, earlier this year.

So, if you are in the market for a new car or SUV, you should consider an EV of choice test drive. Beyond greater selection and lower EV prices in the Hawaii market, you have to wait and special order your new EV car or SUV, as dealer support for this EV product transition has been hit and miss for a variety of reasons, which we will explore in future articles.

A traditional purchase consideration for new EV car buyers has been driving range. Better known as “range anxiety”. Limited EV driving ranges are pretty much a thing of the past, with most models coupled to advances in battery and software technology now offering driving ranges between charges of 200 to 300, and even 400 miles range between charges.

Another area of concern is purchase cost, not unique to EV buyers.  Unlike many other states, Hawaii does not provide new EV owners with a tax credit on their new purchase. There are several bills in the works designed to address this deficiency that have been deferred to the state’s next legislature session.

 

PV to EV, Hawaii’s path to energy independence and sustainability

Hawaii faces the challenge of maintaining public, businesses, and legislature support in order for the state to succeed in achieving needed and transformative measures. There is growing public support for EV’s, which is understandable when you talk to Hawaii’s EV owners who praise their EV’s for handily demonstrating their ownership values: reliability, performance, and significant improvements from their previously owned ICE vehicles, in both lower operating and fuel costs. Lower fuel costs may vary depending where and what you plug your EVv into for a charge (to fuel it).  Near zero maintenance is often cited as an EV ownership benefit. No costly visits to the dealer for service and the elimination of gas station stops are EV ownership benefits which are hard to deny.

The greatest environmental benefits to society from statewide EV ownership come in combination with rooftop solar. This is truly a zero sum emissions benefit to both society and EV owners, and when electric transportation truly comes into its own; directly fueling from your car or truck from the Sun; PV to EV.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a garage and home equipped with both solar and an EV charging station.  And finding a working and convenient public charging station today in Hawaii is more a matter of luck than planning.

The statewide development of an EV charging infrastructure is essential to the growth and acceleration of what has been a slow climb to mass market acceptance and adoption of EV’s, certainly, beyond the niche role they presently play in Hawaii’s transportation mix.  Early adopters can carry this needed transformation only so far.  State and/or private sector stakeholders must participate in the development and operation of an a cost-effective and convenient EV charging infrastructure, island-by-island designed to serve all of Hawaii.

Necessity has been called the mother of invention.  Hawaii’s state government may not or will not fund the needed charging infrastructure build out to fully transform the state’s transportation off its current Heco Ev Planfossil fuel dependencies. So it becomes essential that a market transition of this magnitude go beyond the current and proverbial cart and horse discussion of policy, into an execution stage.

HECO, the state’s largest electricity retailer has been readying itself for some time now, with a PUC push, to be one of several possible candidates that will build and manage a statewide charging infrastructure, and within the utility’s island-specific service territories.

There are also companies which specialize in building and servicing public EV charging systems on a grand scale, some examples include:

ChargePoint – previously called Coulomb Technologies – claims to manage the world’s largest network of electric vehicle charging points.

ABB — leading supplier of “downstream” solar and other power equipment components recently unveiled a range of charging solutions for fast charging of buses and cars.

EVgo — operates one of the largest network of public electric fast-charging stations in the US.

From Hawaii to California to Europe there are companies ready to step in and fulfill Hawaii’s EV charging infrastructure requirements.

 

Electric Vehicles – the tip of the spear

It’s estimated that there are more than 1 billion cars on the world’s roads. Of these, around 2 to 3 million are pure battery-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which further forecasts that there will be 300-400 million EVs on the road, of the approximately 2 billion vehicles projected by 2040. Proportionately, that is about 2% of the vehicles will all-electric and plug-in models.

The IEA is notorious for under-counting the EV market potential, understandable considering the organization’s fossil fuel funding roots. By IEA’s calculation, in 20 years Hawaii’s fleet of electric vehicles will eventually reach only 2% of registered cars and trucks.   Last year, the state’s 2019 EV registrations had reached 1% of all registered vehicles, and that number is projected to more than double in the next 3-5 years, and not take another 20 years as IEA has projected.

COVID-19 has presented many new near term challenges and economic priorities for the state which the private sector and the general public must now address these new and unexpected challenges. The long held policy objectives that will ensure Hawaii’s sustainability and lessening its imported energy dependency connected to a fragile supply chain must proceed, but at a faster pace.

If the current pandemic has demonstrated anything, it is that our business-as-usual assumptions are false. The state’s long held sustainability and self-sufficiency goals, plans, and objectives, once considered farsighted, are now essential to Hawaii’s future.

 

 

 

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HECO in the Spotlight – Part 2

Struck between Shareholder Priorities, Customer Priorities, and States Mandates – HECO is adrift…

Investor-owned utilities (IOUs), as is the case with HECO, are the old-school, for-profit, regulated-monopoly utilities, with a captive customer base and profits guaranteed by law.  Yet, Hawaii’s 2045 clean energy (RPS) mandate requires HECO to institute operating reforms that must, first and foremost, address needed changes without endangering the stability or economic efficiency of Hawaii’s electricity system.

IOUs like HECO, were also the driving force behind their successful drive to slow-to-a-crawl the nationwide expansion of residential and business installed rooftop solar and their independent clean power contributions to the grid.   A strange paradox for utilities like HECO who viewed this subset of utility customers with solar installed as competitors. (for more on this see “HECO in the Spotlight – Part 1”)

Hawaii’s island-based electricity systems are most likely too small to host competing same-island utilities, but not the robust expansion of distributed clean energy options in the form of residential and commercial rooftop solar and storage.

Last week Bloomberg reported that activist investor ValueAct Capital Management (a San Francisco based hedge fund and investor in HECO, is urging that the company to look outside for a replacement and successor to HECO’s current Chief Executive Officer Constance Lau, and one that will lead the utility on path that accelerates its renewable energy goals.  Something the utility has failed to do, and 100% statewide renewable energy objective, and the clock is running down out fast… for Hawaii and HECO.Heco Utilities

 

“The company (HECO) is at an inflection point where management can be driven either by more of the same inertia or, alternatively, by innovative, forward-looking thinking and action,” ValueAct Chief Executive Officer Jeff Ubben said in a letter to the company dated Nov. 11.  “I firmly believe the best candidate for this crucial leadership role will be found outside of the company. The problem starts at the top, Hawaiian Electric Industries executives and its board leadership have been richly rewarded for lackluster performance.” Ubben said.

Ubben said at the time that ValueAct planned to push the utility to accelerate its use of renewable energy, among other changes. He said in the letter this month that he was encouraged by the utility adding three new directors to its board in February. But was disappointed that two of them, renewable energy veterans Mary Powell and Celeste Connors, weren’t assigned to any board committees, and he believes the entrenched leadership style and culture at Hawaiian Electric holds the company and Hawaii back from realizing its full potential.

ValueAct correctly observed that HECO remains far too reliant on imported oil, which is used to produce 63% of its electricity, leading to higher rates for its customers. Also a far distance from reaching its 100% renewable energy mandate in the 20 plus years.

HECO and other investor-owned and regulated electric utilities continue to go back to well, a deep one, managed by Public Utility Commissions across the country. PUC’s generally engage in rate-making (raising the cost of power to ratepayers) in a process that requires utilities to:

1) estimate how much power their customers will need;

2) estimate the investments they’ll need to make in power plants, fuel, transmission lines, etc. in order to meet that demand;

3) estimate what rate they need to charge customers to cover those investments and offer a reasonable “rate of return” to their investors;

4) make a “rate case” justifying the rate increase; and

5) if the PUC signs off, the Utility is free to charge is customers the new rate increase, and until the next time when they make their case for another rate increase.

Hawaiian residents have paid 280% more for electricity per kilowatt hour than the U.S. average over the past 10 years. HECO recently filed with Hawaii’s PUC regulators for another rate increase.  It is more than the retail cost of energy that brothers many of Hawaii’s residents footing the bill for HECO’s slow-motion dance to clean energy, it’s what HECO does with all those ratepayers dollars (pollute or protect Hawaii’s environment) that also matters to the state’s future and to all Hawaii stakeholders.

Sunset Of Fossil Fuels

The real question is just what form should HECO’s electrical system take to best meet the challenges of the state Renewal Portfolio Standards and it’s 100% renewable energy deadline by 2045.  If recent history is any indicator, the utility will be late and short on their regulatory commitment to Hawaii’s residents, and at a cost to ratepayer that is higher than necessary (e.g. HELCO – Hu Honua power purchase agreement).

“The company is at an inflection point where management can be driven either by more of the same inertia or, alternatively, by innovative, forward-looking thinking and action,” ValueAct Chief Executive Officer Jeff Ubben said in a letter to the company dated Nov. 11.  “I firmly believe the best candidate for this crucial leadership role will be found outside of the company. The problem starts at the top, Hawaiian Electric Industries executives and its board leadership have been richly rewarded for lackluster performance.” Ubben said.

HECO and other investor-owned and regulated electric utilities continue to go back to well, a deep one comprised of ratepayers and managed by PUC’s across the country.

Like any business, utilities must justify their product cost to their target customers, and in the case of regulated utilities like HECO they also engage in rate-making processes before their governing public utility commission (PUC) that includes:

1) estimating how much power their customers will need;

2) estimating the investments they’ll need to make in power plants, fuel, transmission lines, etc. in order to meet that demand;

3) estimating what rate they need to charge customers to cover those investments and offer a reasonable “rate of return” to their investors;

4) then, they go to the state public utility commission (PUC) to make a “rate case” justifying the rate;

5) if the PUC signs off, the Utility is free to charge is customers the new rate increase, and until the next time when they make their case for another rate increase.

Hawaiian residents have paid 280% more for electricity per kilowatt hour than the U.S. average over the past 10 years. HECO recently filed with Hawaii’s PUC regulators for another rate increase.  

It is more than the rising cost of energy that concerns Hawaii’s residents, it’s footing the bill for HECO’s slow-motion dance to clean energy while subsidizing high imported fossil fuel costs to power HECO’s grid. And the there is the question of what HECO does with all those ratepayers dollars; pollute or protect Hawaii’s environment. That too matters to the state’s future and to all Hawaii stakeholders.

Another possibility, and one seriously considered during the height of the NextEra takeover controversy, is the transformation of HECO from a privately owned utility to a municipality or electricity cooperative, possible one that is better aligned with the state’s clean energy objectives and that of the public interest – an option with the potential to work well for Hawaii (e.g. Kauai’s KIUC). If Maui’s electric utility cooperative and its advance state of renewable energy deployment and utility scale battery storage is any indication, then the transformation of HECO from a privately owned utility to a municipality or electricity cooperative appears better aligned with the state’s clean energy objectives and that of the public interest.

In decision time line more analogous to wrap speed, as compared to HECO horse and buggy decision cycles, Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA) engaged in a groundbreaking event in November for the “Florida Municipal Solar Project”, a large-scale solar energy project that will enable KUA to provide renewable energy to its customers beginning next summer– a six month timeline from groundbreaking to clean power being delivered to Florida residents.

The Project is one of the largest municipally-backed solar projects in the United States, and is a joint effort between KUA and 11 other Florida municipal electric utilities, the Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) and Florida Renewable Partners, LLC.  A total of 900,000 solar panels will be installed at two sites in Osceola County and at one site in Orange County — enough solar panels to fill 900 football fields and with a  total generating capability will be 223.5 megawatts of zero-emissions solar energy; enough to power 45,000 typical Florida homes.

The question remains… what form should HECO’s electrical system take to best meet Hawaii’s Renewal Portfolio Standards and 100% renewable energy deadline by 2045.  If recent history is any indicator, the utility will be late, and will be short on their regulatory commitment to Hawaii’s residents, and likely at a cost to ratepayers that is far greater than necessary.


Headline Update

“Scott Seu, a senior vice president at Hawaiian Electric Company, will succeed Alan Oshima as president and chief executive officer of the company effective in the first quarter of 2020.” Hawaiian Electric Press Release, December 10, 2019.

…In December 2006 Scott Seu testified as a HECO witness before the Public Utilities Commission:

“Q. Do they believe that climate change is occurring?   A. I — I don’t know off the top of my head…”

By Seu’s answer in 2006, you’d think his answer was from 1986, not 2006. Seu may be good for shareholder interests, until those interests have opportunity costs for both HEI and the state of Hawaii in the form of higher energy costs and lost opportunities to transform the company into a clean energy provider instead of remaining a fossil fuel retailer of dirty energy between now and 2045.

William Giese, executive director of the Hawaiian Solar Energy Association, said he hopes Seu can help HECO embrace changes better than it has so far.

“My quick reaction is that Scott is a nice guy, and it seems like he’s competent,” Giese said. “But he’s also been at HECO for a long time, so hopefully he can shake the chains of institutional bias that have been at HECO for a while.”

 

 

Heco Logo

HECO in the Spotlight – Part 1

Hawaii Electric is the state’s 10th largest employer, employing over 2,700.  Operating as the states’ only power monopoly Hawaiian Electric companies (HECO) include Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light.

The company is use to getting its way.  Under HECO’s power stewardship, Hawaii has the highest residential electricity prices in the United States, averaging more than twice the national average.  To put it another way, even though Hawaii residents consume the least electricity in the country we pay the highest electricity bills. On average over the last 10 years, $7,500 more than the rest of the country. (ValueAct Capital 2019 report)

Altogether, HECO islands’ utilities provide electricity to 95% of residents of the State of Hawaii, operating independent and isolated power grids on the islands of Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Hawaii Island. The company claims a customer base of 462,225 commercial and residential customers – impressive with Hawaii’s population of 1.3 million people.

In 2008, the state of Hawai‘i signed a memorandum of understanding with the federal Department of Energy laying the foundation for a 100% renewable energy (electricity) goal to be fully implemented by 2045.  HECO was there echoing the then governor’s vision for this historic agreement, “On behalf of the people of
Hawaii, we believe that the future of Hawaii requires that we move decisively and irreversibly away from imported fossil fuel for electricity . . . and towards
indigenously (locally) produced renewable energy…”

Fast forward and a decade later and where is HECO today?

Over the last decade the state has seen a series of clean energy failures from Hawaiian Electric, including its early biofuel-led approach to the renewable energy transformation, the failure of the 400 MW “Big Wind” plan, the failure of ten of the eleven wind and solar projects competitively selected in 2013, the collapse of the rooftop solar industry, in no small part is due to HECO’s lobbying before the state PUC. The objective was simple enough, kill Hawaii’s highly successful NEM (Net Energy Metering) program, the same one that ushered in the state’s transition to a clean energySolar Vs Roof Top Solar economy.

Following a national trend, HECO and other electric utilities wielded their political muscle to reduce and eliminate compensation to customers providing electricity back into the grid.  HECO engaged in a analytical paralysis in its effort to develop a response plan to state RPS mandates in the form of a five-year resource planning effort which ended without a firm commitment by HECO and road map for outlining the utility’s clean energy transition.

“…Hawaii continues to enjoy something of an unexamined national reputation as an electricity-policy innovator, but Hawaii has not yet made good on its ambition to lead a clean-energy revolution of global significance.” (National Renewable Energy Lab 2019 report: Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative 2008–2018)

Energy experts – outside the utility wheelhouse – argue that the one-size-fits-all utility performance-based operating model and associated rate schemes now being considered by Hawaii and other PUCs around the country will fail.  The struggle with “performance measured” utility operating models is pretty basic: it’s one thing to measure performance, it’s another to develop a compensation formula that fully factors in all contributing parties working together on a path to a 100% clean energy economy.

These same energy experts also argue that utility compensation and rate schemes designed to address a rapidly changing energy marketplace are unlikely to achieved their intended goals.  Today’s utility operating model requires greater flexibility, it must be cost effective and accountable, and open to multiple and distributed clean energy generation sources connected to the grid. Equally important, it must include a fair compensation plan for all clean energy contributing parties that power the grid.

The Electricity (Supply) Act of 1926 led to the setting up of the National Grid.  So why mess with a working and nearly one hundred year old national power formula which established power monopolies designed to serve as exclusive retailers of electricity operating within exclusive service regions?

As with most historically designed and centralized power generation systems connected by long distance power grids, the core engineering constraint (requirement) are systems designed to match  the need of instantaneously electricity demand (“load”) to electricity generation, aka load balancing of power, that is centrally controlled.  So long as HECO could operate under historic business and technical models of business-as-usual, and serving as its own exclusive power supplier, all was fine.  When you need more money, you have the power and the public needs that power. So you go to the PUC and you generally get what you ask for — rate increases.  Its much easier to raise ratepayer dollars than it is to raise venture capital or go to the banks.  If you fail or succeed has little consequence to raising more capital through higher customer power rates; operating costs and profits are subsidized by ratepayers.

Rather its shareholders, not utility customers, who are the top priority of privately held utilities with ratepayers subsidizing shareholder  dividends – the primary Wall Street measurement of a company’s performance and shareholder value for publicly traded utilities.

Net Metering and Rooftop solar

That all changed when low-cost roof top solar arrived on the energy stage, and utility scale wind, solar, and storage options proved more cost effective than traditional polluting fossil-fueled power stations.  For utilities looking backwards, the overall consideration off operating in mode that is much kinder to the environment is generally not a priority, unless they are forced to address head-on their contribution to an emerging global climate crisis as part of their energy equation.Net Metering

Net Energy Metering (NEM) can be understood as the twenty-first century, distributed power generation system.

NEM gave rise to Hawaii’s rooftop solar industry, which installed more than 500 MW of renewable capacity in Hawaii over the last decade, increasing renewables’ share of total generation by 8 percent. According to HECO, over 60,000 customers have installed solar systems under the successful NEM program within the Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, and Hawaii Electric Light service territories.

With NEM, rooftop solar equipment can be sized to produce more (limited to 10 KW) than the customers need during the daytime, generating a bill credit that zeroes out the monthly utility bills (minus HECO’s $25 monthly flat fee for a grid connection).

The capital cost of NEM rooftop solar systems, with a projected life 25 years or more, can be recovered in a few years of operation, with ongoing utility power costs savings costs in what otherwise would have been power consumption costs to meet both day and night electricity demands. For that reason, NEM played a key role in the success of the rooftop solar industry in Hawaii and nationwide, but no more.

Utilities fought NEM from the start, their primary NEM target was the customer power rates that the utility was forced to credit back pay to this new category of utility customer. Within the industry called “prosumers”, but in fact, utilities viewing this special class of customer as … a competitor.

Nationwide in NEM markets, utilities engaged in one-sided and coordinated industry arguments before their governing PUC, and Hawaii was no different.  If they couldn’t completely dismantle the NEM program in their market (as was the case Hawaii), their backup strategy was to proposed that rooftop solar owners be only credited for the solar energy provided back to the grid at a credit equal to wholesale power rates. In effect, a instead of fair dollar-for-dollar exchange of power; in which both parties to the NEM program (the utility customer and the utility) each invested in their own power production systems, the utility sells at retail power rates and the customers sells at wholesale power rates back; creating a complete uneven playing field favoring utilities.

Rooftop Solar Labor

In the death of Hawaii’s original NEM program for which HECO argued before the PUC, the utility naturally failed to point out the capital cost investment by utility customers in their rooftop solar systems and the renewable energy cost off-sets benefits to HECO shareholders for this efficient clean power contribution — yielding environmental, social, and regulatory clean-power cost offset benefits to HECO, lowering utility cap-x and fuel costs, and by extension lowering HECO costs to non-NEM utility customers.

Hawaii’s then PUC board bought HECO’s arguments hook, line, and sinker.  Ending a program, by any measurement that benefited power consumers, the state’s clean energy transition objectives goals, and contributed to HECO’s meeting its 2045 statewide RPS obligations

After Hawaii’s PUC ended the highly successful “original” NEM rooftop solar program in 2015, a year later the Business Journal reported that the majority of Hawaii solar energy firms reporting significant job losses, once driven to record growth levels in rooftop solar installations across the state.

Today, the collapse of Hawaii’s once robust solar industry has been cut half, losing more than 50% of local (high paying) jobs from the industry’s high water mark in 2012 — mostly, directly attributed to the loss of the state’s original NEM program.

As renewable generation increasingly displaces fossil-fueled generation, the HECO Companies are increasingly planning to supplement this traditional power generation and power delivery formula with batteries, demand response, and dispatchable intermittent renewable facilities.

Tesla Powerweall Insllation

In the meantime, technology and power consumer options continue to expand, the clean power marketplace continues to surpass HECO’s management timelines for reform, and its heavy resilience on imported dirty energy to fuel its power plant investments or a genuine grid transition to clean energy.

Once considered a far future opportunity for advancing the future of state’s clean energy goals, residential battery storage systems are now beginning to provide Hawaii’s flagging solar industry a needed breath of life.  This nascent solar revival now needs reforms in regulations that match customer power storage technology opportunities and options — now readily available to Hawaii’s residents and businesses seeking power security in an uncertain power climate.

The missing piece Hawaii’s promise for clean energy independence is the removal current regulatory barriers to wide scale adoption of solar plus storage – barriers designed by HECO to do just that.

The PUC may discover, with little effort or regulatory wrangling, that enabling distributed storage and distributed solar to be an effective way for to achieve its Hawaii’s 2045 100% renewable energy goals, with HECO full and enabling cooperation. Certainly not the NEM replacement regulations now in effect that establish walls, not bridges to clean energy innovation — and regulations that do not rely in HECO’s permission to proceed with residential and business battery systems that sit behind the utility’s meter.

A coordinated statewide path to clean energy independence

Both the state’s PUC and HECO have yet to realize that rooftop solar plus batteries could also address HECO’s current power management deficiencies with their grid in accepting added solar customers, and re-open the economic benefits of a renewed statewide transition to roof top solar — without delay and unnecessary cost barriers.