Power Supply Issues Persist in Hawaii Island

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By 5mustsee.com


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Electricity supply challenges on Hawaii Island have been a significant issue for Hawaiian Electric, the state’s largest electric utility company. This year, the company has faced difficulties in maintaining a consistent power supply for the island.

Hawaiian Electric had to implement rolling blackouts in January and February due to mechanical issues at three major power plants on the island. Furthermore, part of the largest plant was undergoing maintenance at the time. The reduced output from these plants, along with lower production from a geothermal plant, has led to a strained power supply situation.

To address this issue, Hawaiian Electric encouraged customers to reduce their electricity usage, particularly during peak hours, in order to prevent forced outages. The company emphasized the tight power supply during peak periods, especially when renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydroelectric facilities are not generating sufficient power.

The potential shortage of electricity has raised concerns among residents, especially during events like the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo. Customers have expressed frustration over the frequent outages and the uncertainty regarding the stability of the power supply on the island.

System Overview

Hawaiian Electric serves approximately 90,000 customers on Hawaii Island through its subsidiary, Hawaii Electric Light Co. The company typically maintains a 30% reserve capacity from oil-fueled generating units to meet peak demand. However, this year, the reserve margin has been lower than usual, resulting in supply challenges.

Most of the firm power generation capacity on the island comes from six power plants, with Hawaiian Electric and its parent company owning five of them. Additionally, the island receives power from renewable energy facilities, including solar and hydroelectric plants, as well as numerous rooftop solar systems installed by customers.

While periodic maintenance and equipment failures are common in the industry, the current situation on Hawaii Island is exacerbated by multiple power sources facing issues simultaneously, leading to an unreliable power supply.

Challenges and Solutions

One of the major setbacks has been the 60-megawatt Hamakua Energy Partners plant, the second-largest facility on the island. The plant experienced operational problems starting in December, culminating in complete outages in January and February. These outages necessitated rolling blackouts to balance the supply and demand of electricity.

Efforts are underway to address the power generation issues on the island. Hawaiian Electric is working to restore the Hamakua Energy plant to full capacity by replacing a faulty generator. Additionally, the Keahole power plant is expected to resume operations soon after completing its annual maintenance.

In the long term, Hawaiian Electric is planning to diversify the power sources on the island by incorporating more renewable energy and battery storage solutions. Projects like the Hale Kuawehi Solar farm and the enhancement of geothermal power plants aim to increase the island’s energy resilience and reduce dependency on traditional fossil fuels.

For further information, please refer to the frequently asked questions below:


1. What are the main reasons behind the power supply issues on Hawaii Island?
The power supply issues are primarily due to mechanical problems at key power plants, reduced output from a geothermal plant, and the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.

2. How is Hawaiian Electric addressing the challenges in maintaining a stable power supply?
Hawaiian Electric is encouraging customers to reduce electricity usage during peak hours and is working to restore the functionality of affected power plants, such as the Hamakua Energy Partners plant and the Keahole power plant.

3. What are the long-term plans for improving the power infrastructure on Hawaii Island?
The company aims to increase the use of renewable energy sources, including solar and geothermal power, as well as implement battery storage solutions to enhance energy reliability and sustainability.The Hawaiian Electric company is actively increasing its renewable energy capacity to ensure a more sustainable power supply for Hawaii island. By late 2019 or early 2020, an additional 46 megawatts of renewable energy capacity are expected to be brought online. Furthermore, a projected 201 megawatts from three solar farms with battery storage are in the works, aiming for completion between 2028 and 2030. This initiative is part of a broader goal to have 100% of the state’s power sourced from renewable resources by 2045.

One project that faced setbacks is a 30-megawatt biofuel power plant by Hu Honua Bioenergy LLC. Initially approved by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in 2013, delays in converting the plant led to Hawaiian Electric canceling its contract with Hu Honua. Despite a revised contract in 2017, objections from environmental group Life of the Land regarding greenhouse gas emissions resulted in the PUC rejecting the project in 2023, a decision later upheld by the Hawaii Supreme Court.

In response to the current power instability, Hu Honua has requested the PUC to instruct Hawaiian Electric to renegotiate a new contract for the biofuel plant. Hu Honua’s president, Warren Lee, emphasized the readiness of the $520 million plant to contribute to the grid.

While there are concerns about Hawaiian Electric’s reliability on Hawaii island, Life of the Land’s Henry Curtis advocates for adherence to standard regulatory processes rather than granting special approvals to Hu Honua.

The PUC, although refraining from specific comments on Hu Honua’s request, mandates Hawaiian Electric to expedite the integration of new firm and variable renewable energy projects. The commission asserts mechanisms are in place to address delays and enforce penalties when necessary.


1. What is the goal for Hawaiian Electric regarding renewable energy sources by 2045?

Hawaiian Electric aims for 100% of the state’s power to be sourced from renewable resources by 2045.

2. What led to the cancellation of the contract between Hawaiian Electric and Hu Honua Bioenergy LLC?

Delays in converting the biofuel power plant led Hawaiian Electric to cancel its contract with Hu Honua.

3. Why was the Hu Honua biofuel project rejected by the PUC?

Objections raised by the environmental organization Life of the Land concerning greenhouse gas emissions led to the rejection of the Hu Honua biofuel project by the PUC.

4. What actions has Hu Honua taken following the rejection of their project?

Hu Honua has requested the PUC to direct Hawaiian Electric to negotiate a new contract for their biofuel plant to contribute power to the grid.

5. What measures has the PUC put in place to ensure the timely integration of renewable energy projects?

The PUC has directed Hawaiian Electric to expedite the incorporation of new firm and variable renewable energy projects while having mechanisms to penalize delays.

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