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Renewable energy rises 28% in 2019, Hawaiian Electric says

Hawaiian Electric said its use of renewable energy in 2019 increased over 2018 despite the unavailability of geothermal on the Big Island, and significantly lower wind energy production.

Last year, Hawaiian Electric said it achieved a 28.4% consolidated, renewable portfolio standard, surpassing 27% in 2018.

The state has set out to achieve a renewable portfolio standard — or production using renewable energy sources — of 100% by 2045. To stay on track, Hawaii must reach 30% by the end of 2020, 40% by the end of 2030, and 70% by the end of 2040.

“We’re well on track to meet the 30% RPS by the end of 2020,” said Jim Alberts, senior vice president of business development and strategic planning, in a statement. “We gained some strong momentum going into the end of 2019 with the surge of grid and rooftop solar and we fully expect Puna Geothermal Venture to be back online before long, so that would push us past 30 percent.”

An increase in rooftop solar photovoltaic systems, as well as grid-scale solar projects, helped Hawaiian Electric achieve this last year despite setbacks. Energy generated by renewable resources increased by 156,064 megawatt-hours in 2019, a 6.7% increase from the previous year.

Several other factors last year kept that standard from being higher than it could have been, potentially.

The Puna Geothermal Venture, which was shut down due to damage during the 2018 Kilauea eruption, was unable to contribute to Hawaiian Electric’s consolidated RPS.

If Puna Geothermal Venture had operated as usual throughout 2019, it would have added an estimated 3.7 percentage points to Hawaiian Electric’s consolidated RPS. Had it been online, Hawaiian Electric says Hawaii island would have achieved an estimated RPS of 65%.

Instead, Hawaii island recorded 35%, down from 44%.

Puna Geothermal Venture hopes to finish reconstruction of its facility, and to resume operations this year.

Also, there was a 13% drop in wind energy production last year – a total of 527,887 megawatt-hours, down from 602,007 in 2018.

In addition, record-high temperatures last summer drove up electricity demand, reducing the RPS, which is based on the amount of renewable energy used by customers as a percentage of total utility sales.

Still, Hawaiian Electric continued its renewable energy push last year, and did well on Oahu and Maui County.

Oahu jumped to 25%, up from 22% the previous year. Three Clearway Energy solar facilities — two in central Oahu and one on the North Shore totaling 110 megawatts — went into commercial operation in September and November respectively. Hawaiian Electric’s 20-MW West Loch Solar Project in Ewa also went online in November.

Maui County,achieved 41% RPS with its mix of solar, wind and biofuels, up from 38% in 2018.

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