POIPU — Hundreds of people representing dozens of businesses packed the Grand Hyatt’s grand ballroom for the Kauai Chamber of Commerce’s second quarter membership meeting Thursday.
Keynote speaker Alicia Moy, president and CEO of Hawaii Gas, the meeting’s sponsor, stressed the importance of the state’s long-term goal of making Hawaii 100 percent sustainable by 2045.
“We need to evolve and transition the company and align ourselves to the state’s clean energy goals while meeting our own customers’ expectations,” said Moy, who has led Hawaii Gas since 2013. “Hawaii is leading the U.S. in this front, and all of us need to work together if we are to achieve this goal.”
But Moy said running a gas production company in Hawaii presents some unique issues.
“Everything that has to do with gas and oil has to be imported from somewhere else,” she said. “For years that has been the foundation of the energy complex in the islands.”
JoAnne Yukimara, Kauai County councilwoman, questions how the company’s reliance on a limited resource aligns with the state’s goal of a 100 percent sustainable future.
“I don’t think it’s a real sustainable solution — just by the fact that it’s fossil fuel based,” Yukimura said. “Those are pretty serious things to look at.”
Chuck Lasker, Social Kauai marketing consultant, is unsure how Hawaii Gas will fit in with the state’s transition over the next 30 years.
“To be sustainable by 2045, the governor’s plan, to me is a plan to phase out the existence of Hawaii Gas because we don’t have gas sources here,” Lasker said.
But Moy is hopeful the company can slowly transition to meet the governor’s goal.
“We have been evaluating strategies for adjusting the changing energy landscape,” she said. “We’re investing in storage statewide. This move has been out of necessity. Presently we are planning projects on Kauai, Maui and Oahu.”
Currently, the company serves its 68,000 customers synthetic natural gas and propane, and 8,000 of those customers are on Kauai, Moy said.
But Hawaii Gas is transitioning to include more options, she said.
“We started moving to provide natural gas: a cleaner, cheaper alternative that we’re using today,” she said.
Moy said the Public Utilities Commission recently approved the company’s plans to bring “a limited amount of LNG (liquid natural gas) to Hawaii.”
“This is an important milestone for Hawaii Gas. Hawaii has to improve its overall quality to customers. Naturally occurring natural gas is much cleaner than methane derived from oil,” she said. “LNG has historically been less expensive than SNG. Hawaii has to lower its cost to its customers. Hawaii Gas needs to diversify its supply.”
Capt. Bruce Hay, Pacific Missile Range Facility commander, commended Moy’s goals.
“Sustainability, resilience and affordability, all the things she talked about transcends an organization,” he said. “I’m also a taxpayer and a citizen. Those are all complementary goals of what we do on the base.”
Moy said future plans for Hawaii Gas include discussion of a possible $200 million LNG infrastructure in Hawaii and the use of hydrogen.
“We continue to explore hydrogen in all aspects, but it’s a little bit further down the road,” she said. “Right now, there’s a lot of discussion around whether LNG is going to be part of the future of Hawaii. We’re in the education phase.”