Reliability not a reason to stick with oil

Dennis Easki, chair of the KIUC board of directors, is quoted in the June 18 article “Lingle: Hawai‘i must ease oil reliance” as saying that “reliability has to take into account everything to keep the power on.” I believe the “everything” Mr. Easki refers to needs to include our state’s and our citizens’ vulnerability to oil supply disruption and to oil price volatility.

I applaud KIUC’s farsighted goal of generating 50 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2023. However, reliability has been a mantra to hide behind and avoid making necessary changes and taking calculated risks. As a result, ever since Hawai‘i first felt the adverse impact of our over-dependence on foreign oil more than 30 years ago, very little has changed. At 90 percent dependence, Hawai‘i is still the most foreign-oil-dependent state in the U.S.

By no means am I advocating ignoring reliability. The Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative, a partnership between the state and U.S. Department of Energy to have 70 percent of Hawai‘i’s energy come from renewable sources, includes working with KIUC to help evaluate future renewable energy options and to measure risk in choosing its future energy portfolio. We believe all good portfolios balance reliability and risk. I believe technical and engineering solutions exist to do so. The U.S. Department of Energy and its partners also believe they exist.

Hawai‘i needs the utilities to help lead us into the future. They must provide not just electric reliability to keep the lights on, but help provide the economic basis for that reliability. If foreign oil supply is disrupted, it does not matter that we have a reliable system. Lights will not go on. And substituting imported and expensive foreign biofuels for imported and expensive foreign oil leaves us in a similar position.

Reliability cannot be a reason to stick with a foreign oil future. KIUC has taken a great step forward in setting an aggressive goal and we hope it continues to explore and execute reliable but strategic electricity solutions.

• Theodore E. Liu is the director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.


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