Hawaiian Electric seeking more renewables for Hawaii Island

by Kristen Okinaka | Nov. 18, 2021

Community engagement critical to project success

I’ve called Hawaii Island my home for more than 25 years. I married a Hilo boy, raised a family, and built a fulfilling life here. I often wonder what life will be like for my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Recently, world leaders united at the COP26 Summit to tackle climate change. At Hawaiian Electric, we also announced a Climate Change Action Plan to cut carbon emissions from power generation 70% by 2030, compared with 2005. By 2045, if not sooner, our vision is to generate electricity with zero or net zero emissions.

One of the ways we plan to do our part is to bring more cost-effective renewable energy resources online to reduce the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Here on Hawaii Island, we filed a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) for the third stage of our renewable energy procurement and hosted a virtual community meeting to share information and invite community input on Oct. 28.

“We are seeking developers to submit proposals for future renewable projects,” said Becca Dayhuff Matsushima, Hawaiian Electric’s Director of Renewable Acquisition. “This draft is not set in stone and will evolve based on feedback and input received and that is why we are here to speak to you tonight. We want to ensure the community has a chance to learn about the RFP and to provide feedback prior to us finalizing the procurement.”

The draft RFP was guided by the company’s July 2021 Hawaii Island Near-Term Grid Needs Assessment report which assessed our system’s reliability and grid needs over the next 10 years and by Hawaiian Electric’s guiding principles for all procurements.

In a nutshell, the Stage 3 draft RFP seeks:

  • Renewable generation on the east side
  • Standalone storage and aggregators
  • Up to 206 GWh of energy
  • Up to 95 MW of capacity
  • Projects to be completed and in service by the end of 2030

In 2018, Hawaiian Electric began Hawaii’s largest procurement effort for renewable energy resources to end the use of coal and reduce reliance on imported oil for power generation. The first two RFP stages resulted in three solar-plus-storage projects and one standalone storage project totaling about 132 MW of generation and 492 MWh of storage on Hawaii Island.

Developer ENGIE recently decided to not move forward with its 60 MW Puako Solar project, which was sited in west Hawaii, Dayhuff Matsushima said.

“We will need to reevaluate the results of the grid needs assessment including limiting proposals to the east side of the island and the amount of energy and capacity we are seeking,” she said. “If these items do change, we will make sure to keep the community and other stakeholders informed.”

Working together to shape our island’s energy future

Over the years, I’ve seen how engaged and resilient our community is and can be. When times are tough, we take care of each other to make things better. When faced with a challenge, we work together to find the best solutions. This is why we need your help.

At Hawaiian Electric, we’ve learned that meaningful community engagement is critical to a project’s success. When evaluating project proposals, we place high value on the quality of the developer’s community outreach plan. A proposal must meet or exceed the criteria before it can move forward in the selection process.

The community plays an essential role in the RFP process and can provide feedback during the development and the contract negotiation and approval stages, Dayhuff Matsushima said.

Another way to submit comments on the draft is by emailing hawaiirenewablerfp@hawaiianelectric.com.

“We value your input and encourage you to get involved and lend your voice to these important conversations about projects that may impact you,” said Jennifer Zelko-Schlueter, Hawaiian Electric’s Director of Government and Community Affairs on Hawaii Island.

The company will consider community feedback and anticipates filing a revised draft for Public Utilities Commission approval in late December. The proposed timeline, subject to PUC approval, includes releasing the final RFP in late February 2022 and beginning contract negotiations at the end of 2022. Projects would be up and running before the end of 2030.

Climate change is real. This is one way you can be part of the solution. Working together, we can slow climate change and make a difference for future generations.

Kristen Okinaka is a senior communications consultant for Hawaiian Electric’s operations on Hawaii Island.

Our vision is to deliver cost-effective, clean, reliable, and innovative energy services to our customers.