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Hawaii Closes Its Last Coal-Fired Power Plant


Hawaii shuttered its last remaining coal-fired power station on Thursday, a significant milestone within the state’s ambitious effort to transition to one hundred pc renewable energy by 2045.

The station, the AES Hawaii Power Plant near Kalaeloa, in southwest Oahu, provided greater than 11 percent of the state’s electricity in 2021, in keeping with data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“It truly is about reducing greenhouse gases,” said Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, in an interview with The Associated Press. “And this coal facility is one in all the most important emitters. Taking it offline signifies that we’ll stop the 1.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases that were emitted annually.”

Throughout the USA, coal plants are powering down, squeezed out by cheaper natural gas, cleaner renewable energy and tougher emissions regulations. There are fewer than 270 coal-burning power plants remaining within the country; greater than 600 have been retired over the past twenty years.

Hawaii has been working toward an energy sector powered completely by renewable energy by 2045, a goal that was entrenched in state law in 2015. The Legislature also passed ambitious environmental measures in 2020 that banned the usage of coal for energy production starting in 2023. Lately, the state has turned to solar energy, embracing rooftop solar panels on nearly a 3rd of the state’s single-family homes.

Yet the transition toward renewables has been complicated by the challenges of a pandemic and a worldwide energy crisis.

Before this yr, electricity prices in Hawaii were already triple the USA average, in keeping with the U.S. Energy Information Administration, partially since the state has been heavily depending on burning oil, much of it imported from Russia, for power generation, since it is inexpensive to ship than natural gas.

In the primary months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, residential electricity rates surged nearly 62 percent from the yr before, in keeping with data from Hawaiian Electric Co., the state’s largest electricity supplier.

Now, the closure of the state’s last coal plant will end in a 7 percent increase on customers’ electricity bills starting in October, or about $15 for a typical customer using 500 kilowatt-hours per thirty days, in keeping with a news release from Hawaiian Electric. State Senator Glenn Wakai, a Democrat who’s the chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Tourism and Technology, criticized the choice to shut the plant.

“We made a transition that we were totally unprepared for,” Mr. Wakai said. The short-term consequences can be “disastrous” for the people of Oahu, he added.

A mix of supply chain issues, delayed permits and other bureaucratic hurdles have slowed the progress of renewable energy projects that might replace coal energy in Oahu. Numerous those could come online as early as the primary half of 2023, officials say. Within the meantime, energy suppliers will lean more heavily on oil.

While there can be negative short-term consequences, closing the coal plant moves the state toward energy resiliency and independence in the long run, supporters of the choice say.

“Coal and oil are resources that we don’t and is not going to ever produce a whole lot of locally,” said State Representative Nicole E. Lowen, a Democrat who’s the chairwoman of the Committee on Energy and Environment. “That leaves us on the mercy of worldwide markets which are beyond our control.”

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