Tag Archives: Hawaii

Hawaiian Electric gets Mainlandized

Hawaiian Electric Company has been Oahu’s power company for as long as I can remember and I can remember Hawaii in July of 1960.  Back then, Hawaii was going to stop using oil to generate electricity as soon as the population could justify a Nuclear Power Plant.

Nuclear long ago lost its luster and now the magic bullet has become clean energy.   Hawaiian Electric has been supporting all sorts of green alternates and has been saying whatever the local politicians wanted to hear.  Political realities have trumped economic realities and the Hawaii public has been paying for it all with higher rates.

Late last year Hawaiian Electric agreed to be purchased by NextEra Energy.  I’d suspect NextEra saw what I noticed….a company that ignores the real world in favor of the political.   NextEra says they like green energy, but they want all the subsidies eliminated.  Locals are  questioning whether the NextEra execs are being truly honest.  The local papers are full of it.

Solar power without adequate storage is not a viable solution for Hawaii’s energy problems for all the reasons I stated in my last post.   Hawaii has an after sunset peak that must be met with oil based generation. Dirty nasty oil.  Solar provides power when it isn’t needed and cannot provide it when needed…until better batteries are developed.

Hawaii has been following the German model.  Two complete energy systems, one renewable and one that uses fossil fuels operate side by side.  Germany has enough solar and wind to meet their peak when it is all working….but it never is all working at once.

Wind and solar power cannot be relied upon, day in and day out.  Utilities base load with other more reliable generation.  Whenever the wind blows in Germany, they get more power than is needed.  The utility is required by law to take it, which creates an energy imbalance. German Utilities sells the surplus to  neighboring utilities, something Hawaii will not be able to do.  The price of power at the German border moves around wildly.

In January of 2013, and again in 2014, the utilities bought power from the wind providers and could not find willing buyers.  They actually had to pay their neighbors to take the surplus power.  Utilities are slowly and steadily destroying their balance sheets as they are forced to buy high and sell low.

Too much solar power creates a similar problem for Hawaiian Electric.  The utility is forced to limit the number of rooftop solar installations…and the locals don’t understand why.  Too much power entering the system at unplanned places stresses the utility grid and provides no relief for peak demand.

Because the utility takes power when it isn’t needed and gives it back on peak, it is essentially buying high and selling low.

The utility is forced to maintain the old system and counts on it at peak, but there is less total generation using the grid.  Peak demand continues to rise, which forces additional investment from the utility. Costs go up but the revenue base fails to keep up as off peak demand actually goes down.  Throw in generous state tax credits for solar installations and you have a recipe for economic disaster if you are a power provider.

The new system doesn’t provide any peak assistance and yet it is heavily subsidized by everyone in Hawaii.  And since the utility and the State have not been particularly forthcoming about the negatives associated with green energy, the public doesn’t understand.   Unreasonable expectations are everywhere.

It looks like NextEra is going to try to finesse this problem by sounding positive on green energy but really being less positive than Hawaiian Electric has been.   Neither utility’s position is particularly truthful, but NextEra’s approach understands the economics of power generation.

I wonder though.  Island politics are tricky.  Perhaps Hawaiian Electric was right to stick their head in the sand and pretend the problems didn’t exist.  Hawaii’s politicians might simply shoot the messenger.  Time will tell.




Electric Car Stupidity in Hawaii

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….



Aloha from Manoa

I’m off to the land of rubbish, poi (aka paste) and Portuguese Sausage.    I’ll be back in three weeks.

Speaking of poi.   Poi is made from the root of the Taro plant and it really does taste and look like paste.  Two finger poi (thick) or three finger poi (thin), it’s all paste to me.  Grey paste.

Last year I was in Fiji and I attended a feast put on by the locals.  In Fiji they serve Taro differently.  They sliced the root,  and then fried it or maybe baked it, I cannot be sure.  They then prepared a topping made of taro leaves.  Sliced Taro root with a cooked leaf topping.  It was pretty good.   Way better than poi.

The meal was prepared in the same manner in both places (baked in a hole with warm rocks and covered with leaves).  They share a similar culture and heritage.  Too bad Hawaii didn’t get Taro preparation tips from Fiji.

Bye for now, Aloha….oh and Bula too.

More Hawaii Electric Car Silliness

In my last post I opined that Hawaii is a particularly bad place to use electric cars.   Yesterday I got yet another reminder that politics does not require either a rational reality or economic justification, just Federal dollars.   I have yet to meet a politician who would not advocate silly things….in the pursuit of US Treasury funds.  Federal money is often looked upon as free money.

I visited the downtown Honolulu Schwab Office.   The adjacent parking lot (that charged $3.50 for a half hour) was fairly full so I had to drive around and look for a spot.   The first section of the lot had no available spaces….except for 2 spaces reserved for electric cars.   It was an electric car charging station.

It turns out Hawaii requires electric charging stations in large parking garages as a part of their goal to become less reliant on oil.  A place that creates electricity using oil is in the forefront of the electric car business….and the Federal Government is paying for it.  GO FIGURE.   This downtown office building could not have possibly used Solar or Wind power generation so anyone that used the charging station was using oil to create electricity to be used in an auto instead of using oil directly as gasoline.  Guess what, your tax dollars have funded much of the program.

Hawaii politicians are so proud of this program, they have created a dandy booklet that explains it all called  Hawaii EV Ready.  And the Feds paid for the booklet too.

Blue Spreckle Silliness

It’s been a cold windy August day in Anchorage.  Being a good Alaskan,  my thoughts immediately turned to my favorite winter hangout, Hawaii.    And when I think Hawaii, I occasionally ruminate on one of my favorite government waste issues, blue spreckles.

I was raised in Hawaii and I still have family there.   I have been walking a neighborhood in Manoa Valley in Honolulu for some 50 years now.  I have become a Manoa Valley blue spreckle expert.   Whaaat, you ask?

I suppose I should begin by describing a Spreckle.

Well, it’s a word I think I  made up some 30 years ago, but my wife insists she has heard it from others in Hawaii and I borrowed it.   OK, well maybe.  The word refers to 4 inch square reflective markers placed in highway road surfaces.    Here is a picture of a blue one provided by a supplier on his web site.

In the USA and Australia  blue spreckles are used to mark fire hydrants.  They are placed in a visible spot in the roadway so the fire department will know there’s a hydrant nearby.

I first began noticing them about 30 years ago.

These devises are supposed to help firemen find hydrants.   My question:   Do firemen regularly have difficulty finding hydrants?  Is this problem worthy of government expenditure?

My family has lived in the same house in Manoa since 1962 and I have seen the blue spreckle near the hydrant in front our house replaced at least 3 times. The life cycle of the spreckle seems to be about 10 years.   For the first few years after installation it sits there as a shiny reminder to us all that a hydrant is near. One day it gets damaged.   I don’t know what happens…but older paved roads frequently have many many spreckleless hydrants.   The spreckle will sit unrepaired for several years.  Eventually the spreckle is replaced, perhaps as a part of a city wide speckle replacement program.

Any given spreckle probably has a 50 to 70% chance of being operable at any given time.   So…if you were a firemen racing to a fire…..would you look for the spreckle….or would you just look for the hydrant….or would you do both?  Many firemen would be familiar with the area, and probably know the hydrant location in advance.    Perhaps the dispatcher has Google Earth and can give directions.

Do spreckles really save time?   How much time?   What is that time really worth?   Is there any time lost looking for spreckles that are not there?

If hydrants were used regularly and used regularly at night then the spreckle idea might have some merit.    Most hydrants are never used in an emergency, and most that are used are not particularly difficult to locate.    Spreckles don’t cost much (probably less than $30 each  installed), but, come on guys, in most cases they save no time.   I’d be willing to bet that they are useful less than 10% of  the time.

If every hydrant has it’s price increased by $120 (4 spreckles per hydrant) because of spreckles, is it worth it?  Each mile of waterline is going to have about 10 hydrants , so the cost for spreckles is about $1200 per mile of water main.   I’ll bet without knowing that only 1 in a 100 hydrants is ever used in an emergency …..if so the speckles cost $12,000 per incident.

That’s $12,000 per fire and the only possible benefit is a few seconds response time which may or may not exist.  If we assume there is a real benefit 10% of the time and the spreckle has a 70% chance of being there when needed, the cost per useful event goes from $12,000 to ((12,000*10)/.7)  or $171,000.

Up north in Alaska, we don’t use spreckles of any kind because the snow plows destroy them….and I’ll bet it has no impact on our fire insurance rates.