by Michael Choe | May 29, 2020
Integrated Grid Planning, or IGP, may sound complicated. But when you break it down, it’s simply a process that Hawaiian Electric has developed to benefit customers, identifying the best options to affordably move Hawaii toward a reliable and resilient clean energy future. IGP is customer-centric and relies on customer and stakeholder input to get to 100 percent renewables. For IGP to be successful, customers need to participate.
Before the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to gatherings, Hawaiian Electric invited the public to attend forums and join the IGP conversation both online and in person. Open houses were hosted in March in Kailua-Kona, Hilo, Honolulu and Kahului, where Hawaiian Electric employees were available to explain the company’s progress toward reaching a clean energy future and to answer attendees’ questions. Those unable to attend the open house in person could join the virtual house from March 2–30.
The public forums included panel discussions featuring a mix of community members, stakeholders and Hawaiian Electric representatives. While I was at the Kahului open house, I noticed a handful of attentive students from Baldwin High School actively taking notes. The panel discussion in Kahului was also livestreamed on Facebook and viewers could submit questions online via the MeetingSift platform. Some of the questions were broad enough for more than one panelist to provide input. Other questions were more detailed and directed toward a single speaker.
During the panel, Hawaiian Electric Director of Renewable Acquisition Rebecca Dayhuff-Matsushima ensured that Hawaiian Electric is listening to its customers. She shared with the process in which developers of renewable energy projects are required to submit a community engagement plan that meets various criteria, post their community plan publicly and host at least one community meeting.
While clean renewable energy is important and beneficial, some attendees questioned whether it was a step backward because it could hinder reliability of the grid. Chris Reynolds, Hawaiian Electric director of operational technology on Maui, explained that even before renewable energy came into play, upgrades were made and continue to be made to systems, poles and underground lines to ensure customers are served by resilient island grids. Our operations team has learned to integrate renewable energy and has made changes to generating units to help react quickly and accept more renewable energy in today’s world.
Getting the public involved in IGP from the very beginning enables our customers to be a part of shaping our clean energy future. People attended the open houses and panel discussions with a healthy combination of curiosity, intrigue and enthusiasm to learn more about what we’re doing as a company to achieve Hawaii’s clean energy goals. It was uplifting to see firsthand the active discussions between the community and our company.
“IGP is really not about getting to 100%, it’s about how we best get there,” said Senior Vice President of Planning and Technology Colton Ching at the Kahului panel discussion. “We want to make sure that the electric system we’re building is the electric system our customers want and need.”
Michael Choe is a digital communications and social media specialist at Hawaiian Electric Company.