Maui News

Hawaiian Electric Striving for 70% Carbon Reduction by 2030, Zero Emissions by 2045

November 5, 2021, 11:56 AM HST
* Updated November 5, 11:57 AM
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Hawaiian Electric’s 2030 plan to cut carbon emissions by 70% from 2005 levels includes adding nearly 50,000 rooftop solar systems in the state. Photo courtesy: Hawaii Energy, Conservation and Efficiency Programs.

With the global urgency to slow climate change, Hawaiian Electric has set a goal by 2030 to cut carbon emissions from power generation 70% compared to 2005 levels, according to a company press release.

This effort would provide a  significant portion of the reduction the entire Hawai‘i economy needs to meet the US target of cutting carbon emissions by at least 50% economywide by 2030. The reduction includes generation owned by Hawaiian Electric and independent power producers who sell electricity to the utility. 

Hawaiian Electric also has committed to achieving net zero or net negative carbon emissions from power generation by 2045 or sooner, meaning that if there are any emissions, they will be captured or offset.  

Key elements of the 2030 plan include: 

  • Shutting down the state’s last coal plant in 2022 
  • Adding nearly 50,000 rooftop solar systems to the 90,000 now online 
  • Retiring at least 6 fossil-fueled generating units and significantly reducing the use of others as new renewable resources come online 
  • Adding renewable energy projects capable of generating a total of at least 1 gigawatt,  including shared solar (community-based renewable energy) 
  • Using more grid-scale and customer-owned energy storage 
  • Expanding geothermal resources 
  • Creating innovative programs that provide customers incentives for using clean, lower cost energy at certain times of the day and using less fossil-fueled energy at night 

“The runway is getting shorter all the time,” said Scott Seu, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric. “The 2030 goal is a stretch for us, but we have to commit to bold actions in the next few years if we’re to have any hope of stalling climate change. We want to look back at this time and know we did all we could do to stop things from getting worse.” 

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Led by the 70% emission reduction in the electricity sector, the rest of the state economy – including transportation, agriculture, construction and industry – would still have to cut emissions by at least 40% by 2030 to stay on the path to meet the US target.

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The US commitment recently made at the COP26 climate conference in Scotland, along with commitments by  other nations, aims to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, avoiding some, but not all, of the threats posed by climate change.  

“Hawaiian Electric has a critical role in reducing carbon emissions this decade in Hawaiʻi, especially in transportation, so this new goal is significant,” said Gov. David Ige, who is attending the climate conference. “The COP26 meetings made absolutely clear that even though Hawai‘i has done a lot, we have to do even more. Working together, Hawai‘i can do its part to hit these targets. We are not willing to wait for the rest of the planet to do what we know is in our community’s best interest.” 

Melissa Miyashiro, executive  director of Blue Planet Foundation, said: “We have seen the power of setting a vision with Hawai‘i’s 100% renewable energy law, and today’s announcement levels up our collective responsibility to move at the pace and scale required to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Rapidly reducing carbon emissions in a way that allows our communities to thrive will take all of us. We hope Hawaiian Electric’s announcement will inspire businesses and leaders statewide to make similar bold commitments and work collaboratively to turn those commitments into real action.” 

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Hawaiian Electric’s forecast for the next nine years anticipates a steady pace of cost-effective renewable energy resources coming online to reduce the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity. 

By 2030, Hawaiian Electric’s renewable portfolio standard is expected to exceed 70%, with renewable resources available to provide close to 100% of the electricity generated on Hawai‘i Island and in Maui County.  

After 2030, progress on elimination of carbon from power generation assumes continued use of proven resources, including wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, biofuels and energy storage, along with the development of new technologies. 

Those may include offshore wind, green hydrogen, wave energy and carbon-capture – all  currently under development around the world – as well as other solutions that will emerge. A diverse portfolio of resources will also enhance resilience to climate-related events. 

“The climate change summit is a call to action to join with our children and grandchildren to care for island earth for future generations,” said Shelee Kimura, senior vice president of customer service and public affairs who will become president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric on Jan. 1,  2022. “The progress we make this decade will determine the kind of future we’re making for our families. This is a bold goal for all of Hawai‘i, not just Hawaiian Electric, but the good news is we’ve already made a strong start and this commitment moves us further on the path to  sustainability.” 

Achieving a 70% reduction in carbon emissions is especially challenging in Hawai‘i, which has fewer generation options than utilities that use nuclear, natural gas and large-scale hydropower. 

Hawai‘i also can’t import power from neighboring states. As Hawaiian Electric reduces its use of generators powered by imported fossil fuels, there’s still a need for generation resources available 24/7 to provide reliable, resilient energy.  

“In Hawai‘i, we can and should be utilizing nature-based solutions to tackle climate change,”  said Ulalia Woodside, executive director of The Nature Conservancy, Hawai‘i and Palmyra chapter. “It is absolutely right that Hawaiian Electric is looking at alternative energy sources. These efforts should be contemplated with strong and robust community input and consent, informed by the best science, and done in a way that preserves native habitats and species.” 

The Honolulu-based Institute for Climate and Peace also supports the Hawaiian Electric carbon emission commitment and the expansion of renewable energy resources. 

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