Hawaiian Electric finalizes ‘Integrated Grid Plan’ to decarbonize its energy system by 2045, stabilize rates

Overarching document provides near-term actions, long-term strategy

Release Date: 5/15/2023

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HONOLULU, May 15, 2023 – Hawaiian Electric has finalized a comprehensive plan that charts the lowest-cost pathway for creating resilient, decarbonized island grids to serve customers using resources from Hawaii, for Hawaii.

The company filed its “Integrated Grid Plan: A pathway to a clean energy future” with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), outlining steps the company will take in the coming years to ensure its system will achieve net zero carbon emissions and use 100% renewable resources by 2045. Hawaiian Electric is seeking regulatory approval of the plan.

Since 2018, Hawaiian Electric has collected data and gained insight through various working groups, inputs and assumptions modeling, regular stakeholder meetings, community events and presentations. The information gathered helped shape the plan, which prescribes defined actions and alternative scenarios based on the adoption of existing technology, while leaving room for future technological breakthroughs. It includes details on technical findings and community engagement throughout the planning process.

“Meeting the energy needs of our customers up to and beyond 2045 requires a short-term action plan and a long-term strategy – and that’s what the Integrated Grid Plan delivers,” said Colton Ching, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of planning and technology. “Creating a resilient, clean energy grid has never been more urgent as the effects of climate change escalate, existing energy infrastructure ages and our timelines shrink.”

Hawaiian Electric filed the draft plan with regulators on March 31 and invited public comments on the draft through April 21. The company received just over 300 comments from community members, stakeholders, technical advisory panel members and PUC staff, and used the feedback to add clarifications near the top of the 299-page report. A record of all comments received on the draft is included in an appendix.

The Integrated Grid Plan balances a swift transition to renewable energy with maintaining reliable power, stabilizing bills and advancing energy equity. “Throughout the planning process, we heard that affordability and reliability are of top concern to our customers,” said Ching. “It’s essential that our future grid delivers on this fundamental need for pricing and power that people can count on.”

Hawaiian Electric’s modeling shows that although energy rates may rise in the near-term transition to clean energy, they will be lower and less volatile than if the company continues to rely on fossil fuels for energy generation. The plan projects that the transition to renewables may also ease the energy burden on customers with low to moderate incomes, as measured by the percent of income that low-income households spend on average on annual energy bills.

Near-term actions the Integrated Grid Plan prescribes include:

  • Expanding customer choices with new programs that make it more affordable to participate in energy generation, storage and efficiency. This includes programs to reduce barriers to private rooftop solar and shared solar projects for customers with low and moderate incomes. By 2030, the plan calls for a cumulative 125,000 private rooftop solar and energy storage systems (1,186 MW) and 3,400 gigawatt-hours of energy efficiency measures in homes and businesses on Oahu, Hawaii Island, Maui, Lanai and Molokai.
  • Stabilizing rates by adding large-scale renewable generation and energy storage. Hawaiian Electric’s proposed timeline shows adding more than 3,700 megawatts (MW) of hybrid solar, energy storage and firm renewables by 2030. This includes up to 1,340 MW from Stage 3 procurements issued earlier this year, for which Hawaiian Electric is currently evaluating bids. These additions may enable the company to remove over 540 MW of fossil-fuel-based generation from daily operations by 2030.
  • Ensuring reliability by adding renewable firm generation. Firm generation provides an on-demand source of energy that is not weather dependent. Hawaiian Electric is monitoring geothermal, renewable hydrogen, biomass/biofuels and ocean thermal energy conversion as potential solutions for firm generation to include in an increasingly diverse portfolio of resources. The company will also continue to monitor the condition of aging generators and prepare contingency plans as necessary to reduce the risk of outages caused by generation issues.
  • Engaging communities early and often throughout the development of future energy projects, including the siting of grid infrastructure. The company also proposes requirements for developers to develop and implement public engagement plans and provide benefit packages to host communities.
  • Reducing costs for customers by seeking federal funding. Hawaiian Electric is pursuing federal funds to reduce the cost of grid modernization and hardening.

Successful implementation of the plan will depend on Hawaiian Electric’s ability to take immediate action, and it will require enhanced energy policies, coordination of regulatory processes and robust community engagement. In the coming months, customers and communities can expect opportunities to share their thoughts on siting grid infrastructure and requests for project proposals. Customers can also expect to hear about the rollout of new programs that make it more affordable to participate in energy generation, storage and efficiency.