Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hawaii Clean Energy: Part 1 -- Goals and Reality

Hawaii's past history for electricity generation does not bode well for its "clean energy" goals.

Hawaii has a goal of reaching 40% renewable energy by 2040.
Possible? Yes! Probable? Definitely not!

Here is why, based on our past history as documented in DBEDT statistics.
I used 1993 as the reference year because in 1993 three large energy projects came online: Two on Oahu, the AES coal plant and the H-Power plant, and one on the Big Island, the Puna Geothermal Venture plant.

As a result of these large new power plant investments, oil consumption in 1993 dropped by 11.5% compared to 1992. Ten years later, in 2002 Hawaii was back at the 1992 level of oil consumption for electricity generation!

DBEDT statistics I could find had 2008 as the most recent year in the data series, so I used the 1993 to 2008 period and estimated that Hawaii energy needs increased by 12.75%. I assumed that this will be the growth of demand for electricity for 2025.

I also assumed that:
(1) Both oil and coal consumption will stay constant at the 2008 level.
(2) Covanta will successfully bring online a third "boiler" and increase power production by 50%, by expanding from 2 boilers to 3 boilers.
(3) Hydroelectric power will stay constant.

Based on these assumptions, all the additional energy will need to be produced from renewable energy sources. How much renewable energy does Hawaii need to add compared to its 2008 renewable power plant set?
  • 300% increase in geothermal
  • 300% increase in wind
  • 300% increase in biomass, and
  • 1,000% increase in solar
[Note: these are numerical examples of renewable energy shares that may satisfy Hawaii's electricity needs in 2025. These shares of renewable sources of electric power are not a recommended strategy for Hawaii.]

All these investments in renewable energy are only sufficient for keeping the oil and coal "dependency" constant at 2008 levels.

If these investments were to be executed in the next 14 years, Hawaii's renewable attainment will be 19.8% in 2025.

The pie-in-the-sky state goal calls for 33% renewable electricity generation by 2025. My 19.8% estimate is optimistic: If by 2025 Oahu has a working rail system and several thousand electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, they will require much more electric power than the amount I used for my estimations of Hawaii's 2025 power needs. As a result, the renewable energy attainment will be lower than 19.8%.

It is critically important for Hawaii to (1) set realistic goals, and (2) ensure that the right types and technologies of clean and renewable energy are installed.

This article in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald contains some of my views on energy for Hawaii.