Kauai’s electric utility gets its first shipment of locally-produced biodiesel

A big step toward achieving Hawaii's 100% renewable energy 2045 goal
Published: Jun. 28, 2023 at 11:19 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 29, 2023 at 5:10 AM HST
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LIHUE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kauai’s electric utility company received its first shipment of locally-produced biodiesel fuel for its largest power generator Wednesday.

The delivery of the local and affordable biodiesel is being hailed as a big step toward meeting the goal of 100% renewable energy statewide by 2045. But some neighbor islands are having more challenges than others in moving toward that goal.

The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative took delivery of the fuel from Pacific Biodiesel at its Kapaia Power Generation Station. KIUC’s largest station generates 27.5 megawatts of power, and the biofuel can already been used in existing generators.

It’s also helping to boost KIUC’s use of renewable energy, which is already up to 60% on average.

“Right now about 40% of our generation comes from solar,” said KIUC’s Beth Amaro. “About two-thirds of that it utility and another third is rooftop.”

That solar energy use means that the island sometimes doesn’t use fossil fuels at all to generate electricity.

“Here on Kauai we’re currently operating the grid on 100% renewable on most sunny days for up to as long as ten hours at a time,” said KIUC president and CEO Brad Rockwell.

The co-op wants to meet its 100% renewable energy goal in just ten years. It’s already ahead of the state as a whole.

“Overall statewide average, we’re at 33%, which is really high,” said Hawaii Chief Energy Officer Mark Glick. “We’re a third of the way to the ultimate goal.”

Glick said while Kauai leads the state in using sources other than fossil fuels, the island of Hawaii isn’t far behind, with nearly half of its energy from sources such as geothermal.

But one additional source — the wood-burning Honua Ola Biomass Plant — was blocked by the Public Utilities Commission and the state supreme court.

Maui is at 36% — which includes wind energy — but there are big challenges just ahead.

“It has to deal with some aging power plants, so we’re going to be working very closely with Hawaiian Electric to see what we can do to fill the gap of that firm power that’s going to go away in 2027,” Glick said.

The shipment is a win for Maui-based Pacific Biodiesel, which recycles used cooking oil from restaurants. It also grows sunflowers and other crops that ultimate become fuel.

“It’s the circular economy that we’re working toward, where we grow it, we make it into food first, then culinary oil, then animal feed, and then back around to the biodiesel,” said Pacific Biodiesel’s founder and president Robert King.