Are Fossil Fuels the Dinosaurs of Energy Resources?

This September 14, 2011 Renewable Energy World story addresses Hawaii’s initiatives to transition away from petroleum reliance to biofuels. Because of the state’s remote location and isolation, the state’s energy is nearly 90% petroleum-based. Currently, Hawaii’s electricity rates are three times the US average, and twice that of the second most costliest state.

Hawaii Renewable Energy Development Venture (HREDV) is leading efforts to transition from 90% petroleum reliance on electricity generation to 40% electricity generation from renewable energy by 2030, and a 70% non-petroleum for areas like transportation. These thresholds will be achieved through biofuel energy for existing power facilities instead of new utility construction, and perhaps a mix of geothermal, solar, wind, and sea power technology as the new technology emerges.

This long-range plan is aggressive but there is movement toward these goals. Hawaiian Electric Company and Hawaii BioEnergy have reached a preliminary 20-year agreement to blend biofuel from Kauai with low sulfur fuel oil for use in Oahu’s largest generation station. Recent completion of a new Honeywell demonstration facility is designed to convert forest residuals, algae and other cellulosic biomass into biofuels targeted for Hawaii’s transportation market.

These companies and others are hoping for the agreement to lead to approved contracts; however, opposition exists from Hawaii’s environmentalists and some local communities. Concerns include impact on property values, increased traffic, and possible adverse impact on tourist appeal with new biomass fuel farms and renewable energy generation systems located in strategic locations throughout the islands.

According to the story, serious issues also exist with the transparency (or lack thereof) of price structures for fuel costs from current energy suppliers. Transparency is perhaps another area in need of reform. Regardless, no expert expects Hawaii to lose its costliest energy ranking anytime soon. Even if HREDV success is achieved and 2030 renewable energy goals met, new ways of doing business are never cheap.

Dawn Lippert, HREDV Project Coordinator, gives an overview of their renewable energy initiatives at the Tech Enterprise 2010 conference: