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Hawaii bill aims for 100 percent renewable transportation

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    An electric vehicle charging station awaits a vehicle in the parking lot at the Hawaii State Legislature. Renewable energy advocates in Hawaii are pushing a bill to urge the transportation sector to get all its energy from renewable sources in 2045.

Hawaii has the most aggressive renewable energy targets in the nation, aiming for its utilities to get 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2045.

Now advocates want to extend that goal to the transportation sector to urge all forms of ground transportation to fuel up using renewable sources by 2045.

“The majority of our fossil fuel goes into transportation, and that’s a challenge that we have to solve, and we currently don’t have a vision for what that future looks like,” said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, which is pushing the bill.

But Hawaii officials aren’t planning to make everyone get rid of their fuel-powered cars — at least not yet.

“Nobody wants to step in and force people to get rid of cars that they might love now,” said state Rep. Chris Lee, chairman of the Energy and Environment committee.

The goal represents a steep climb for the auto industry in a state where there are about 5,000 electric vehicles, out of an estimated 1 million cars on the road.

“Our ability to achieve it is really going to be dependent on what happens throughout the entire automotive industry,” said Hugh Baker, managing director of HD Baker & Co., an energy consulting company. “We can say we want 100 percent clean transportation technology, but the market in Hawaii is not nearly big enough by itself to move the whole global automotive industry. It will really take more than just Hawaii.”

Unlike Hawaii’s groundbreaking 100 percent renewable goal for electricity, where utilities in the state will be fined if they don’t comply by deadline, the proposed transportation goal isn’t a mandate.

With 1 million cars on the roads, hundreds of auto dealerships and multiple counties with fleets of vehicles, it’s unclear how the state could enforce a renewable fuels mandate, advocates said. Beyond the vehicle stakeholders, there are cyclists and pedestrians in the mix, making it challenging for the state to even measure what percentage of the state’s transportation fuel comes from renewables.

The bill is being introduced in the Hawaii Legislature, which began Wednesday. If passed, Hawaii would be the first in the nation to set such a high goal for its transportation sector. Vermont also has an aggressive goal for renewable fuel in transportation, but most states don’t have such targets in place.

“That’s a huge, huge transformation,” said Hawaii Gov. David Ige in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “We are the most isolated community on the planet, and we import virtually all of the oil we use today.”

Details of the bill are still being worked out, but it’s undecided whether it will come with funding, Lee said.

The state recently created a new position in the Department of Transportation to work on renewable fuels in transportation, and it is planning to build infrastructure to increase electric vehicle charging stations at work locations in Honolulu’s urban core using state funds, he said.

Lawmakers also are introducing a bill to boost the required number of electric vehicle charging stations, which is currently 1 station per 100 spaces, so that commuters can charge electric vehicles during the day when more energy from the sun is pumping into the grid.

Encouraging more electric vehicles — or “batteries on wheels” — could help Hawaii meet its renewable electricity goals.

“It’s easier to manage more renewable energy when we have electric vehicles on the grid that can suck up that excess and hopefully in the future put some energy back on the grid,” Mikulina said.

Auto dealers in Hawaii support the transition to renewable energy, but they believe it will take a massive advertising campaign by the state to encourage people to buy vehicles powered by alternative fuels, said David Rolf, executive director of the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association.

“I’m passionate about this goal, but I’m also realistic,” Rolf said.

Hawaii’s residents ranked second in the nation in 2015 with 2.94 electric vehicles for every 1,000 residents, just behind California, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Tackling the fossil fuels used in air travel — which is critical to Hawaii’s tourism-driven economy — will have to wait.

About a quarter of the 36 million barrels of oil Hawaii imported in 2015 was used for commercial aviation. But the long flights require energy in a dense form, and with today’s technology that’s generally only available in fuels, energy experts said.

“They need to go so far between recharge opportunities that they really need something with a higher energy density than batteries, and it’s just not even physically possible for an airplane to carry enough batteries to go where it needs to go,” said Matthias Fripp, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

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  • I’m guessing that Hawaii has one of the lowest effective per capita incomes in the nation, so who’s going to pay for this????? I won’t be around in 2045 but I would bet just about anything that this goal is not attainable. This sounds like a publicity stunt to make our legislators pat themselves on their back a feel good.

    • Its gonna happen anyway, but not in the way everyone thinks. Youth don’t believe in ownership, so they, much like cable tv, are not going to own cars. And the transportation they will use, such as Uber, will be self driving electric. So its already part of the design of the shared transportation sector. So it would be wise for Mikulina and BP to focus on making Hawaii 100% self driving, and it would also accomplish the same goal, but with additional benefits for non EV citizens, such as time saving, safety improvements, and less traffic and congestion. Hawaii is the perfect place to be the self driving capital.

      We’ve already reached ‘peak car’ as total ownership has been down the last 2 years, even in the auto sales boom being reported by the automakers.

    • Electricity costs less than gasoline and diesel as a transportation fuel and we expect the difference to grow larger each year. Our calculations estimate that by converting Hawaii’s vehicles to electric by 2045 would SAVE Hawaii consumers $6 to $10 billion in fuel costs alone during that time and then about $1 billion per year every year thereafter.

  • And how do they plan to go about this???? Is it just an idea popped into a law makers inflated head??? Wouldn’t they propose a reasonable plan first THEN put together a bill with supporting documentation on how it would work????
    Probably not!!!! Just an extravagent idea to get things stirring without any idea of how to do it.. typical
    sad part is, i expect nothing less from out lawmakers..

  • Thank you Jeff Mikulina. Thank you also for giving us the bottle tax and the plastic bag ban. Rather than educating people on environmentalism, just impose taxes and bans. Truly, environmentalism run amok. I used to be sympathetic to the environmental cause; no more, because the environmentalists have resorted to using sticks to beat the living taxes out of the people living in the most expensive state in the nation! No wonder that Trump is the president-elect.

    • Kauai, I take it from your comment that you’re not particularly interested in protecting the environment or minimizing the impacts of global warming – so I won’t even bother with those points.

      There is a strong economic argument for converting Hawaii’s transportation to electricity and other renewables. First of all, Hawaii exports around $5 billion per year to import oil that is then burned for electricity and transportation. Replacing those fuels with locally produced renewables (wind, solar, biofuels) means that far more of the money we spend on energy will stay in the state, creating more jobs and boosting the entire economy.

      Secondly, fossil fuels – and oil in particular, are extremely price volatile. In 2007 and 2008 when the global price of oil suddenly rose from $40 to $147 per barrel, our state was suddenly spending more than $3 billion a year EXTRA in fuel costs. The same fuel price spike could come at any time in the future, there is very little way to know when one could hit.

      Renewables on the other hand are not only cheaper, but they are more price stable. In fact, just the other week a large scale solar farm signed a power purchase agreement with KIUC to sell electricity to the utility for 11 cents per kWh for 20-30 years. That’s both super cheap and super stable. We can’t get that from oil.

    • Kauai, The Donald only won because of republican voter suppression and the imaginary fears of many whites. You will note that Hillary easily won Hawaii where there was no voter suppression. But what has the Donald done? a 20% tax on goods coming into America from Mexico. Now that is the way to make Mexico pay for the wall. Charge American consumers, lol

    • Sadly people are slow to learn. I always took my recyclables to those bins they had at the schools but relatively few used them. A pity. I kinda agree with you on the plastic bag ban. Fortunately not all plastic bags are banned.

  • When they make electric cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles that are as big as gasoline/diesel powered ones, perform the same, and cost less, it may happen.

    • The cost of electric cars has fallen dramatically in the last five years due to two factors: 1) the cost of the batteries has fallen from nearly $1,000 per kWh to less than $200 (and still dropping) and 2) as car companies are building and selling more of them, they improve their economy of scales.

      As far as costs are concerned we’re already at the point where total cost of ownership for EVs is generally cheaper since electricity is cheaper than gas and since EVs basically require very little maintenance. Industry experts expect the sale price of EVs to be essentially the same as conventional vehicles (without subsidies) by 2022.

      Performance-wise, electric motors have far superior torque and acceleration than gas engines – there’s not even a debate. If you haven’t experienced it yet, go out and test drive an EV. Start out with a Leaf and feel the torque, you’ll be impressed. Then go drive a Tesla and you’ll never want to go back to a gas car again.

        • That is true. When we leaed our Leaf, I always beat the car next to me at stop lights. Instant acceleration. I miss that and i also miss not having to go to a gas station.

          A lot will come from Hawaiian electric. You really think they are close to capacity? Just open up solar panels installation then. lol

  • Rail is “ground transportation”. Is that going to be exempted? If not, we are going to need a big wind farm just for that, especially if the powers-that-be have their way and extend Rail further east and south/west.

  • more bike lanes, dedicated moped lanes, and perhaps a lane for inline skates, skateboards, hover boards and segway type transportation. 100% renewable resources can be reached with all of theses lanes implemented.

  • Am I missing something here?
    Mikulina says:”The majority of our fossil fuel goes into transportation..”

    According to HECO the island only gets 9.8 % of its electricity from ALL renewable sources.
    So if we went to all electric cars with charging stations everywhere your electric car would still be 90% FOSSIL FUELED!
    Sure I guess we’d save lots of cars burning gas but charging electric vehicles requires A LOT of electrical energy. We would need to build lots more oil fired plants or continue the desecration of our landscape by covering up the island with ugly solar plants and those hideous bat and bird killing windmills.
    As usual these greenhead folks are incapable of thinking beyond step one. Its one dimensional thinking without ever saying: If we do that… then what?
    If getting rid of fossil fuels is the goal then build one new nuke plant on the west side and slowly convert to electric vehicles.
    EV’s would work well here since warm weather doesn’t sap battery power and driving distances are relatively short.

  • I’ll believe the legislature is serious about EVs when they include penalties for not meeting the existing charger requirements in parking lots. and the state lots are the worst offenders.

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