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Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Hawaii will not be able to become totally reliant on renewable energy by 2045.  Why?  Very simply, there is only a weak attempt to convert aviation to green fuels, for the economics are daunting.

The Hawaii State Legislature last year passed a bill for Hawaii to get 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2045.  So the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's The Big Q question of:

Realistically, what are Hawaii's chances of achieving its 100% renewable-energy goal by 2045?

was confusing in itself.  Did this question mean total energy or only for electricity?  There is a popular misconception that our statewide goals refer to all the energy used.  It is possible that some responders thought the question referred to total energy, not that this mattered much anyway, for these refinements are beyond the mindset of most.  Thus, the response was:
  • Very doubtful; no way     56.5%
  • About 50-50                    27.2%
  • Great; achievable           16.3%
Thus, under any circumstance, local people don't think the Legislature-passed bill has any chance of attaining any kind of reality.

Here is the current breakdown for Hawaii for electricity:

I think there is a chance for Hawaii to reach 100% electricity self-sufficiency in 30 years.  The larger question is whether this wold be economically sensible.  There will need to be a statewide underwater cable grid, which could cost $2 billion, and both ocean thermal energy conversion and geothermal technologies must become cost effective, for while the sun and winds come and go, ocean and geo energies are baseload and are therefore essential requirements.  

I was working at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the 1970's when I helped develop something commonly referred to as the spaghetti graph, more correctly now known as the U.S. Energy Flow Chart.  For our Nation in 2014, here is what it looks like:

Feel free to click on it to read the details, but the above shows that around 40% of the total energy used in the USA goes to generate electricity.  Hawaii should be similar, except that we disproportionately use more for aviation than any other state.  Thus, the difficulty of making any inroads toward replacing jet fuel with biofuels or hydrogen will only make it that much more difficult for Hawaii to reach 100% renewables.  And, by the way, to the left is the cover of a book one of my classes produced 38 years ago.

Frankly, I can't believe my airline is doing this, but United has launched an initiative to use 30% biofuels to power their jets from Los Angeles International Airport.  Why do I find this incredible?  Well, biofuels currently cost at least double, and maybe up to ten times more expensive than jetful.  The pioneer for this effort is our Department of Defense.

The Navy is going Green, although Republicans are seeing Red.  Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has been especially supportive.  Earlier there was criticism that our naval fleet was purchasing biofuel for $27/gallon when gasoline was one fourth that price.  Today, gasoline has dropped by 70%, and our  Great Green Fleet is sailing to enhance flexibility and security.

Four years ago our Air Force spent $59/gallon for an alcohol-to-jet fuel option, and got roundly criticized.  They are now very carefully proceeding, with some prodding from the White House.

So what is the state of next generation aviation?  I will later this week bring you up to date from a Huffington Post article I penned five years ago.


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