Bills offering bold renewable-energy goals gain traction

Honolulu Star Advertiser - March 7, 2015
Kathryn Mykleseth

Two bills proposing to boost the state's renewable-energy goal to 100 percent by 2045 at the latest have cleared major hurdles and are positioned for a vote by the full House and Senate.

Senate Bill 715 proposes increasing Hawaii's use of renewable energy to 70 percent of total production by 2035 and 100 percent by 2040. Its companion, House Bill 623, proposes increasing the renewable-energy goal to 70 percent by 2035 and 100 percent by 2045.

The state's current renewable-energy goal calls for 40 percent of all generation to come from renewables by 2030.

In August, Hawaiian Electric Co. submitted a plan to the state Public Utilities Commission with a goal of 65 percent renewables by 2030.

The two bills have passed the committee stage and have been sent to their respective floors. The House Committee on Finance passed the bill Tuesday, and the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee passed the bill Wednesday.

State Rep. Chris Lee (D, Kai­­lua-Lani­­kai-Wai­­ma­­nalo), sponsor of the House bill, said he expects the bill to be heard by the full House Tuesday and is confident that at least one bill will make it through.

State Sen. Mike Gabbard (D, Kalaeloa-Maka­kilo), who introduced the bill in the Senate, said the renewable-energy goals are possible citing Hawaiian Electric Co.'s goal of 65 percent renewables by 2030.

"We've got a good shot of getting something through this session," Gabbard said. "HECO, by their own statements, says we can reach 65 percent by 2030, so setting the bar higher makes a lot of sense."

HECO supports the idea of 100 percent renewables, said Darren Pai, HECO spokes­man.

"We support the goal of going to 100 percent renewable energy provided that it results in lower costs for our customers while ensuring safe, secure and reliable electric service for everyone," Pai said.

Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc., parent company for the state's three major utilities, and Juno Beach, Fla.-based NextEra Energy Inc. filed a joint application with the PUC on Jan. 29, asking for approval of the sale of HEI to NextEra for $4.3 billion.

If the measures become law and the sale of HEI closes, the new goals will apply to NextEra, Lee said.

"It would have to; we are changing our state goals," he said. "As we continue to move into the future all of the planning would target these new goals."