By Jonny Wakefield
May 14, 2015
Facing mounting costs from importing natural gas and oil, Hawaii could soon become the first U.S. state to commit to producing 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy sources.
Earlier this month, the state legislature passed a bill that would phase in fully renewable power by 2045. As of Monday, it was still awaiting Governor David Ige's signature.
Because it imports more than 90 per cent of its fuel, Hawaiians have some of the highest utility bills in the U.S.
"This is a significant step in our effort toward reducing Hawaii's dependence on expensive imported oil and putting the state on the path toward greater energy, environmental and economic security," Hawaii State Energy Office administrator Mark Glick told Scientific American.
Renewables would be phased in beginning with 30 per cent in 2020 and ramping up to 70 per cent by 2040.
Eighteen per cent of the state's electricity currently comes from renewables, and some islands are more dependent on fossil fuels than others. Rates of renewable energy use are as high as 40 per cent on the Big Island. The state already beat its previous goal of 15 per cent renewable power by this year.
It's not clear what impact the plan will have on B.C.—especially a deal between FortisBC and the Hawaiian Electric Co. to ship liquefied natural gas from an existing plant in Delta. The 15-year deal was expected to start in 2017, the Financial Post reported last year, and as of August, it was still awaiting regulatory approval. At the time, the deal was held up as an example of demand for B.C. LNG. Meeting the supply deal would require expanding FortisBC's Tilbury plant.
While few Canadian jurisdictions are as reliant on energy imports as Hawaii, many remote First Nations and off-the-grid communities are searching for ways to reduce their utility bills by moving away from generators that run on fossil fuels. The Pembina Institute estimated there were 300 such communities in Canada in 2013.
Photo Credit: judy and ed