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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

HAWAII TO ATTAIN 100% RENEWABLES IN 30 YEARS...NOT

On the front page of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser this morning was this small headline:

     Measures aim to free state of fossil fuel use in 30 years

Governor David Ige (here with energy committee chairmen, Rep. Chris Lee and Senator Mike Gabbard) signed four bills yesterday:

HOUSE BILL 623
Sets a standard of 100 percent use of energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2045

HOUSE BILL 196
Designates a coordinator and working group to promote the expansion of hydrogen-based energy in Hawaii

HOUSE BILL 1509 
Requires the University of Hawaii to establish a collective goal of producing as much energy as it uses by 2035

SENATE BILL 1050
Establishes a community-based renewable-energy program

Note HB 623:  100% renewables in 30 years.  Terrific.  Well, not quite, for Governor Ige said:

We're the only state in the country committed to a 100 percent renewable future for electricity generation.

Makes sense, for there is no obvious technology to cover fuels for aviation, and electric cars are not the answer for ground transport.  From Energy Facts and Figures from the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism,  63% of the energy utilized in the State goes to other uses than electricity.

Perhaps HB 196 can provide a clue to future aviation, one of my topics published in The Huffington Post. One reason I was sent to work for the U.S. Senate in 1979 was to develop the hydrogen jetliner.  That's the National Aerospace Plane to the right.  About terrestrial transport, I've long advocated bio-methanol fuel and the direct methanol fuel cell.  But I've been totally unsuccessful at convincing anyone.

On energy use, Hawaii is rather unique, and vulnerable:
  • Coal dominates world electricity production (above).
  • Thus, while during the past couple of decades our electricity costs were 300% higher than the national average, this is now down to around 250% (30 cents/kWh versus 12.4 cents/kWh).
  • Yet, people here particularly complain that we pay 15% more for gasoline than the national average.  No doubt this has something to do with the fact that we actually spend money to fill our gas tank, but hardly see the electricity bill, for many have their bank account automatically absorb this bill.
  • Aviation, ground travel and electricity production each uses about 28% of the oil consumed.
  • Hawaii's economy should now be strong, as the price of oil has dropped by a factor of two.
  • However, if the future expected spike occurs, politically or from Peak Oil, we are doubly vulnerable, for air costs will skyrocket, tourism will suffer, and the State could well be that canary in coal mine.
There is another bill related to a self-imposed carbon tax to spur more renewable use pending signature.  Hawaii already emits, per capita, almost 20% less carbon dioxide than the country average.  Any time an individual entity, for the sake of Planet Earth, takes independent action to reduce fossil fuel use, that well-meaning organization can become economically non-competitive.  The world has to, together, honor a carbon tax.

As Hawaii is fortunate to be endowed with a wide range of renewable options, it sounds logical to replace imported fossil fuels with locally produced alternatives.   However, the sustainable pathways are more expensive.  I would like to see a comprehensive analysis of life cycle costs, including the value of substituting home-made resources for oil, coal and gas (natural or synthesized), for I've seen studies showing that money re-circulated into the local economy has a multiplier value of two or more.  While difficult, the reality of externalities needs to be part of the analysis, for there also is value to energy security, (shipping strikes, oil price spikes, etc.), a cleaner environment (for tourism and public health) and the like.  Only with this understanding can government take calculated risks as advocated in the bills signed by Governor Ige.

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