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Gov. David Ige’s ‘powering past coal task force’ to track projects replacing Oahu’s coal plant

Gov. David Ige has established a new task force to help move Oahu’s renewable projects along in a more timely manner.

The “Powering Past Coal Task Force,” which Ige established by executive order on March 30, is not meant to be a policy-making body or charged with making administrative rule changes.

Nor does it replace the independent review of participating agencies for permitting or regulation.

The purpose of the task force, according to the order, is to bring stakeholders together to “timely facilitate, coordinate, and align project development and reviews” by Hawaiian Electric, state and county agencies of renewable projects replacing coal.

The moves came just two weeks after the state Public Utilities Commission raised concerns about the impacts of lengthy delays of renewable energy projects on consumers, since many are not projected to come online before the retirement of AES Hawaii, Oahu’s coal plant.

By law, AES Hawaii, Oahu’s 180-megawatt coal plant, is required to retire on Sept. 1, 2022, when the state’s ban on the use of coal for electrical power generation goes into effect.

There is a growing sense of urgency to bring a number of renewable energy projects online, in addition to approved community-based renewable energy projects, grid services contracts and distributed energy resources before then.

Many of these projects are experiencing delays that cause concern about cost and reliability, Ige noted, particularly for the fall of 2022 and summer of 2023.

Members of the task force, to be chaired by Chief Energy Officer Scott Glenn of the Hawaii State Energy Office, will also include representatives from the state Public Utilities Commission; Hawaii Natural Energy Institute; the consumer advocate; various state and Honolulu County agencies, private developers and energy-related public interest groups.

The task force is creating a master schedule to be maintained by the energy office that will track PUC-approved projects in the pipeline.

“It is meant to demonstrate the seriousness the state government is taking on this issue,” said Glenn during today’s PUC status conference hearing. “We really are trying to save days and weeks here and want to make sure we can visualize those savings.”

The first meeting was held on March 31, and will likely meet monthly, Glenn said. The Hawaii State Energy Office has also set up a website with relevant links at energy.hawaii.gov/ppctf.

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