Hawaii's utility companies have made advances in generating power from renewable energy sources, but those strides have not been enough to help the state reach renewable energy goals set by the 2004 Legislature, experts told lawmakers yesterday.
"We're using too much energy too fast to have the small improvements in renewables that we've been making catch up," said Kyle Datta, senior director for research and consulting at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit energy policy analysis group. "We're really just treading water."
Datta was among the members of the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum who briefed lawmakers on the progress of renewable energy, energy efficiency and regulatory reform in Hawaii.
Legislation passed in 2004 requires electric utilities to meet a renewable portfolio standard of 15 percent for 2015 and a goal of 20 percent for 2020. Those standards represent the percentage of net energy sales that must come from renewable sources, such as wind, wave, solar and hydrogen power, by those deadlines.
Progress to meet those goals has been slow, Datta said.
Today, Hawaii's renewable energy percentage is only 5 percent, slightly behind the 8 percent goal that was set by the Legislature for the end of 2005, Datta said.
By 2010 the goal is 10 percent, but Hawaii is only on pace to reach 6 percent renewable energy by 2012, Datta said.
"We don't have all the policies in place," Datta said. "We have a foundation of some good policies, but some need fixing ... some need extension ... and some just simply haven't been done."
Members of the Energy Policy Forum, a policy analysis group of about 40 representatives from the public and private sector, laid out a 10-point plan aimed at increasing Hawaii's renewable energy standards.
The recommendations include promoting energy efficiency standards in public buildings, supporting research and development of alternative fuels and biofuels, and using incentives to encourage installation of renewable energy devices in homes and the use of energy-efficient appliances and vehicles.
Energy Policy Forum members said they were encouraged by proposals put forth this year by Democrats, Republicans and the Lingle administration.
All sides have said there appears to be agreement in many areas, and this year could see the adoption of a substantial renewable energy package.
"We've got a lot of momentum in key areas," said Robbie Alm, senior vice president of Hawaiian Electric Co. and a member of the policy forum. "We've just got to keep going."
Increasing use of renewables required
Act 95, passed by the 2004 Legislature, requires electric utilities to meet a renewable portfolio standard of 15 percent for 2015, with a goal of 20 percent for 2020. Those standards represent the percentage of their net energy sales that must come from renewable sources, such as electrical energy produced by wind, solar energy, hydropower, landfill gas, waste to energy, geothermal resources, ocean thermal energy conversion, wave energy and biomass, including municipal solid waste, biofuels or fuels derived from organic sources, hydrogen fuels derived from renewable energy or fuel cells where the fuel is derived from renewable sources.
The act states that each electric utility company that sells electricity for consumption in the state shall establish a renewable portfolio standard of:
» 7 percent of its net electricity sales by Dec. 31, 2003.
» 8 percent of its net electricity sales by Dec. 31, 2005.
» 10 percent of its net electricity sales by Dec. 31, 2010.
» 15 percent of its net electricity sales by Dec. 31, 2015.
» 20 percent of its net electricity sales by Dec. 31, 2020.