Clean Energy Measures Advance as Legislature Winds Down

Blue Planet Foundation

With a few weeks left in the 2012 legislative session, a number of clean energy measures are advancing. Much of the legislation focuses on the scope of the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) responsibilities in regulating the state’s electric utilities. Other key bills seek to amend various incentives for clean energy. The remainder address sustainable transportation issues.

Public Utilities Commission

The priority clean energy policy this session is Senate Bill 2787, which establishes the Hawai‘i Electricity Reliability Administrator, or HERA. As more independent power producers and distributed energy systems plug into the grid, they face numerous technical, operational, and regulatory issues presented by Hawai‘i's century-old electrical system. These obstacles hinder interconnection and compromise reliability, stifling the potential of renewable energy production.

The proposed HERA policy establishes formal, objective, and verifiable reliability and interconnection standards for Hawai‘i’s electricity grids. Having an independent entity—not the electric utility—set the “rules of the road” would enable more integration of renewables and improve system predictability and resiliency.

While grid modernization is essential, it is the interconnection of the island grids that will allow the state to link its supply of renewable energy with existing demand. Maui, for example, has surplus wind energy at night, while O‘ahu has an expanding fleet of electric vehicles that could put that energy to work. Interconnecting the islands will provide load stability while making statewide energy independence a true possibility.

To that end, Senate Bill 2785 establishes a regulatory structure for the installation and implementation of an interisland high-voltage electric transmission cable system, bringing it under the governance of the PUC. Having a regulatory framework for the implementation of an interisland cable system will ensure more certainty and oversight in the development process.

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