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Natural gas could cut Hawaii power bills "for years to come"

By Star-Advertiser Staff

LAST UPDATED: 07:35 p.m. HST, Aug 17, 2012

Switching from oil to natural gas for the bulk of Hawaii’s electricity production could lower power bills “for many years to come,” an East-West Center energy expert said today.

There are several initiatives underway to ship liquified natural gas to Hawaii to take advantage of a glut on the mainland that his driven prices of the commodity to historic lows in recent months.

“Hawaii has no choice but to go to natural gas. It’s just the speed that is in question. You can go fast or slow, but you have to go,” said Fereidun Fesharaki, an East-West Center senior fellow, and head of an international energy consulting firm.

Hawaii is the most petroleum-dependent state in the nation. Oil accounts for about 90 percent of all energy needs and 75 percent of electricity production in Hawaii, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The natural gas option has been discussed in Hawaii in the past during periods of high oil prices, Fesharaki said at a seminar sponsored by the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum and HAWAI'IGAS, the state’s only gas utility. But enthusiasm waned when oil prices came back down.
“This time I see oil staying in the $80 to $120 a barrel range for many years to come,” Fesharaki said.

The benchmark oil futures contract closed at $96.01 a barrel Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest closing price since May 11. Natural gas futures, meanwhile, fell for the fourth straight week to settle at $2.719 per million British thermal units. Natural gas futures have fallen 9 percent so far this year.

“The gap between natural gas and oil prices will continue into the future,” Fesharaki said.

HAWAI'IGAS last week applied with federal regulators to ship liquefied natural gas to Hawaii from the West Coast in refrigerated tanks mounted inside shipping containers starting later this year. The quantities of LNG would be relatively limited in the first phase of the project, but the company said it plans to eventually use specialized tankers to bring in larger quantities of LNG that could be used for electricity generation.

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sailfish1 wrote:
How about natural gas use in powering our buses and other vehicles?
on August 17,2012 | 08:27PM
GooglyMoogly wrote:
It is more volatile than conventional gasoline. and because it needs to be kept in a pressurized tank, consequences are far more dire in the event of a vehicle collision.
on May 1,2013 | 12:14PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Heco won't do it unless they can continue to charge the rip off rates they do now. It's all about the profit margin for them, they don't care what's best for Hawaii..... only their shareholders.
on August 17,2012 | 09:12PM
shanik wrote:
dont they have a fixed rate of return that has to be approved by the PUC?
on August 21,2012 | 05:50PM
GooglyMoogly wrote:
Yup. I think saywhatyouthink is getting HECO mixed up with HEI, which is the corporate parent of most of the ELCOs as well as American Savings Bank.
on May 1,2013 | 12:15PM
neighborhoodmole wrote:
Natural gas is also cheaper than electric for heating water and superior for cooking!
on May 24,2013 | 12:49PM
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