HECO lifts call for power conservation on Hawaii Island, but energy problems linger

While rolling blackouts were avoided, there are more calls for more diverse energy sources.
Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 4:11 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 20, 2022 at 10:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaiian Electric Company said customer conservation efforts on Hawaii Island helped the utility to avoid rolling power outages Thursday night.

HECO made the request because three major generators were offline.

One tripped offline on Thursday afternoon while two others are undergoing maintenance.

The conservation plea came a month and a half after the last one.

The island just doesn’t have much wiggle room when energy resources go down.

“We’ve got to focus on affordability, on reliability and on resilience,” said RevoluSun executive Colin Yost. He’s the newest appointee to the powerful Public Utilities Commission.

“All of these challenges should be overcomeable, but we’re all going to have to work together as a community to make that work to put the right policies in place and to make sure that electricity remains affordable -- actually, frankly it’s never been affordable,” he said.

Yost and the two other commissioners could ultimately decide the fate of the island’s Honua Ola bioenergy project, which was blocked by the previous PUC.

The chair of the state Senate Committee on Energy thinks that was a mistake.

“We talked about Hu Honua -- biomass, burning wood to create energy, or more importantly, they have an active volcano,” said Sen. Glenn Wakai. “Geothermal has immense energy possibilities.

HECO had asked Puna Geothermal for maximum output to avoid blackouts.

Sen. Wakai believes the island needs more diverse energy resources.

“So much of the Big Island’s alternative and renewable sources are coming from intermittent (sources), either wind or solar” he said. “And when the wind doesn’t blo0w and the sun doesn’t shine, they’re in the predicament that they’re in.”

Despite the pitfalls, Yost said Hawaii is actually well on its way to meeting the state’s mandate of using 100% renewable energy by 2045.

“Some parts of the state are doing better than others,” he said. “Kauai has been reported to already be 70% renewable, which is extraordinary. That’s really a remarkable achievement.”

Yost said he is divesting himself from his work in the renewable energy industry to serve full time on the PUC. His appointment is subject to senate confirmation.