Discover Power Supply in Hawaii: Alternative Energy Solutions and Regulated Rates
Energy prices charged by Hawaii energy companies are the highest in the nation for two main reasons. Firstly, the state uses petroleum-firing power plants to supply more than 70 percent of consumed electricity.
While Hawaii's per capita energy consumption is drastically lower than most states due to its mild climate, its dependence upon petroleum and other crude oils for transportation and tourism consistently ranks first in the United States.
Petroleum is not a cost effective resource in Hawaii's case, as reserves must be replenished rapidly for use in commercial airlines and military installations; it is also expensive to transport and store because of the state's lack of inter-island pipelines.
The second reason for Hawaii's high energy prices is similarly attributed to inconvenience and geography. As there is no pipeline connection between any of the islands that can effectively reduce the costs of storing petroleum, neither is there a grid of transmission lines linking islands with electricity from a single source. Therefore, each island requires its own generation plant. Because large, coal-fired power plants cannot operate on the state's smaller islands, Hawaii energy companies must utilize a series of smaller electricity generating plants that run on imported fossil fuels.
There is, however, a much smaller need for natural gas reserves and an intricate series of pipes like you can find in most U.S. cities, as Hawaii ranks lowest in the nation in total consumption of natural gas. With a minority of residents using natural gas to heat their homes, Hawaii is one of only two states (North Dakota is the other) to produce synthetic natural gas.
What Hawaii energy companies provide the state's electricity?
For more than 100 years, residents and business owners on the islands of Hawaii have relied on Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) for the electricity they need to get through their day. HEI and its subsidiaries, Hawaiian Electric Company, Maui Electric Company and Hawaii Electric Light Company, serve about 95 percent of the state's nearly 1.5 million residents. Generating and distributing electricity on the islands of Oahu, Maui, Hawaii Island, Lanai and Molokai since 1881, this utility is one of the state's largest and oldest companies.
The state's only other public electric utility is the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, which provides electricity solely to the island of Kauai.
Overseeing the activities of each of these companies is the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which regulates the rates Hawaii utilities charge for electricity and monitors the state's overall consumption on a short- and long-term basis.
What are the prospects for Hawaii solar power?
The PUC is also in charge of setting goals for Hawaii utilities to implement alternative means of generation in order to limit spending on petroleum and cut down on harmful carbon emissions. As the islands' generation plants continue to import and burn large quantities of petroleum, the need for cleaner and cheaper methods grows.
Due to Hawaii's size and geography, there exist no real signs of a deregulated energy market becoming a possibility in the Aloha State in the near future , so options are limited for residents in search of Hawaii alternative energy supply.
However, Hawaii utilities and Hawaii alternative energy providers are taking action to increase the amount of electricity generated using renewable resources. In 2014 the Hawaiian Electric Company submitted Power Supply Improvement Plans to the PUC, in which it vowed to reach 65 percent electricity sales generated from renewable resources such as solar power by 2030. Similarly, the Kauai Island Utility Co-op has committed to a goal of 50 percent by 2023.
Both of these Hawaii solar power providers intend to continue constructing more solar power projects each year throughout the islands, and the state government is working on developing energy storage technology such as batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, which will support the increased generation from renewables.
Are there other options for Hawaii alternative energy solutions?
While a majority of the state's production through renewable resources comes from solar and hydropower, other methods include biomass, biofuel, geothermal and wind energy. On islands such as Oahu, where some of the world's most powerful waves have been recorded, the U.S. Navy has discovered the potential of wave energy as a viable resource for powering its island bases.
Additionally, for more than 15 years, Hawaiian Electric Company has tested the benefits of installing solar thermal devices on the roofs of homes and businesses. Tens of thousands of Hawaii solar power water heaters are already in use in Hawaii, and recent building codes require that all new single-family homes be equipped with these units.
Contacting Hawaii utilities
If you are a resident of Hawaii, it is important to know who to call when you experience a power outage or have questions over your service provision. You can find support phone numbers below for each of the Hawaii energy companies operating on the islands.
- Customer service: 808-548-7311
- Emergency outage support: 855-304-1212
Hawaii Electric Light
- Customer service on Hilo: 808-969-6999
- Customer service on Kona: 808-329-3584
- Customer service on Waimea: 808-885-4605
- Emergency outage support: 808-969-6666
Kauai Island Utility Co-op
- Customer service: 808-246-4300
- Emergency outage support: 808-246-8200
- Customer service on Maui: 808-871-9777
- Emergency outage support on Maui: 808-871-7777
- Customer service and emergency outage support on Molokai, Lanai: 877-871-8461