Hawaiian Electric Companies, tasked with powering multiple island grids with 100 percent green energy by 2045, has finally secured regulator approval for a plan to get there -- as long as it includes customers and third parties in the mix.
On Friday, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved the utility’s Power Supply Improvement Plan, or PSIP, a sprawling document that contains the recipe for hitting the state’s 100 percent renewables mandate by 2040, five years ahead of schedule.
It’s an important milestone for the utility, which has seen two previous proposals rejected by the PUC, first in 2015 for being too vague, and then in 2016 as part of rejecting its merger with NextEra Energy Resources. The PUC recognized these setbacks in its decision, thanking Hawaiian Electric for its attention to detail and stakeholder involvement, and imploring it to “move quickly” to implement the near-term parts of the plan.
Hawaiian Electric Companies' three utilities -- Hawaiian Electric on Oahu, Maui Electric on Maui, Molokai and Lanai, and Hawaii Electric Light on the Big Island of Hawaii -- already boast some of the highest shares of renewable energy in the country, all on islands isolated from the stability of neighboring grids. That’s made them a natural testing ground for new technologies and regulatory models, including battery-backed solar and wind farms, aggregated demand response and energy storage, peak-shifting electric vehicle charging, and voltage-smoothing smart inverters and grid power electronics.
The PSIP incorporates all of these efforts into the utilities’ long-range energy procurement, generation, and transmission and distribution grid investment plans. Friday’s decision frees the Hawaiian Electric Companies to move ahead immediately with certain near-term steps on that vision, including grid-scale renewable energy procurement, community-based renewable energy, demand response and distributed energy resources, and grid improvements on each island.
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