HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii Gas announced plans Tuesday to bring in liquefied natural gas, which the company claimed will save electricity consumers anywhere from 14 to 30 percent.
The proposal must still be approved by state regulators and Hawaiian Electric Company, and it faces opposition from environmental activists and Gov. David Ige, who worries bringing in that type of fossil fuel could distract from the state's goal of being powered 100 percent by renewable energy by 2045.
Hawaii Gas, the state's only gas utility, said it has selected a company and begun contract negotiations to bring in liquefied natural gas off Kalaeloa, transferring the gas from a tanker to a floating storage unit that would send the gas to shore through an underwater pipeline.
"It doesn't impact our roads and harbors. It has a minimal amount of environmental impact, as compared to any other alternative. It's the lowest cost, it's the most economical," said Joseph Boivin, Jr., Hawaii Gas' senior vice president of business development.
Hawaii Gas said it would cost about $200 million – funded by ratepayers -- to build pipelines and other infrastructure to tie in with Hawaiian Electric's main power generation plants. But HECO and the Public Utilities Commission would have to agree to such a deal.
"There are benefits in terms of lowering our energy costs here in Hawaii which we all know are very high. And also allowing for lower carbon emissions," said Hawaii Gas President and CEO Alicia Moy.
Hawaii Gas said liquified natural gas, known as LNG, could decrease electricity rates here anywhere from 14 to 30 percent, depending on oil prices, while reducing carbon emissions by about 30 percent.
"LNG is a distraction from the ultimate goal line, which is 100 percent renewable energy in Hawaii," said Sierra Club Hawaii Director Marti Townsend. "You could be investing in renewable energy. It makes no sense, it's like we're digging a hole just for the the purpose of filling it back in again. Why would you do that except to just make money off the people of Hawaii with no regard for our environment or the future of our workers."
Jeff Mikulina, executive director of Blue Planet Foundation, said, "We think locking ourselves into a natural gas future, imported fossil fuel, is a giant step backwards."
Hawaii Gas said it's limiting its plan to lasting just 15 years.
"Any supplies of LNG could be backed out as renewable energy takes hold. So that way, it doesn't actually impede the renewable energy future for Hawaii," Moy said.
Hawaiian Electric spokesman Darren Pai said, "We are in the final stages of our own request for proposals, evaluating LNG suppliers and the potential to provide the greatest possible savings for our customers. We are open to learning more about Hawaii Gas' plans if they will reduce costs for our customers and are consistent with state policy."
"One thing that is important to consider is the infrastructure that would need to be developed to support any energy resource," Pai said.
"The option we are focused on would use specialized shipping containers to deliver LNG to our generating stations, thus minimizing the need for permanent infrastructure."
The HECO option would use trucks to deliver the gas to HECO power plants, while Hawaii Gas would have to build some new underground lines or use its existing gas lines, and not trucks, to transport gas to generation stations.