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Governor to Hawaii County: Energy emergency declaration wouldn’t offer quick fix

Last month Hawaiian Electric predicted bills could go up 10% on Oahu and as much as 20% on Maui and Hawaii Island.
Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 6:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the past few days, gas prices set new record highs here in Hawaii. But the cost of oil has impacted other areas too, including your electricity bill.

Last month, Hawaiian Electric predicted bills could go up 10% on Oahu and as much as 20% on Maui and Hawaii Island.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said that just proves the state needs to put more effort into stabilizing energy costs because there are a lot of people struggling with their bills.

“They don’t have to decide about whether they’re going to feed their kids, or pay their rent, or pay some bills or, skip meals,” Roth said.

“So I think it’s really important for us, for an economy’s sake, to think about where our fuels come.”

Roth has asked Gov. David Ige to declare an energy emergency to speed up the transition to green energy. He said decisions from the Public Utilities Commission have been slow-moving.

But the governor’s office said an emergency declaration won’t be a quick fix, saying in a statement:

“The requested action to expedite PUC decisions on renewable energy projects on Hawaii Island would not address the immediate challenges, as each of the projects would have additional steps following a PUC decision before they can be brought online.

“A more immediate solution would be to tackle Hawaii County’s backlog of solar and battery storage permit applications. The current situation underscores the importance of Hawaii’s first-in-the-nation commitment to renewable energy. When more of the grid is powered by renewables, it will better insulate the state from oil market prices. Gov. Ige and Mayor Roth share a vision for a renewable energy future in Hawaii and are working together with many others to ensure that it becomes a reality.”

Meanwhile, on Kauai, residents see more stability than in the rest of the island chain.

“It’s hugely beneficial for our members to be able to plan to know their energy,” said Beth Tonioka, the communications manager for Kauai Island Utility Cooperative.

While other islands have seen energy costs soar between 25-to-35%, in this past year Kauai has only experienced a 5 percent increase.

That’s because KIUC is at 70% renewable energy.

“The more renewable energy we can bring onto the grid, the better will be for our customers,” said Alan Yonan, Hawaiian Electric Communications Specialist.

Hawaiian Electric wants to catch up. but said there are hurdles.

“For Oahu, one of the challenges is the amount of land that’s available for, for instance, large-scale solar,” said Yonan. “That’s something that Kauai has been able to deal with pretty effectively.”

Meanwhile, people are trying to take it upon themselves to save.

“So we’ve had a lot of increased program interest for the last few years. And now it’s just more important than ever,” said Caroline Carl, Hawaii Energy interim executive director.

“I think a general trend we’re starting to see is a lot of a lot more interest in smart devices, you see it in appliances, all sorts of internet-connected opportunities,” Carl said.

Carl said special rebate programs include an instant-rebate program, where Costco shoppers can get LED light bulbs and the cost is taken off at the register.

Hawaii Energy provides specialists that can help residents and business owners find ways to lower their bills. There are also a number of small things you can do to save. Learn more here.

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