Energy in Hawaii

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Hawi wind farm near Hāwī, Hawai'i, the Big Island. The wind farm has 16 Vestas V47-660 kW wind turbines for a total nameplate capacity of 10.56 MW

Energy production in Hawaii is a difficult issue due to the islands' isolated location and lack of local resources. The state relies heavily on imports of petroleum and coal for power although recent initiatives have increased use of renewable resources.

Hawaii has by far the most expensive electricity prices in the United States. The average cost of electricity in the first nine months of 2012 was $0.34 per kilowatt-hour, more than double the cost in the next-highest state (New York: $0.16) and more than triple the US average of $0.10 per kilowatt-hour.[1]


In 2008 Hawaii's primary energy consumption by source was:

  • 85.0% petroleum, down from 99.7% in 1960
  • 7.1% coal
  • 0.1% natural gas
  • 7.8% renewable energy

In 2008, sources of renewable power were:

Renewable sources provided 10.5% of total electric power.[2] Hawaii ranked third among U.S. states in geothermal energy and seventh in distributed solar power.[3][4]

Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative[edit]

On January 28, 2008, the State of Hawaii and the US Department of Energy signed a memorandum of understanding [5] and announced the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, which has a goal to use renewable resources such as wind, sun, ocean, geothermal, and bioenergy to supply 70 percent or more of Hawaii's energy needs by 2030 and to reduce the state's dependence on imported oil.[6][7]

The Initiative's efforts will focus on working with public and private partners on several clean energy projects throughout the state including: designing cost-effective approaches for 100 percent use of renewable energy on smaller islands, designing systems to improve stability of electrical grids operating with variable generating sources, such as wind power plants on the Island of Hawaii and Maui, and expanding Hawaii's capability to use locally grown crops as byproducts for producing fuel and electricity.[8]

Public/Private Partners[edit]

Climate change and renewable energy[edit]


Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle has approved a number of energy-related bills to address climate change and promote local renewable energy production. The governor's energy bill-signing streak started in late April 2008 with the approval of House Bill 2502, which allows solar energy facilities to be located on less-productive agricultural lands, followed in late May by the approval of HB 3179, which makes it easier for biofuel producers to lease state lands. In the same time frame, the governor approved SB 2034, SB 3190, and HB 2168, which authorize special purpose revenue bonds to help finance a 2.7-megawatt wave energy facility off the coast of Maui, a solar energy facility on Oahu, and hydrogen generation and conversion facilities at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, located on the island of Hawaii.

Senate Bill 644, approved on June 26, 2008 prohibits the issuing of building permits for new homes without solar water heaters as of 2010. The bill excludes homes located in areas with poor solar energy resources, homes using other renewable energy sources, and homes employing on-demand gas-fired water heaters. The bill also eliminates solar thermal energy tax credits for those homes.

On June 6, 2008 the governor approved SB 988, which allows the Hawaii Public Utility Commission to establish a rebate for solar photovoltaic electric systems, and HB 2550, which encourages net metering for residential and small commercial customers.

On July 1, 2008 the governor approved the final three energy bills, including HB 2863, which provides streamlined permitting for new renewable energy facilities of at least 200 megawatts in capacity. HB 2505 creates a full-time renewable energy facilitator to help the state expedite those permits, while a third bill, HB 2261, will provide loans of up to $1.5 million and up to 85% of the cost of renewable energy projects at farms and aquaculture facilities.


A transition from fossil fuel vehicles to electric vehicles will enable Hawaii's transportation needs to be fueled with electricity generated from renewable energy and with biofuels.[9][10]

Coal phase out[edit]

Hawaii has banned new coal plants[11] beyond the only operating coal-fired power plant in the state, AES Hawaii Power Plant.[12]

Algae fuel[edit]

Main article: Algae fuel

Two companies and two Hawaiian electric utilities are teaming up to develop a commercial-scale microalgae facility on Maui for the production of biodiesel and other products.

HR BioPetroleum, Inc. and Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. announced in mid-July that they have signed a memorandum of understanding with Hawaiian Electric Company and Maui Electric Company to pursue the development of the algae farm, with HR BioPetroleum managing the overall project and Alexander & Baldwin providing land next to a Maui Electric power plant. The two utilities—both subsidiaries of Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc.—will help engineer piping to carry emissions from the neighboring power plant to the algae facility. The project is contingent upon a number of factors, including positive results from HR BioPetroleum's pilot-scale and demonstration-scale algae facilities.

If the project goes forward, the facility should begin operating in 2011. During operation, the algae will grow in the carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere of the power plant emissions, converting some of those emissions into algae. The oil will then be extracted from the algae, combined with local vegetable oils, and converted into biodiesel fuel. Microalgae have significant potential as an energy crop, with the levels of oil production per acre potentially far exceeding the levels found in vegetable oil crops. HR BioPetroleum is currently working with Royal Dutch Shell plc on a pilot facility to grow algae on land leased from the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, which is located on the west shore of the island of Hawaii. See the HR BioPetroleum press release and Web page on its joint venture with Shell.

See also[edit]