Blue Planet Statement regarding Hawaiian Electric Companies' power supply and distributed generation plans
HONOLULU—Blue Planet Foundation is reviewing the Power Supply Improvement Plans, Distributed Generation Interconnection Plan, and integrated interconnection queue proposal filed on Aug. 26 by the Hawaiian Electric Companies. The plans were submitted within the 120-day deadline set by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.
“Customers will be happy to see that the Hawaiian Electric Companies agree that electric bills can be lowered in the long term by using more local renewable energy with a known cost, and using less fossil fuel, whose volatile costs are responsible for today’s high electric prices,” said Blue Planet Foundation CEO Jeff Mikulina. “But at the same time, we hope to see more of an emphasis on a modern utility that provides new value to customers by diversifying its business model beyond selling electricity.”
Blue Planet was anticipating seeing a greater focus on business transformation in the utility’s filings. “For example, can the utility help customers get electric vehicles, lowering their commuting costs?” Mikulina asked. “Can the utility help renters and condo owners access clean power with community solar programs? By delivering services like these, the utility could engineer a win-win, because these same services will simultaneously improve the grid for everyone.”
Blue Planet was concerned about the Hawaiian Electric’s primary focus on imported liquefied natural gas—particularly while limiting the amount of indigenous renewable energy. “Do we simply want to switch from one imported fossil fuel to another? Who should bear the economic and environmental risks of that decision?” Mikulina continued.
After an initial review, Blue Planet Foundation is encouraged by Hawaiian Electric’s expedient work in assembling plans that begin to take a more realistic look at the benefits of renewable energy. Blue Planet is also encouraged that Hawaiian Electric is pursuing retirement of some of their oldest, largest generating facilities.
Blue Planet Foundation will apply to intervene in the PUC docket proceedings to formally review the utility’s plans. The plans are expected to undergo intense scrutiny from a wide range of industry and community stakeholders, and shareholders and analysts will also pay close attention to the docket proceedings and outcomes. By helping to convene technical experts to review the details and propose modifications, Blue Planet Foundation hopes to continue its work in advocating for ratepayers to benefit from clean local power.
A key component of this review will be making sure that the plans’ choices today won’t limit customers’ options tomorrow. Mikulina pointed out, “In 2008 the utility planned for 23 megawatts of rooftop solar power on Oahu by 2015. But better solar technology and lower prices allowed us to beat that estimate nearly ten times over, with around 200 megawatts today.” Mikulina fears that by focusing so heavily on liquefied natural gas—and the hundreds of millions of dollars it will take to import the fuel and buy equipment to burn it—the plans might steer us into the same trap once again. “We cannot afford to underestimate the power of new technologies for non-fossil fuel strategies like energy storage, renewable power, and customer demand response.”