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State ‘decarbonization’ report includes comments from Kent

The state Energy Office is committed to Hawaii’s current goals, but it acknowledges concerns raised by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

The Hawaii State Energy Office has released its “decarbonization” report as requested by the 2022 state Legislature, and it includes concerns raised by Joe Kent, executive vice president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

According to its executive summary, the extensive report presents “aggressive scenarios of emission-reduction targets that will be incredibly challenging, but are potentially attainable with shared commitment, coordinated investments and capitalizing on near-term opportunities. Accordingly, Hawai‘i should maintain its current emission-reduction targets (Act 238 – Item 11) based on the clear understanding that the longer the delay in meaningful reduction – the steeper the reduction curve will become in the future.”

In other words, with apologies to Adm. David Glasgow Farragut: “Damn the rolling blackouts and cost! Full speed ahead!”

But the report does acknowledge concerns raised by Kent, who sat in on one of the Energy Office’s decarbonatization report meetings. His comments can be read in Appendix A on pages A-10, A-13, A-15, A-17 and A-18. 

On page A-10, Kent states that “the current goals are not practically achievable without increasing costs beyond what residents can sustain.” 

Similarly, on page A-18, he is quoted as saying: “The costs of achieving these goals [have] not yet been calculated, yet are likely to be in the billions of dollars. These costs will fall mostly on local residents. Also, the end-of-life cycle issues with electric batteries at best threaten Hawaii’s clean environment, and at worst have health and safety risks associated.”  

On page A-13, the report lists 10 specific concerns raised by Kent:

>> Most of the projected progress seems to rely on switching to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) which currently costs more than two times the price of U.S. jet fuel, and that could significantly increase the price of air travel.

>> There may be lots of public pushback if lawmakers attempt to achieve a rapid reduction in nearly all gasoline cars. 

>> Hawaii is not an ideal place to switch its entire fleet of EV cars because of the end-of-life cycle issues with lithium batteries, which are costly, difficult and hazardous to ship. 

>> Reducing vehicle miles traveled is not an equitable policy, since those on lower incomes may need to travel more in order to get to work. 

>> Limiting flights to Hawaii would hurt our tourism industry, which is the primary driver of our economy. 

>> It would be extremely difficult to build solar on all the ideal places on Oahu, and even doing so wouldn’t be enough to power the island. 

>> Solar farms compete somewhat with agricultural farms, which presumably would be needed to “sink” carbon. 

>> Materials for green energy may rise in price significantly as more government mandates around the world increase demand for EVs and biofuels. So the switch to cleaner energy could be even more expensive in the future. 

>> HECO’s grid plan is projected to cost billions of dollars, and with lawsuits on top of that, the electricity costs for ratepayers will likely rise, even under the reference scenario. 

>> HECO’s grid plan lists biofuels as its main source of firm power, which are twice as expensive as oil.

To read the state’s new report, “Hawai‘i Pathways to Decarbonizaion,” go here.

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