Hawaiian Electric has filed a motion asking the state Public Utilities Commission to reconsider the operational and financial conditions it has attached to its approval of the Kapolei Energy Storage project.
The PUC in late April approved the project — considered by many as key to keeping the lights on when Oahu’s coal plant retires next fall — but with nine specific conditions.
Hawaiian Electric on Monday objected to the conditions, citing four in particular as “highly problematic,” and said they should be reconsidered, removed or modified, or else the project may not be able to move forward as planned.
The utility requested that the PUC promptly issue a modified decision so the developer, Plus Power, can bring the battery online in the summer of 2022.
“All of us are aiming for the same goal, to get Hawaii off imported fossil fuels and to decarbonize our energy system,” said Scott Seu, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric in a statement. “Most of the time we’re in alignment with our regulators’ direction and we don’t take this action lightly, but this is one of the infrequent times we disagree on tactics. We’re offering to be flexible and we hope the commission will make some adjustments that enable us to keep moving us toward our decarbonized future.”
The PUC is reviewing the motion, but had no comment at this time.
The utility said it has demonstrated that the project would help lower customers’ bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure the energy security and reliability of Oahu’s grid, but without modifications to the PUC order, it “will be nearly impossible for the project to move forward.”
Either the PUC or Hawaiian Electric can declare the Kapolei project’s Energy Storage Power Purchase Agreement — first submitted for consideration eight months ago — null and void.
Some of the conditions, Hawaiian Electric said, are not actually related to the storage project, but “appear to be an assembly of directives on issues still being considered in other dockets”
The Kapolei Energy Storage project is a 185-MW lithium-ion battery project with 565 megawatt-hours of storage planned on industrial land.
San Francisco-based developer Plus Power said it would connect to a critical Hawaiian Electric substation and provide load shifting and fast-frequency response services, plus improve grid reliability. If completed, it would be the largest stand-alone battery storage system in the state.
Plus Power filed a motion as Kapolei Energy Storage I LLC and said it, too, was concerned with the “burdensome conditions” placed on Hawaiian Electric. It also warned that unless the PUC issues a clear approval in the next few weeks resolving the situation, the project could potentially be withdrawn due to “near-term financial obligations.”
The battery system is expected to compensate for the loss of AES Hawaii, Oahu’s 180-megawatt coal plant, when it retires as required by law in September 2022.