Why does Hawaiian Electric turn to other companies to generate power for Oahu?
HECO owns more than half of the power generation on Oahu. Because the state didn’t want the utility to own everything, it made HECO spread around ownership.
Kalaeloa Partners supplies 20 percent of the island’s electricity, AES Hawaii 11 percent and the city’s H-Power six percent. Renewables, including wind farms and solar rooftops, contribute a smaller portion.
The suppliers are not the same. AES, for example, uses coal and has the lowest cost-conventional power plant on the island.
“So they do have different contributions to the electric system. But all the contracts, including when contracts get renewed, have to be reviewed and approved by the (Hawaii Public Utilities Commission),” said HECO spokesman Darren Pai.
If the state or HECO wanted to rely on more suppliers, there’s not too much that can be done.
When it comes to obtaining power, Hawaii’s location makes it unique. The state doesn’t have anywhere to turn to for help.
“In Hawaii, each island is its own independent power grid, so there’s no interconnection, there’s no backup,” Pai said. “If we have a situation like this, we can’t bring in power from neighboring states like you can find on the mainland.”
KHON2 asked NextERA, the company that is buying HECO from HEI, if it had concerns and what it would do to prevent these types of rolling blackouts.
A company official declined to comment.