Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will not be surprised to learn that Electric Car stupidity is alive and well in Honolulu.
The Hawaii State Energy Office discusses its Electric Vehicle policies on its website. The subject is introduced as follows:
To reduce Hawaii’s consumption of petroleum within the transportation sector, the State Energy Office is looking at plug-in electric vehicles (EV) as well as other alternative transportation solutions to address the challenges of modernizing our energy system and building a clean transportation future. Hawaii’s leaders and stakeholders view the adoption and widespread deployment of EVs as a key approach towards the reduction of our fossil fuel dependency
Hawaii’s government officials have put on their rose colored green energy glasses. The rosy view sees a warm sunny climate that has excellent solar properties, and short driving distances. Hawaii has been anointed by local government officials as a paradise perfectly set up for Electric Vehicles.
Hawaii has an elaborate subsidy system to encourage energy conservation and to encourage renewable energy. Very nearly all green energy in Hawaii is solar based, either in the form of solar water heaters or solar electric panels on the roofs of houses. There is a bit of wind and lots of other things are being tried, but most electricity in Hawaii is produced by burning oil based fuels.
Remove the rosy hue and reality must one day set in.
Absent a dramatic change in battery technology, all intermittent green energy options will continue to be of limited use. A better battery is an absolute necessity. Today’s crop of batteries are not up to the task. Hawaii’s politicians appear to be wishing for a world that does not yet exist. And wishing it were so is usually bad public policy.
Hawaii is executing policy based upon a technology that doesn’t yet exist. The current crop of batteries are both expensive to manufacture and pollute the world when spent. Solar panels only work for about 5 hours per day and wind averages about 8 hours a day. Both are predictably unreliable. That unpredictable nature will persist until battery technology improves.
Electric vehicles (EV) are exempt from parking fees. Generous tax credits provide purchase assistance and businesses are given subsidies to compensate for mandatory installation of electric fuel fuel stations at parking facilities where 100 or more vehicles are parked. Hawaiian Electric offers discounted electric rates for EV. And Taxi’s have been given generous incentives too.
Solar power does reduce the need for oil power when it is sunny. People install more solar than they need. The excess is dumped onto the power grid. Hawaiian Electric is forced to take it. The excess power is then retrieved from the grid during the evening peak. This activity destabilizes the grid, making the entire system less reliable and it also shifts costs from those that have solar to those that don’t as everybody else has to pay more for peak energy.
A well healed homeowner can install solar power panels and buy an electric car. Hawaii pays him to install the solar, then pays him again to buy the car and allows a discount on the electrical power used while allowing free parking where ever he goes. What a deal….if you own a home and can afford a new car.
Most car charging is done at home at night. The Hawaiian Electric power grid peaks shortly after sunset. Both wind and solar are most effective during the day. Hawaiian Electric is required to provide power 24/7. Very nearly all power generation after sunset in Hawaii is done via oil fired power plants. EV’s in Hawaii use one form of oil (electricity) instead of another form of oil (gasoline).
Oil is a very dirty and very expensive way to produce power. Hawaii is the only state in the USA to use oil widely in power generation. Modern gasoline cars pollute less than not so modern oil fired power plants. EV’s in Hawaii produce twice the air pollution and twice the carbon dioxide as an equivalent gasoline vehicle, particularly newer gasoline vehicles that get significantly better gas mileage.
Hawaii’s government has provided subsidies for all sort of non oil based products. Biodiesel and ethanol are being encouraged with generous subsidies. Hawaii’s ability to produce either is extremely limited.
Both ethanol and biodiesel require large tracts of agricultural land. Land is something in short supply in Hawaii. Hawaii has to import most food items because they don’t have enough farm land. Sugar cane, a primary ethanol feedstock, is going away as houses fill up available land. When I was a small boy, sugarcane was everywhere in rural Oahu. Not anymore.
Hawaii’s approach is to try a bit of everything and hope that something will work. The result is lots of subsidies to encourage less electrical usage. People get government assistance to put LED lighting in their homes, to use more efficient appliances, to install solar water heaters, and tax credits for solar powered electricity. And one subsidy that encourages more electrical use…Electric Vehicle tax credits and deals.
And who pays for it, everybody that doesn’t drive an EV and have solar electric panels on their house. Hawaiian Electric customers pay three times the national average for their electricity, which makes conservation an obvious choice. It also makes Electric Vehicles more expensive to drive.
Hawaii’s air is dirtier and its electricity costs more because of a misplaced love affair with Electric Vehicles. If and when a better battery becomes available, the state can force solar power generators to store their own power and use it during the evening peak. If battery technology improves and if the State adopts reasonable solar panel policies many of my objections will disappear….but until then….