Storage is Key to Hawaii’s Energy Independence

The Energy Storage North America (ESNA) Expo and Conference in San Jose was the largest gathering of energy storage leaders, government officials and utilities addressing grid-connected energy storage. I was one of the invited keynote panelists, along with PUC Commissioner Lorraine Akiba, Hawaiian Electric VP Colton Ching, and moderator, Leslie Cole Brooks, Executive Director of Hawaii Solar Energy Association. The room was filled as we discussed the role of energy storage in achieving Hawaii’s Clean Energy Initiative.

The first point to make is that energy storage is a mature, commercially available technology in use nationally and internationally. Check out Germany to see how its leading this revolution. The second point to make is that Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) has known about this technology for some time and only recently put out a request for energy storage proposals.

As I explained to the 1500 plus ESNA attendees, HECO halted all photovoltaic (PV) hook-ups on Oahu a year ago, leaving 4,500 residential customers stranded. With the federal tax credit expiring the end of 2016, and an additional more thousands of residents also wanting to install PV before that deadline, HECO has prevented our local families from taking control over their energy production and reducing monthly utility bills.

Setting a road map for Hawaii, the state of California through AB 2514 created energy storage targets, a step yet to be enacted by the Hawaii Legislature. (SB 2932 stalled in Conference Committee. The bill would have established energy storage portfolio standards.) HECO’s moratorium on PV and its delay in integrating available energy storage shows the company still relies upon its antiquated road map which uses the Model-T instead of the Tesla. Using the most fossil fuel of any state in the nation, importing this oil from foreign countries and exporting billions out of Hawaii’s economy, is an outmoded, ill-conceived corporate plan that needs to change.

ESNA did provide hope for the 4,500 and counting families in the HECO queue and shows a sound course for the future. Energy storage provides an immediate solution to HECO’s grid stability, allowing it to accept more renewable energy power. HECO can, if willing, integrate storage, and partner with residents as they obtain power from Hawaii’s natural resources.

Another immediate solution is for HECO to honor its commitment made at the recent Legislative hearing [Star Advertiser 9/20/14] and let residential customers hook up PV systems in “three weeks” as promised by Jim Alberts, Executive VP, if these systems do not export power to the grid.

In the alternative, residential-sized battery systems, about the size of a broom closet, coupled with PV even now can deliver and store adequate power for homes, enabling residents to leave HECO and the grid. Battery storage and PV companies together will be able to empower residents to switch their energy production into the hands of their household at more affordable cost.

This day is coming faster than HECO anticipates. The global investment bank, HSBC, states in its analysis—Energy Storage, Power to the People: “conventional energy generators will be the biggest losers from the upcoming energy storage boom….” Instead of depending on HECO’s century old telephone-pole electric grid to deliver power to homes, local families will shortly be able to install stand-alone affordable battery storage systems with their PV and reduce costs in the process.

HECO either can choose the Tesla model or cling to its century old fossil fuel plan. Its decision will determine if the utility can survive.

2014 End Of Session Legislative Report

Every year, Rep. Thielen sends her constituents a detailed Legislative Report as a wrap up to the legislative session.  This year’s report, which contains legislative “Winners & Losers” can be found here.

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Historic Hemp Bill Signed in Hawaii

Legislators from both the House and Senate met in the Govenor's office to officially sign the "hemp bill" into law.

History was made in Hawaii on April 30, 2014 when Governor Abercrombie signed into law Act 56, which provides for the University of Hawai’i at Manoa to conduct an industrial hemp research project. With over 25,000 uses, this non-hallucinogenic agricultural crop can be used to for everything from clothing to building products. Billions of dollars of […]

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HECO’s outdated business model slows Hawaii’s move to clean energy

(The following Guest Editorial by Rep. Thielen appeared in  Pacific Business News in April, 2014) Hawaiian Electric Company is a speed bump on Hawaii’s road to powering with 100 percent green energy by 2050. In September 2013, HECO put on the brakes by implementing a new solar integration policy requiring its approval before customers install PV systems. […]

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Kawainui Marsh Master Plan Update

We just received an update from Hawaii State Department of Land & Natural Resources on the Kawainui Marsh Master Plan.  According to the letter, a draft master plan report will be released to the public for review on May 16, 2014, and there will be a 30-day comment period on that draft.  The letter also said that […]

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Rah for the 2014 Legislative Roadshow!

Rep.  Thielen explains how government works to Kalaheo High School students as part of her annual interactive Legislative Roadshow.

Kids do say the cutest things…especially about the Legislative Roadshow! “I learned that there is no clapping after testimony or else you get kicked out.” “Hi! I am the kid with the glasses and cast. I learned that testimonies are presented and not just sent in and read.” “It was really cool that you came […]

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Be Prepared for Sea Level Rise!

Sea level rise and climate change is not a disaster movie in the making, but a real life calamity playing out in dozens of island states around the world. No longer can we theorize “what if”.  Our challenge today is “how do we prepare”? We need a plan, a plan which is practical, possible and […]

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