End of coal heralded as step toward greener future, but transition is a rocky one
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - You’ll only see smoke coming from the stacks of the AES coal plant in Leeward Oahu for two more weeks.
Gov. David Ige says while the plant was very much needed when it was built 30 years ago, it’s time for a change.
Hawaii law states that coal can’t be burned for energy past the end of the year, and the state got its last shipment of coal last month.
“I do think it’s an appropriate time to be ending the coal our era here in the islands, and really looking forward to a clean renewable energy future,” Ige said.
But there are concerns about generating enough power.
The plant supplies one-fifth of Oahu’s energy and Hawaiian Electric has already had to raise prices in anticipation of the shutdown.
“If you’re a believer that this coal plant and the shutdown of this coal plant is going to stop climate change, it’s a great day for you,” said Glenn Wakai, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development, Tourism.
“If you pay the electricity bill, today’s a disastrous day for the state or for the island of Oahu.”
Environmentalist Carroll Cox says AES has shared little about what will happen to the facility and the hazardous material within.
“There was waste generated in its coal ash. And then there’s residual coal dust, that actual product of coal and some coal itself,” he said. “So that needs to be removed and properly dispose of to whatever site to landfill, wherever they’ve chosen, allowed to be dumped.”
AES will dismantle the facility starting next year.
And while the company decides its next steps, employees of the plant are looking for theirs.
Edwin Julian has been an employee here for 30 years.
“People like me, you know, we’re going to probably retire,” he said. “The rest is moving on to other AES facilities and the rest we’re just going to try to look elsewhere.”
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