In 2015, Hawaii became the first US state to mandate a full transition to renewable energy by 2045 as Governor David Ige signed legislation to that effect. As a result, the island of Oahu which gets 16 percent of its electricity from a 180 megawatt coal-fired power plant has received its last coal shipment. Its only remaining coal plant will be retired on September 1 because of a state ban on coal. The coal plant supplies about one-tenth of Oahu’s power and there is no ready replacement for its energy. In its place a 185 megawatt battery, called the Kapolei Energy Storage Facility, is supposed to supply the power that the island needs. However, because there is not enough intermittent solar and wind power to replace the generation from the coal plant with excess renewable power to charge the storage battery, the utility will have to use oil-fired generation to charge the Kapolei Energy Storage Facility. Oil is a very expensive source of electricity generation.
Renewable energy projects have had a number of problems, including delays in getting parts and solar panels. The Pacific Business News reported in March that these delays “will leave Oahu with a very tight fuel reserve margin, opening up the possibility of rolling blackouts in the event of failure.” The electric utility, Hawaiian Electric, has indicated that it would not be able to meet its year-two renewable target (75 percent) for “more than a decade.” Further, trading coal for oil will result in far more expensive electricity.
In the meantime, consumers can either conserve power, try rooftop solar and home batteries, or pay more for oil-generated power — which costs as much as five times more than coal. According to Hawaii Electric’s vice president Jim Kelly, “embracing the idea of conservation,” especially during peak hours is needed. “Between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., don’t be cranking on the air conditioner, taking long showers, running the oven, or whatever else that requires electricity and water.” This project is an example of what can happen when central planners are given power over energy affordability and security.
Hawaii Following in Europe’s Footsteps
As KHON2’s Always Investigating reports, replacement power projects are behind schedule due to unexpected global events with supply chain issues. In other words, Europe’s catastrophic experience with the “green transition” where an entire continent moved to “energy alternatives” some 30 years before it was ready to replace fossil fuels, has found a home in at least one American state. Europe, however, is taking some steps to make changes, particularly in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Belgium has reversed plans to retire nuclear power plants, and Germany, having ruled out such a possibility in June, is now considering it as well. But, even before the invasion started, the European Union had increased its coal generation by 19 percent as energy prices skyrocketed due to low wind resources and less natural gas coming from Russia.
Further actions taken by EU countries include the European Union approving a request that member states reduce gas consumption by 15 percent in August— a request that several initially balked at. In Spain, the government announced restrictions on commercial air-conditioning, which may not be set below 27 degrees Celsius, or about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In France, “urban guerrillas” are taking to the streets, shutting off storefront lights to reduce energy consumption. In the Netherlands a campaign called Flip the Switch is asking residents to limit showers to five minutes and to drop air-conditioning and clothes dryers entirely.
U.S. Electric Generation
Because of its expense, less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity is generated in the United States from oil. Sixty percent of U.S. electricity is generated from coal and natural gas, which are much more affordable than oil generated electricity. In 2021, coal generated 22 percent of U.S. electricity and natural gas generated 38 percent. Nuclear power and renewable energy, including hydroelectricity, each represented about 20 percent with wind and solar combined at 12 percent.
Hawaii, like Europe, is forcing the transition to renewable energy through government fiat, resulting in energy insecurity and higher prices for consumers. Clumsy attempts to ignore market realities in lieu of government force often result in effects that are the opposite of what was intended. Hawaii thought it was going to get cleaner energy from wind and solar power, when in reality, it is trading one fossil fuel for a more expensive one—at least for the time being.
This is also what the Biden administration is doing. Biden wants to do away with all fossil energy regardless of whether the “clean” technologies to replace the fossil technologies are available and without worrying about escalating energy prices for consumers. Biden no longer needs to look at Europe for an example. He can look in his own back yard at Hawaii to see what poor energy policy does to its people.