Claim: Hawaii relies on Russian oil — but clean energy could change that

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Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Hawaiian grid operators have the job from hell. Green obsessed Hawaiian politicians have demanded their grid operators keep the electricity flowing without buying oil, despite a forced coal shutdown and serious delays to renewable energy projects.

Hawaii relies on Russian oil — but clean energy could change that

Hawaii’s transition to renewables becomes all the more urgent as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rattles energy markets.

25 February 2022

Julian Spector

Russia invaded Ukraine, global oil prices spiked, and one U.S. state in particular will feel the crunch.

Hawaii imports all of its oil, much of it from Russia itself. As the U.S. Energy Information Administration succinctly notes, ​“Isolated by the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is the most petroleum-dependent U.S. state.” And while gasoline prices are rising everywhere, Hawaii is unique among the states in how much it depends on oil for electricity.

The biggest power plant on the most populous island, the coal-powered AESplant in West Oahu, will shut down in September 2022. The fleet of large-scale renewable projects developed to replace the coal plant is facing delaysand cancellations. Until new clean capacity comes online, oil plants are part of the fallback plan to keep the lights on for Oahu’s 1 million residents when coal power goes away.

“We have warned about leaving the cost of this transition up to world oil markets, and this week’s events are another reminder of the price we pay for oil dependence,” said Jay Griffin, chair of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, in a Friday email.

Regulators at the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission previously castigated the utility for its plans to increase reliance on oil-burning plants after the coal plant shutdown, citing concerns about carbon emissions and added costs for consumers.

In a letter to Hawaiian Electric, the regulators said that Oahu is expected to have enough energy to keep the grid reliable for the next few years thanks to the first two rounds of contracts for new renewable and battery projects. But, the letter adds, ​“nearly all Stage 1 and 2 projects have faced delays,” and multiple projects have been canceled due to pandemic-induced supply chain problems.

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One of my first contracts was developing software for a power utility, to help them manage their inventory. I liked my manager Lou S., decent guy, gentle, compassionate, yet a real sense of mission. He approached his job of keeping the lights on, the way police officers or other frontline workers approach their job. He knew there are real consequences when the power fails, so he was quietly but utterly determined to prevent that from happening, by doing his job to the best of his ability.

Somewhere in the Hawaiian grid hierarchy is someone just like my old power engineer boss, who is burning whatever is left of her life and sanity, trying to save her bosses from themselves. Nothing she does is right in the eyes of her bosses. Coal is being eliminated, renewables are late to the table, so she bought oil for emergency diesel generators – then got slammed in public for doing her job, of keeping the lights on.

Whoever you are, just walk away. They don’t deserve you.

via Watts Up With That?

February 27, 2022