Yes, 70% drop in emissions achievable in Hawaii
by Scott Seu and Shelee Kimura | Nov. 9, 2021
This article was originally published in Star-Advertiser on Nov. 7, 2021.
World leaders meeting at the United Nations climate summit in Scotland are sending a powerful message that time is running out to avoid a global climate catastrophe.
It is against this backdrop that Hawaiian Electric announced a climate change action plan to cut carbon emissions from power generation 70% by 2030, compared with 2005. By 2045, if not sooner, Hawaiian Electric’s vision is to generate electricity with zero or very little carbon. And if there is any carbon emitted, we’ll capture or offset it.
We see this as a down payment on Hawaii’s contribution to the national goal of reducing carbon emissions by about 50% by 2030. If other sectors of the Hawaii economy can reduce emissions by about 40% from their 2005 levels, our state will stand with others on the path to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Meeting our 2030 commitment will be a stretch, but it’s achievable if public policies and community priorities are aligned to ensure that this energy transformation leaves no one behind. We know we must commit to bold actions in the next few years if we’re to have any hope of stalling the warming of the planet. We want to be able to tell our children and grandchildren we did all we could to stop things from getting worse.
Hawaiian Electric has long understood the importance of reducing our state’s dependence on fossil fuels and its contributions to climate change. In 2008, we signed an agreement with the state as part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, committing to a set of ambitious — and daunting — clean energy milestones. At the time, we didn’t know exactly how we’d achieve these goals, but we knew we had to roll up our sleeves and work with others to figure it out.
Living in a state with 750 miles of coastline and the bulk of its population at or near sea level, we’re all aware of the impacts of global warming and sea level rise. The themes guiding the Scotland summit also align with Hawaii’s culture and values, where we malama our islands and the waters that connect us, because we can only thrive when they thrive.
Though it’s a heavy lift, achieving the 70% reduction is realistic. Hawaiian Electric’s forecast through 2030 anticipates a steady pace of cost-effective renewable energy resources coming online to reduce the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity, while maintaining the resilience and reliability of our grids. It relies on plans and technologies we’re already using, including more than a dozen projects scheduled for completion in the next few years, close to 400 megawatts coming from future resource procurements, and at least 50,000 new rooftop solar systems.
Emissions from the state’s last coal-fired power plant will go away when it’s retired in 2022. Progress will continue as we use more grid-scale and customer-owned energy storage, expand geothermal, and create innovative programs that provide incentives for customers to use clean, lower cost energy at certain times of the day. And we’ll help build out electric vehicle charging infrastructure to take carbon out of transportation.
Events like the Scotland conference can make our climate challenges feel overwhelming. It’s also hard sometimes to connect the dots from global discussions to actions in our community. The good news is we’ve already made a strong start and we have the tools we need to succeed. We need the will to keep working together to get it done.
Scott Seu is president and CEO and Hawaiian Electric; Shelee Kimura is senior vice president of customer service and public affairs at Hawaiian Electric.