Honoring the past. Transforming the future.

April 4, 2017

“Few who watched this spectacle could have comprehended what a far-reaching impact the innovation of ‘electricity’ was to have on their lives and the lives of countless generations to come.” — Thomas Alva Edison.

Last October, we began celebrating Hawaiian Electric Company’s 125 years of serving customers on the island of Oahu (in 2016, Maui Electric Company celebrated its 95th anniversary, while Hawaii Electric Light Company officially celebrated its 46th anniversary, although its history on Hawaii Island spans 126 years).

Hawaiian Electric was incorporated in 1891, but the history of electricity in Hawaii starts at least 10 years earlier. On September 25, 1881, Hawaiian King David Kalakaua met Thomas Alva Edison, inventor of the incandescent lamp, in New York City. The King asked for a demonstration of Edison’s lamps and was impressed by the “steadiness and gentleness of the light.”

Iolani Palace decorated for the holiday season.

Just five years later in 1886, Hawaii’s Iolani Palace became perhaps the world’s first royal residences to be lit by electricity. Two short years after that in 1888, the streets of Honolulu were lit by electricity for the first time.

While the novelty, then practicality, of electrical lighting in Honolulu became increasingly popular there were questions about cost and sustainability, as imported coal was an expensive fuel. In 1886, King Kalakaua and other officials explored using water power to drive the turbines of a power plant.

In Nuuanu Valley, north of Downtown Honolulu, the Nuuanu River provided the water pressure to run two turbines, enough to power 62 street lamps. This was the first known use of hydropower in a power plant in Honolulu (Source: “Hawaii: The Electric Century”)

This was one of many clean and renewable energy milestones the Hawaiian Electric Companies collectively achieved over the course of our history. Other highlights include:

· 1993: Puna Geothermal Venture begins providing power to Hawaii Electric Light.

· 1998: Hawaiian Electric helps install the state’s first electric vehicle “rapid charging station.”

· 2001: Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standard is enacted into law (Act 272), setting renewable energy targets of 7 percent by 2003, 8 percent by 2005 and 9 percent by the end of 2010. Net Energy Metering to encourage customers to add rooftop solar is established.

· 2005: Hawaii Electric Light restores and restarts the Puueo hydroelectric facility on the Wailuku River originally built in 1910.

Wailuku River on Hawaii Island, where the Puueo hydroelectric facility was first built in 1910.

· 2008: Eighty two of Hawaii Electric Light’s diesel fleet vehicles complete the switch from straight diesel to a more environmentally-friendly biodiesel mix.

· 2009: Hawaiian Electric’s 110-MW Campbell Industrial Park Generating Station, fueled by renewable biodiesel, goes online.

· 2009: La Ola Solar, the largest single-site solar facility in Hawaii to that time, begins serving Maui Electric customers on Lanai.

· 2013: Maui Electric operational improvements allow use of more, less-expensive wind energy.

· 2014: The State of Hawaii, County of Hawaii, and Hawaii Electric Light Company create a strategic partnership to attract companies interested in testing pre-commercial energy storage units at the Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology Park in Kailua-Kona, managed by NELHA, the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority.

· 2015: Hawaiian Electric pledges support of the state’s new goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, the most aggressive clean energy target in the country.

· 2015: Hawaiian Electric opens the first utility-owned and operated Fast Charger for electric vehicles on Oahu at Dole Plantation.

· 2016: Hawaiian Electric breaks ground on a new, biofuel-capable generating station at Schofield Barracks, strategically located away from the shoreline.

Hawaiian Electric’s 125th Anniversary float passes by the company’s historic Downtown Honolulu building during the 2016 Honolulu City Lights Electric Light Parade.

It’s an exciting time to be in the energy industry, with many changes expected in the way power is generated and supplied to our customers. Our companies are no strangers to change. In fact, we often lead the charge nationally and locally with improvements and innovations in our communities.

As Hawaiian Electric approaches its 126th year in October 2017, we look toward our goal of reaching 100 percent renewables by 2045 and beyond for future initiatives that benefit our island home and inspire the world around us.

A timeline of Hawaiian Electric’s 125+ year history.



Established in 1891, Hawaiian Electric is committed to empowering its customers and communities by providing affordable, reliable, clean and sustainable energy.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Hawaiian Electric

Established in 1891, Hawaiian Electric is committed to empowering its customers and communities by providing affordable, reliable, clean and sustainable energy.