Editorial | Our View Hawaii needs energy options By Star-Advertiser staff Oct. 15, 2011 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Living on islands moored in the middle of the Pacific, it’s easy for residents here to feel that they are buffeted by forces largely beyond their control. They are. When hurricanes are barreling down on Hawaii, there’s little to do other than batten down the hatches. That’s why preparedness, making sure there are alternatives for maintaining livable conditions, is so critical. Similarly, Hawaii needs options in its energy policy. The gradual shift away from fossil fuels toward renewable sources has been moving incrementally, but each step is real progress. At this point the state remains prey to market conditions, especially where imports of crude oil are concerned. Consumers here feel the pinch when they pay their electric bills. According to a release by Hawaiian Electric Co. this week, the typical bill for a family using 600 kilowatt-hours of electricity rose to $207.04 in October. That’s a record, and a $2.20 increase from the average total the previous month. Much of the toll is due to market speculation driving up prices, experts say. Adding fuel to the fire, the calamity last spring in Japan, with tsunami damage hobbling its atomic-and coal-fired power network, drove that country to buy more oil, too. The overall result is that Hawaii has not seen the same relief at the gas pump — or in utility bills that hinge on oil prices — seen in many mainland markets. The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative is an aggressive push to diversify the state’s energy portfolio. The goal is to achieve 70 percent clean energy by 2030. That includes a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption through efficiency measures, and 40 percent of our power coming from locally generated renewable sources. The state is only at the start of a long road, but there were two new developments this week. HECO announced on Thursday that Oahu will get its first utility-scale photovoltaic project next year. Groundbreaking is set for late this year on a 5-megawatt plant called Kalaeloa Solar II, to be built on land near Kapolei the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is leasing to the developer, SunPower Corp. Even more significant, HECO on Friday submitted a draft request for proposals (RFP) to the state Public Utilities Commission, inviting a new project for delivering a least 200 megawatts of renewable energy to the Oahu grid. Officials for the electric company also said they are developing a separate RFP seeking projects that would produce 300 megawatts of reliable ("firm") renewable energy for Oahu. The latest call for projects fills a void left when an earlier wind project eyed for a Molokai site did not progress in the approvals process. Wisely, the PUC insisted that a replacement project would not have to be a windmill array like the one proposed by First Wind, the Boston-based company with projects on Maui and in Kahuku. Wind is a well-established technology, but the state needs to keep the door open to competitors versed in all modes of clean energy. Any proposal for renewable energy to be generated off Oahu must be paired with a proposed undersea cable system, but spokesmen said an Oahu-based project could be a candidate. A sneak peek at the hopefuls should be available Nov. 4, when a notice of intent is due. Whatever people think of individual projects — power generators of any kind have always presented the prospect of controversy — it should be clear to everyone that having more energy options is better in the long run. The news this week — other than the most recent electric bill, of course — has been encouraging. Previous Story Lingle campaign rollout a model of smooth execution Next Story Who'll rule Asia-Pacific trade?