From petroleum based electricity generating plants to wind and solar production, Hawaii has numerous ways to produce electricity.

Hawaii is on its way to having the greenest grid in the nation.

The state legislature sent a bill to the governor’s desk in 2015 that moves the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) up to 100 percent by 2045 — which means that all electricity provided by the electric companies will have to come from renewable sources like solar and wind. Nationwide, electricity generation makes up about a third of all carbon emissions.

The Hawaiian Electric Companies – Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light – provide electricity for 95% of residents of the State of Hawaii on the islands of Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Hawaii Island.

When hawaii talks about modernizing the electrical grid it means how they mean:

“Grid modernization refers to computer-based control and automation technology to bring current utility electricity delivery systems into the 21st century. The benefits of grid modernization include improvements in efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity all the way from the electricity’s generation to the user’s home and workplace.”

While the main objective is to generate 100 percent of our electricity from renewable resources by the year 2045, there are a few Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) targets along the way:

  • 30 percent – 2020
  • 40 percent – 2030
  • 70 percent – 2040
  • 100 percent – 2045

As of 2017 the Tri-company renewable energy percentage* was 26.8%.

In 2015, Hawaii imported 91% of the energy it consumed, mostly as petroleum.

With its mild tropical climate, Hawaii had the fourth-lowest per capita energy use in the nation in 2015. The transportation sector accounted for more than half (51%) of Hawaii’s total energy demand in 2015, led by jet fuel use.

In 2016, Hawaii generated more solar electricity per capita from distributed facilities than any other state, and solar energy from both utility-scale and distributed resources generated 38% of Hawaii’s net generation from renewable resources.

Hawaii is one of seven states with utility-scale generation from geothermal energy. In 2016, 19% of Hawaii’s renewable net electricity generation came from geothermal energy.

In 2016, Hawaii had the highest electricity prices in the nation; it is the first state to set a legal deadline for producing 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources, a target it plans to achieve by 2045

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You can go to this link and view the different power sources on each island. Click on an icon on their map to get information on that particular source.

Hawaii Is Isolated from the Rest of the Country — and the Rest of the Electric Grid

While Hawaii’s grid electricity is very expensive, it has exceptional sunshine that makes solar electricity relatively cheap — driving 12 percent of Hawaiian households to adopt solar panels. (Source: NREL)

The United States has 3 electrical power grids, the Eastern Interconnection, the Western Interconnection and Texas. Quebec and Alaska are considered in the grid as well.

The two major and three minor NERCinterconnections, and the nine NERC Regional Reliability Councils.

Interconnections can be tied to each other via high-voltage direct currentpower transmission lines(DC ties), or with variable-frequency transformers(VFTs), which permit a controlled flow of energy while also functionally isolating the independent AC frequencies of each side. The Eastern Interconnection is tied to the Western Interconnection with six DC ties, to the Texas Interconnection with two DC ties, and to the Quebec Interconnection with four DC ties and a VFT.

We still have power outages. On March 13, 1989 the entire province ofQuebec, Canada suffered an electrical power blackout lasting 12 hours—and it was all thanks to the sun.

The NORTHEAST UNITED STATES AND CANADA // AUGUST 14-15, 2003. It took months before the real cause of the Northeast Blackout of 2003 was finally determined. Initially, Canadian Defense Minister John McCallum blamed an outage at a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, which the state’s Emergency Management Agency denied. What actually happened was a high-voltage power line in Northern Ohio brushed against overgrown trees, causing it to shut down. When the alarm system that would typically alert FirstEnergy Corporation failed, the incident was ignored. In the next 90 minutes, system operators tried to figure out what happened while three other lines switched off as a consequence of the first line’s failure.

This started a domino effect, and by 4:05 p.m. Southeast Canada and eight Northeastern U.S. states were without power. 50 million people were inconvenienced for up to two days in what turned out to be the biggest blackout in North American history. 11 people died and there was a reported $6 billion in damages. The incident prompted the creation of a joint task force between the U.S. and Canada to minimize future blackouts.

One of the main reasons Hawaii has struggled with integrating all of its solar energy is that the state is electrically isolated from the mainland. With no power lines linking Hawaii’s small grid with the rest of the United States, the utility has nowhere to dump extra solar power and no access to backup electricity generation from outside the state.

Meanwhile, other leaders in solar energy like Germany and California have benefitted from the ability to exchange power within their borders and with their neighbors to mitigate some of the costs associated with solar variability. If there is extra solar energy produced in a particular area of California, the state’s grid operator can route that power to other areas where it is needed. If solar experiences a sudden generation shortfall, then power plants can send in reserve electricity. Greater interconnection between California and other states is one of the principal strategies recommended to reduce integration costs as more and more renewable energy is installed.

The same strategy won’t work in Hawaii, where there are just a handful of power plants operating to serve the state’s population of approximately 1.4 million. If the existing power plants don’t have the flexibility to make up for the variability introduced by solar, there is simply nothing the grid operator can do to access other, more flexible electricity resources. Thus, the Hawaii Public Utility Commission was forced to formally capthe number of new customers that can install solar panels that feed electricity back into the grid.

Hawaii is looking at a Grid Tie system using underwater cables between Oahu and Maui. The state believes it could reduce electricity rates of up to 0.6-cents per kilowatt hour and provide more stable electricity rates due to reduced exposure to oil pricing volatility

  • Current Grid Tie – The current investigation is looking at a grid tie, a two-way connection between two previously distinct, separate electrical grids to create one unified system between Oahu and Maui Island.  By unifying the grid and sharing resources, the utility will be able to operate more efficiently with less system redundancies, allowing more renewable energy penetration and the shutting-down of old, inefficient petroleum-based power plants.
  • Past Gen Tie – Previous interisland transmission cable projects proposed a one-way cable, or a generation (“gen”) tie, which would have taken energy generated from one or more islands to feed into Oahu.

Hawaiian Electric Company, (Data from

Firm generation:
Hawaiian Electric plants
Waiau (oil): 500 MW
Kahe (oil): 650 MW
Campbell Industrial Park (biofuel): 120 MW
Airport Emergency Power Facility (biofuel): 8 MW

Independent power producers
HPOWER (waste-to-energy): 68.5 MW
Kalaeloa Partners (oil): 208 MW
AES-Hawaii (coal): 180 MW
Total firm capacity: 1,734.5 MW

Independent power producers
Kahuku Wind: 30 MW
Kawailoa Wind: 69 MW
Waianae Solar: 27.6 MW
Par Hawaii: 18.5 MW
Waipio Solar: 14.3 MW
Chevron: 9.6 MW
Waihonu Solar: 6.5 MW
Aloha Solar Fund 1: 5 MW
Kalaeloa Solar Two: 5 MW
Kalaeloa Renewable Energy Park: 5 MW
Kapolei Sustainable Energy Park: 1 MW
Customer-sited solar: 502 MW

Renewable energy percentage*: 21%
Renewable peak: 53% on August 17, 2017