Hawaiian island energy co-op steps up drive for renewables

A Hawaiian utility co-op is aiming to produce 70% of its energy from renewables by 2030.

The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative had already set a target of 50% renewables by 2023 but is set to hit that goal 2018, five years earlier than expected.

“We are fully confident, given KIUC’s track record of developing new renewable sources over the past six years, that we can meet this goal – perhaps even ahead of schedule,” said board chair Jan TenBruggencate.

The co-op has updated its strategic plan with a new set of targets for 2030, which range from controlling costs and developing smartgrid technology to wildlife conservation reducing greenhouse emissions.

Energy from the solar facilities is available at night thanks to battery storage
Energy from the solar facilities is available at night thanks to battery storage

It says it will continue investing in n technology to maintain or improve operations, with the eventual goal of a 100% renewable future.

Last year, the company worked with SolarCity, an energy storage developer owned by Tesla Inc, to install a state-of-the art solar power facility which uses lithium-ion batteries to store electricity. This means solar power can be provided on demand, even at night.

“With the anticipation of the Solar City/Tesla solar-plus-battery facility coming on line within a few weeks, we will have already achieved roughly 44 percent renewable generation,” said David Bissell, president and chief executive of KIUC.

“This is truly remarkable when you consider that as recently as 2011 we were 92% dependent on fossil fuel generation.”

A hydro generator run by KIUC
A hydro generator run by KIUC

The company’s updated 2013-2025 strategic plan, which is regularly reviewed to keep up with technological, financial and regulatory changes, also includes:

  • holding controllable cost increases at or below inflation
  • maintaining system reliability at 99.96% or better
  • establishing a rate structure that is fair between classes of members and encourages usage during lowest-cost periods
  • addressing climate change by reducing greenhouse emissions, adapting to local impacts and developing mitigation measures to protect assets
  • obtaining long-term incidental federal and state permits that set requirements for conservation of endangered bird species