Hawaii utility leaders are confident they will reach their state government’s ambitious renewable energy goal, which is approaching in less than three decades.
“Lots of wind, lots of solar,” answered Connie Lau, the CEO of Hawaiian Electric Industries, when asked how her company will get to a 100 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2045. The leader of the state’s biggest electricity provider spoke to Cheddar, a financial news network, on Monday about how Hawaii plans to transition to renewable energy sources. “Right now we are at about 27 percent and our milestone under the Hawaii statute is 30 percent by 2020, and we are looking like we are going to make that.”
Hawaiian Electric Industries sets the standard for the island’s energy mix. It provides 95 percent of the state’s electricity through several of its utilities, including Hawaiian Electric Company and others. The company has been tasked with shifting dramatically to solar and wind sources ever since Democratic Gov. David Ige signed legislation in 2015 that mandates utilities generate 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 — the first state in the U.S. to enact such a standard.
Energy regulations in Hawaii — a Democratic stronghold — have only become more strict since then.
Ige signed three more comprehensive bills into law in 2018 that aim to combat climate change. The new laws also aim to make the state completely carbon neutral by 2045 — another first in the country. (RELATED: Hawaii Signs Laws To Be ‘Carbon Neutral’ In 27 Years)
Such a transition, however, will prove difficult for a state already plagued with the most expensive energy rates in the country. Hawaii is unique in that it does not benefit from many natural resources, and its great distance from the U.S. mainland makes the transportation of energy that much more expensive. Simply getting around the various islands is evidently a burden. The transportation sector makes up over half of all of Hawaii’s energy consumption, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Along with an attempt to making the islands less dependent on energy imports, leaders are embracing such reforms as a means to combat climate change.
“We know that we live in a very, very special place that we’ve got to take care of,” Lau said. “It’s also kind’ve the place where you can see where the impacts of climate change really could impact Hawaii with rising seas and everything else.”
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