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Understanding Molokai’s Electric Grid

Community Contributed

By Kahenawai Hirata, Sust’ainable Molokai Intern 

According to Hawaiian Electric this month, 86 percent of Molokai homes and businesses are powered by the diesel powered generators at Palaʻau, and the other 14 percent of our energy needs are met by the 500 rooftop solar systems on the island.

This and other information was discussed on Feb. 16 at the first energy briefing held via Zoom by the Molokai Clean Energy Hui (MCEH), in partnership with the Molokai community, Sust’ainable Molokai and Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI). This briefing is part of the community education and input phase of the Molokai Community Energy Resilience Action Plan (Molokai CERAP). MCEH gave a presentation about Molokai’s grid and renewable energy (RE), followed by small group break-out sessions. The presentation answered questions like, what is Molokai’s grid, how does the grid work, and what will it take to add RE to Molokai’s grid? During the break-out sessions, there was open discussion about the presentation. 

Frank Keoho, Par Hawaii Molokai director, said the reality of how far diesel travels before it reaches Molokai was a surprise to many. Most of Molokai’s fuel comes from Asia and travels to Kapolei, Oahu to be refined, then to Maui, and finally to Molokai on a special fuel barge.

All the shipping and processing of diesel impacts the cost of electricity for us as consumers, and upgrading our grid to add renewable energy will initially impact electric costs as well. An oil reclamation service and transformer oil analysis will need to be done for most of the transformers in the grid. We will discuss exactly how much of our electric bills go towards paying for diesel at our March 16 energy briefing. There will also be a discussion regarding a plant relocation or an additional power plant.

Molokai community members asked questions like, “How many jobs do the different types of RE create?”, “What kinds of storage options are there and how much do they cost?”, “Are there secondary containment solutions available to prevent chemical accidents?”, “As we transition to electric vehicles, could EV batteries be an affordable solution to having a larger decentralized grid and more rooftop solar?” MCEH will help our community get the answers to any energy related questions we have and share them at an upcoming energy briefing.

Please join us for second Energy Briefing on March 16 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Zoom to learn about how we can reduce our electric bills, how much different types of renewable energy cost, and other ways renewable energy can save/make money. For details on how to attend this community meeting, to get involved in the Molokai CERAP, or to get updates about MCEH, please visit our Linktree at linktr.ee/MolokaiCleanEnergyHui 

MCEH is a community initiative facilitated by Sustʻainable Molokai, a community development nonprofit. Its purpose is to help Molokai become the clean energy community we all want to live in.


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