Maui leading in renewable energy solutions

Maui leading in renewable energy solutions

More than 30 percent of Maui’s energy needs, on average, are being met by renewable energy sources such as wind and rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems, and the trend continues to rise, making Maui a national and global leader in the adoption of renewable energy. This was just one of the positive observations to emerge from the 2015 Maui Energy Conference + Exhibition that spanned two days at the Maui Arts & Culture Center last month. More than 300 energy industry leaders from Hawaii, the Mainland and Japan attended and shared ideas on how to better serve customers in today’s rapidly changing power generation and delivery environment.


Holly Benz

At the conference, Program Committee member Holly Benz of Schneider Corporation said: “All eyes are on Hawaii.” Benz said outsiders are continuing to closely watch the state and its work on energy issues. “There is a tremendous opportunity for Hawaii to lead, to test and to learn.” Keynote speakers Alan Oshiro, President of Hawaiian Electric Company and Eric Gleason, President of NextEra Energy Hawaii shared perspectives on the acquisition of Maui Electric’s parent company, HEI by NextEra and outlined the benefits that it can bring to customers and Hawaii. NextEra, the largest generator of wind and solar energy in North America, has announced its commitment to lower Hawaii’s high electricity costs.

One of the nine thought-provoking panels, “Focus on the Customer—Maui Style,” discussed proposed changes in Maui’s energy landscape, concluding that these must be transparent to residents and engaging for young people. “In my business,” Cathy Nobriga Kim, vice president of Maui Soda and Ice Works said, “energy is crucial.” When asked how businesses could be involved in renewable energy solutions for Maui, Kim observed that business involvement in pilot projects to develop renewable energy solutions are beneficial. Other panelists said that government and community leaders must step up to explain the changing energy landscape. Information provided to residents must be true and trustworthy; “There needs to be transparency,” one panelist said. The conference was hosted by the Maui Economic Development Board and the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for Hawaii to lead, to test and to learn.” Holly Benz, Maui Energy Conference + Exhibition Program Committee member
All Eyes On Hawaii To Lead Changing Energy Generation

All Eyes On Hawaii To Lead Changing Energy Generation

The 2015 Maui Energy Conference saw more than 300 energy industry leaders from Hawaii, the Mainland and Japan exchanging ideas on how to better serve customers in today’s rapidly changing power generation and delivery environment.

In welcoming remarks, Mayor Alan Arakawa set out his goal for Maui County, which now gets 30 to 35 percent of its power from renewable energy sources, is to have 100 percent of its power generated by renewable sources. “It’s not just to save money,” he told conference attendees. “It is about freedom, self-sufficiency and sustainability.” In just a year, the cost of a barrel of oil has dropped from over $100 to around $50, Arakawa said. “These wild price swings are proof that as long as we import oil we are subject to forces beyond our control.”

Many of the conference attendees focused in on keynote addresses from Alan Oshima, President and CEO of Hawaiian Electric Company, and Eric Gleason, President of NextEra Energy Hawaii. They discussed how the proposed $2.6 billion Hawaiian Electric Industries-NextEra merger could benefit Hawaii with more development of renewable power resources, lower customer bills and improved service reliability.

Gleason told conference attendees that the merger provides a “very exciting opportunity” for Hawaii to “get off the addiction to oil” by developing its “world-class renewable energy resources.” Because its size and experience in renewable power development, NextEra brings a lot to the table in a merger with HECO. NextEra “has a lot of buying power,” and it has a track record of delivering projects on time and on budget, he told conference attendees. Oshima explained that the merger “really makes sense for Hawaii” as the islands’ utilities strive to be leaders and early adopters of renewable energy technology and development of natural resources. By 2030, HECO aims to draw 65 percent of its energy on Oahu from renewable resources, triple distributed power and lower power bills by 20 percent. To do so, “we’ve reorganized how we look at things in the company,” Oshima said. No longer primarily driven by electrical engineers, HECO’s direction also is being guided by customer service and government relations advisers. “Change can be exciting. Change can be fun, and change is necessary,” he explained.

Oshima told the conference that HECO is looking at liquefied natural gas, also known as LNG, as a cleaner fuel and a more stable energy source. The cost of buying oil for power generation accounts for about 50 percent of a customer’s bill, while it had been as much as 70 percent in the past, according to HECO. HECO would like to see fuel be a more stable expense for utility customers, Oshima said. Hawaii’s effort to incorporate intermittent, renewable energy is a challenge that will be faced by utilities nationwide, eventually, Oshima predicted. “We are experiencing these issues earlier than anyone else,” he noted. HECO customers are demanding smart-grid services and grid modernization, and “we have to listen to our customers,” Oshima said, adding that HECO needs to go beyond implementing technology and, instead, be at the forefront of technology, being an early adapter.

Gleason told conference attendees that NextEra began a transformation from “highly dependent” oil power generation to renewable energy 30 years ago with its subsidiary, Florida Power & Light. The utility serves 4.7 million customers in Florida and supplies half of the state’s power. Since 2001, FP&L has reduced its annual oil consumption from 40 million barrels to around 200,000 barrels. The reduced dependence on oil for power generation has saved the utility $7.5 million annually, a savings passed on to consumers, according to Gleason. FP&L has the lowest power rates in Florida, he added. NextEra has shown that “you can drive down costs and improve reliability and make things cleaner, all at the same time,” he said.

Gleason pledged that NextEra is committed to learning how to do business well in Hawaii, including the establishment of a board of residents to advise NextEra on how to do business in the islands. He told conference attendees that NextEra would continue HECO’s tradition of charitable giving to support the community. Also, for at least two years, there would be no involuntary layoffs of HECO employees who will retain all current compensation and benefits, he said. NextEra has nearly 14,000 employees in 27 states and Canada, and it is the largest generator of wind and solar power in the North America.

On the second day of the conference, a summary of day one was delivered by Holly Benz, Vice President of the Schneider Corp. and a member of the conference’s program committee, and by Jonathan Koehn, also a program committee member who works as the Regional Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Boulder, Colo. “All eyes are on Hawaii,” Benz said, stressing how Hawaii is a “postcard from the future” because it is at the leading edge of learning how to make the transition from on-demand, oil-fired power generation to as-available renewable power sources. “There is a tremendous opportunity for Hawaii to lead, to test and to learn,” she said. Koehn saw a lot of diversity and passion in the conversations energy conference speakers and participants were having as the conference wrapped up. Benz applauded the strong positions leaders and policy makers were expressing, and she was impressed by the level of engagement they were taking given the magnitude of the challenges ahead.

A presentation led by Maui Economic Development Board President and CEO Jeanne Skog reported the results of “MPower Maui: An Energy Conversation.” The study involved 90-minute interviews with 435 people and confirmed much of what’s already been believed as far as local community sentiment about electricity and energy alternatives. High energy prices were a dominant concern, but MPower participants also wanted energy alternatives. Their goals have evolved from wanting safe, reliable and cheap energy to calling for safe, reliable, affordable and environmentally safe options. Participants also were outspoken about environmental health issues as well as ensuring equity and affordability.

The final day of the energy conference offered optional Maui sustainability tours to Kaheawa Wind Farm, hosted by SunEdison, and the Smart Grid Demonstration Project—JumpSMARTMaui, hosted by Hitachi Ltd.

Conference attendees had the opportunity to “join the conversation” by downloading the Maui Energy Conference “App” by Zerista Inc., Facebook or Twitter. The proceedings were videotaped by Akaku Community TV and will be available for later viewing at: The conference was hosted by the Maui Economic Development Board and the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development.

All Eyes On Hawaii To Lead Changing Energy Generation

Press Coverage of the 2015 Maui Energy Conference

Another successful Maui Energy Conference wrapped up on Friday, with a 15% increase in attendance over last year’s conference. The event, held at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, featured more than 50 speakers and 325 participants. In addition to increased attendance, press coverage of the event also increased this year. Below is a list of articles published by the press.

Battery touted as aid for electricity generation – Star Advertiser

HEI CEO touts NextEra’s goals – Star Advertiser

‘There needs to be transparency’ – Maui News

The Most Unexpected Energy Conversation – Ililani Media

Energy Discussion Maui Style – Ililani Media

Maui Energy Conference attendance spikes 15% with merger talk front and center – Pacific Business News

Hawaii Gas reviewing proposals for $300M LNG project – Pacific Business News

Undersea cable project sparked NextEra Energy’s interest in buying Hawaiian Electric Co. – Pacific Business News

Maui plans to replace streetlights with LED lighting – Pacific Business News

Hawaiian Electric CEO: We Will Continue to Pursue LNG – Honolulu Civil Beat

NextEra President: We Don’t Have All the Answers – Honolulu Civil Beat

Mayor calls for 100 percent renewable energy for county – Maui News

Dip in oil prices slows Hawaiian Electric’s LNG project – Pacific Business News

Maui County islands can attain 100% renewable energy, mayor says – Pacific Business News

Few opt out of Hawaiian Electric smart meter pilot on Oahu – Pacific Business News

Hawaiian Electric must be out front in technology, Oshima tells Maui Energy Conference – Pacific Business News

Exploring energy through customers’ eyes – Pacific Business News

Hawaiian Electric, NextEra Energy execs to keynote Maui Energy Conference in March – Pacific Business News

Hawaiian Electric Cos. signs on as title sponsor for Maui energy conference – Pacific Business News

NEWS: Hawaii’s Advanced Energy “Postcard From the Future” – Advanced Energy Perspectives

All Eyes On Hawaii To Lead Changing Energy Generation

Conference Draws Leaders in Energy Merger

A glimpse into Hawaii’s historic, proposed energy merger will be available at the upcoming Maui Energy Conference and Exhibition.

Two of the major players in the proposed merger of Hawaiian Electric Co. and NextEra Energy are delivering keynote addresses on the conference’s opening day on March 25, at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

Eric Gleason, president of NextEra Energy Transmission LLC, and Alan Oshima, president and CEO of HECO, will help launch the three-day conference set for March 25-27.

In December, the companies announced that NextEra would buy HEI in a 4.3 billion dollar acquisition deal. The proposed absorption of HEI into NextEra still needs approval of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

Connie Lau, president and chief executive officer of Hawaiian Electric Industries, has described the merger as a “transformational opportunity” for Hawaii’s electric utilities to accelerate the shift away from traditional diesel-powered turbines to clean energy. Lau is also speaking at the conference on its second day.

NextEra is North America’s largest generator of wind and solar power. Wind and solar energy are both abundant but to a great extent not yet harnessed in Hawaii.

Gleason has said that NextEra has invested billions in clean energy development and has the expertise to bring that transformation to Hawaii. The company is roughly 14 times larger than Hawaiian Electric in terms of its earnings and total assets. This gives NextEra the capability to bring currently less-expensive liquefied natural gas to Hawaii—as an alternative to diesel fuel—while incorporating distributed solar and wind power alternatives.

The energy merger players and attendees at the conference will explore the evolving role of the electric utility through the lens of the customer. In a variety of sessions, national experts will discuss emerging trends in the electric utility industry and public policy that will shape customer choices including customer protection and engagement, renewable energy integration, microgrids, and demand response programs.

In its debut last year, the Maui Energy Conference drew industry, government and private leaders not just from Hawaii, but also places such as Colorado, California and even Japan. “Interests in the energy field goes beyond our shores,” said Jeanne Skog, President & CEO from Maui Economic Development Board. “This event features a variety of speakers actively engaged in electric utilities, renewable energy initiatives and business development.” With the support of a host of corporate partners, MEDB and the County of Maui are presenting the event.

The exhibition piece of the conference gives networking opportunities to participants who want to generate business, or connect and collaborate to address common issues and concerns.

Individuals with questions or interests in energy could also find the three-day professional conference compelling. Day two of the conference, for example, offers sessions with panelists speaking about “Consumer Protection: Who’s Looking Out for the Customer?” and “How can the Customer Become an Active Participant in the Energy Landscape?”

All together, the conference program highlights include eight breakout sessions with topics including: “The Customer of the 21st Century”; “Are We Seeing What They’re Seeing: Customer Perceptions on Energy”; “Advancing Toward Grid Modernization: Meeting Customer Needs”; “The Growth of Distribution Generation – Good or Bad for the Customer?”

The conference’s third day will move outdoors with two optional Maui Sustainability Mobile Workshops—a tour of Kaheawa Wind Farm and a tour of the Smart Grid Demonstration Project, JumpSMARTMaui, hosted by Hitachi Ltd.

Join the Conversation:  MEDB Seeking Community Input on Maui’s Energy Future

Join the Conversation: MEDB Seeking Community Input on Maui’s Energy Future

M-Power-logoMaui Economic Development Board (MEDB) is currently seeking volunteers from the community to share their priorities and values about energy on Maui – today and in the future – as part of a project called “MPowerMaui: An Energy Conversation”.

The public is encouraged to sign up and participate in small group sessions which will be held in the entire month of February. These 90-minute sessions are designed to be engaging, interesting, and informative. “MPowerMaui features the interactive kind of format used in the Focus Maui Nui visioning process that produced lively discussions and thoughtful responses from our community,” said Jeanne Skog, MEDB President & CEO. Activities will enable participants to learn more about energy, to think about their own actions related to energy, to prioritize issues, to consider what actions they would or would not support, and to develop messages for decision makers.

Interested participants may either host a session at their company or organization by bringing together 12-15 individuals and a MEDB representative will run the session, or individuals can sign up for a session that MEDB organizes.

The results of these MPowerMaui conversations will be presented at the “Maui Energy Conference” in to be held on March 25 and 26, 2015.

“This opportunity for public conversation is critical as it can have an impact on the future of our island,” said Skog. “By joining in this conversation, participants will be helping to bring the public’s voice to the table in front of decision makers and community stakeholders as actions are determined to create a ‘green’ energy future for Maui.”

The MPowerMaui project is presented by the Maui Economic Development Board with sponsorship from the County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development; State Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT) Energy Office; and the UH Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI).

To sign up to participate, please call 875-2336.