Gov. David Inge (D) has signed a bill to make Hawaii the first U.S. state to commit to generating 100% of its power from renewable sources. The June 17 action to reach the goal by 2045 follows by days NextEra Energy shareholder approval to acquire Hawaiian Electric Industries.
Florida-based NextEra is the largest U.S. solar energy developer. The firm says the $4.3-billion deal, which still needs state regulators' approval, would provide the utility with resources and access to expertise to meet the standard. "As the most oil-dependent state in the nation, Hawaii spends roughly $5 billion a year on foreign oil to meet its energy needs," Inge said in a statement.
The state's generation fleet is primarily oil-fired. Hawaii has been shifting to cleaner energy sources since it signed a pact with the U.S. Energy Dept. in 2008. Hawaiian Electric filed plans last August with regulators that set a goal of 65% by 2030. The utility exceeded its 15% renewables goal for 2015; it now has 413 MW of solar generation and 202 MW of wind generation installed across the islands, says a utility spokesman.
Reaching the goal will require a diverse portfolio of renewable resources and strong upgrades to the grid, says Alan Oshima, Hawaiian Electric CEO. Among the projects launched to help reach the goal is a proposal to build 200 MW of large-scale solar farms; that proposal is now before regulators for review. T
he utility plans to triple the amount of distributed generation on the grid by 2030, says the spokesman. The company also is pursuing customer-sited and utility-scale energy storage and has solicited proposals from developers.
The law includes a caveat: The renewables goal extension—beyond 2030—must not induce developers to artificially increase the price of renewable energy in Hawaii. "Raising the bar for renewable energy in Hawaii also will push the state to stay out in front on innovation," Mark Glick, administrator of the state's energy office, said in a statement. Hawaiian Electric plans to use LNG as a bridge fuel until it incorporates more renewables into the system, it says.