Sunday, February 8, 2015

What's Real, What's Practical

I lost a post-it note that I stuck on my desk where I wrote something like “people won’t know what to ask for if they don’t know what is possible.”   I can’t remember what context I heard it said but couple it with “where people lead politicians follow” it sets up an unsettling situation with regard to Hawaii’s energy transformation.

Hawaii’s energy transformation is a complex and uncertain transition during a time of rapidly advancing technologies.  For the average Hawaii resident, those who will be most affected and holding the bag to pay for our electricity system, there is hardly any information on what is real and what is practical.  Sound bites appear to hurt rather than help the enormity of this transformation.  Shouting “get off of fossil fuels” or “PV on every roof “ may be more akin to “let them eat cake” as generous subsidies appear to target and benefit just a small segment of electricity customers leaving most users behind paying higher costs.

The smallness of our island grids further exacerbates the technical challenges of integrating of large amounts of variable renewable resources.  Methods used for mainland and large system studies are not adequate or appropriate when trying to understand our island electric systems.  As we navigate close to the edge of a precipice, Hawaii ventures where no other electrical system has had any experience, and failure is not an option.  We are all highly dependent on grid furnished electricity.  While it is easy to “dis” the electric utility as the monopoly, we haven’t figured out a cheaper way to provide electricity more efficiently that serves the public good.

It is my hope that this blog can be used by a wide variety of readers/followers, not just the typical energy wonks and stakeholders, to help inform and discuss our clean energy future.  I welcome suggestions for future articles or questions where I can seek out experts to help inform.

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