State, national policymakers invited to open, frank talks about renewable energy

Electric-Utilities-LogoThe County of Maui and its partners will present a two-day conference on the Valley Isle in the first quarter of 2014 to explore the challenges and opportunities in nation’s transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

The conference will welcome nationally recognized energy policy leaders and businesses to talk openly and frankly about the country’s rapidly changing energy landscape and its implications for power utilities, policymakers and consumers.

“Maui is an ideal location for this conference,” said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa. “We are on the cutting edge of renewable energy growth, but we’re also experiencing some growing pains. In a few short years, we now have 5,000 PV systems on an island of 150,000 people, we have three wind farms now feeding power into the island’s electric grid, but our residents do not feel that the benefits and costs of renewable energy are allocated in a way that is sustainable.”

“Electric Utilities: The Future Is Not What It Used To Be” will be held March 26-28, 2014, at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Conference organizers have confirmed keynote presentations from Constance Lau, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. (HEI) , and Ron Binz, former chief of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

“Our goal in this conference is to gather those most knowledgeable about new models and new ways of thinking about how you provide electricity to the public,” Mayor Arakawa said. “Together, we can find answers that truly benefit our island community, enabling utilities to provide reliable power service, meet energy policies of the State, and at the same time providing its services to its customers fairly and equitably.”

Maui County Energy Commissioner Doug McLeod said innovative solutions need to be explored.

“The traditional investor-owned utility model has worked in the past, but will it be the right model for tomorrow’s electric utility?” McLeod aske. “Can we still afford the luxury of planning for load growth and four nines reliability while the customer adds more self generation?”

Conference topics include:

  • The “traditional utility” structure: What does it look like? And, why does it face unprecedented challenges?
  • What are the key drivers that are shifting the energy paradigm?
  • Do ownership structures such as co-ops or municipal utilities better serve our needs?
  • How do you achieve a mix of clean energy to the satisfaction of all stakeholders?
  • What will future electric consumers want and expect from their utility?
  • Who should lead the transformation, and who should be part of the dialogue?
  • What are the key elements of a 21st century energy utility business model?

Conference partners include the Hawaiian Electric Companies, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, the Maui Economic Development Board and the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development.

“The Maui Economic Development Board is pleased to partner in this event that will draw some of the best minds in this important topic,” MEDB President and CEO Jeanne Skog said. “As Maui County continues to move aggressively toward clean energy goals, this dialogue will contribute to creating new template for how utilities best serve our residents.”

Conference registration costs $395. Organizers are offering limited sponsorship opportunities ranging from $500 to $25,000.