Planning for Molokai’s Energy Future
MCEH News Release
We must go slow, to move fast. This proverb is true for Molokai’s renewable energy needs.
In 2017, Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) revealed a statewide plan including Molokai for 100 percent renewable energy by 2020. However, Molokai is not even close to the goal. Molokai has an abundance of rooftop solar, but customer options for roof top solar are limited due to technical limitation with the grid.
Over the last decades, four large-scale renewable energy developers have come and gone without completing projects for various reasons, primarily costs and roadblocks with HECO. Today Molokai remains dependent on expensive and environmentally damaging fossil fuels. While Molokai residents are the lowest electrical consumers in Hawaii, Molokai continues to have the highest electrical costs in the country.
The good news is the community is engaging in multiple ways to get renewable energy. A community-based group, the Molokai Clean Energy Hui (MCEH) applied for National Renewable Energy Lab consultants to review Molokai’s renewable energy needs and work with the community to develop a comprehensive roadmap, including electric transportation. MCEH had state, county, federal, utility, and community support, but was not the top candidate. Fortunately, technical specialists from the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute are interested in doing the studies and helping Molokai develop this community-based energy roadmap. Options will be assessed with community input regarding environment, cultural, economic, and cost impacts; standards for County resilience initiatives, including climate change and sea level rise; transportation electrification and disaster recovery. The planning process will take up to 18 months.
Currently, HECO has two Molokai Requests for Proposals (RFPs). The first is a Community Based Renewable Energy Project (CBRE) for roughly 20 percent of Molokai’s energy needs (2.5MW). HECO intends to bid on the RFP as well as a Molokai nonprofit group, Ho’ahu Energy Cooperative. MCEH and Ho’ahu Energy submitted independent recommendations to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to modify the RFP’s noncompetitive terms and to include better community engagement, local jobs, environmental and other concerns.
The second RFP is for a larger solar project and battery to provide about 30 percent of Molokai’s energy needs (4.4MW). MCEH recommended stopping this RFP to provide maximum flexibility for the community’s Molokai planning process. The plan outcomes may recommend different locations versus centralized at Pala’au and alternative renewable technologies. MCEH will gather input collaboratively from the community and key partners for the plan. The planning process is dynamic and does not stop anyone from planning or implementing renewable energy projects. Hence, we must go slow, to go fast. With a comprehensive community-driven plan, Molokai can move towards a renewable energy future.
HECO, MCEH and Ho’ahu Energy are meeting with the PUC to discuss and negotiate RFPs terms on June 29. Molokai Renewable Energy on Facebook provides information on all energy issues and will post the link to watch the Molokai PUC proceedings. The outcome of this unprecedented meeting affects everyone on Molokai.