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Hawaiian Electric Companies achieve 27 percent renewable energy in 2018 despite loss of geothermal

In late February, Hawaiian Electric Companies announced that they have achieved a consolidated 27 percent renewable portfolio standard in 2018, even with the loss of Hawaii Island’s geothermal resource for most of the year following the Kilauea volcanic eruption. Hawaii has a goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

The 2018 consolidated renewable portfolio standard (RPS) remained the same percentage as it was in 2017, at 27 percent. The consolidated number would have been 29 percent had Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) produced at the same level as 2017.

Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light are on their way to achieving the next mandated RPS milestone, 30 percent by 2020. The 27 percent RPS is up from just 9 percent a decade ago. The companies’ annual use of fossil fuels has declined by 88 million gallons over the past 10 years, about 19 percent.

A utility’s RPS represents the renewable energy used by customers as a percentage of total utility sales. Hawaii Electric Light, with the mix of geothermal (through May 2018), solar, wind and hydroelectricity, was at 44 percent, down from 57 percent in 2017; it would have reached 64 percent if PGV was online for the full year. Maui Electric recorded 38 percent, up from 34 percent in 2017, and Oahu was at 22 percent, up from 21 percent the previous year.

The companies also track the peak renewable energy production for the year. These peaks are typically achieved on sunny, windy days when demand for electricity is low and renewable production is high. The peak on Hawaii Island was reached on April 14, 2018, when 79 percent of electricity demand was met by renewables. The peak was 80 percent on Maui on April 14, 2018, and 58 percent was achieved on May 19, 2018, on Oahu.

Two projects – Kuia Solar and South Maui Renewable Resources – came online on Maui last year, the island’s first grid-scale solar arrays. On Molokai, regulators approved the island’s first large-scale solar-plus-storage renewable project, Molokai New Energy Partners.

On Oahu, the 20-MW West Loch Solar facility in Ewa will come online this year, as will three Clearway Energy solar facilities totaling 110 MW. Power purchase agreements for seven solar-plus-storage facilities on Oahu, Hawaii Island and Maui were filed in 2018 with regulators, laying the foundation for the largest surge in renewable energy in state history.

By 2022, there will be more than 4.4 million solar panels delivering energy to the grid, according to the companies.