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Hawaii closes last coal-fired power plant as ban begins


HONOLULU (AP) — The final bits of ash and greenhouse gases from Hawaii’s solely remaining coal-fired energy plant slipped into the surroundings this week when the state’s dirtiest supply of electrical energy burned its closing items of gas.

The final coal cargo arrived within the islands on the finish of July, and the AES Company coal plant closed Thursday after 30 years in operation. The power produced as much as one-fifth of the electrical energy on Oahu — essentially the most populous island in a state of almost 1.5 million folks.

“It truly is about decreasing greenhouse gases,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige mentioned in an interview with The Related Press. “And this coal facility is likely one of the largest emitters. Taking it offline signifies that we’ll cease the 1.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases that had been emitted yearly.”

Like different Pacific islands, the Hawaiian chain has suffered the cascading impacts of local weather change. The state is experiencing the destruction of coral reefs from bleaching related to elevated ocean temperatures, speedy sea level rise, extra intense storms and drought that’s rising the state’s wildfire threat.

In 2020, Hawaii’s Legislature handed a law banning the use of coal for power manufacturing at the beginning of 2023. Hawaii has mandated a transition to 100% renewable power by 2045, and was the primary state to set such a purpose.

However critics say that whereas ending the state’s dirtiest supply of power is in the end a very good transfer, doing so now just isn’t. Renewable sources meant to switch coal power are usually not but on line due to allowing delays, contract points and pandemic-related supply-chain issues. So the state will as a substitute burn extra expensive oil that’s solely barely much less polluting than coal.

“In case you are a believer that local weather change goes to finish as a result of we shut down this coal plant, it is a nice day for you,” mentioned Democratic state Sen. Glenn Wakai, chair of the Committee on Financial Improvement, Tourism and Expertise. “However when you pay an electrical energy invoice, it is a disastrous day for you.”

The top of coal and the extra value of oil will translate to a 7% enhance in electrical energy payments for shoppers who already face the nation’s highest power and dwelling prices.

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“What we’re doing … is transitioning from the most affordable fossil gas to the most costly fossil gas,” Wakai mentioned. “And we’re going to be subjected to geopolitical points on pricing for oil in addition to entry to grease. ”

The AES coal plant closure means Hawaii joins 10 different states with no main coal-fired energy amenities, in response to information from World Power Monitor, a nonprofit advocating for a worldwide transition to wash power. Rhode Island and Vermont by no means had any coal-fired energy crops.

Whereas Hawaii is the primary state to completely implement a ban on coal, a handful of others beforehand handed legal guidelines. The 2015 regulation in Oregon, the primary state to move a ban, isn’t efficient till 2035. Washington state’s 2020 coal ban begins in 2025. California, Maine and Texas are amongst states which have restricted building of latest coal-fired crops.

The variety of coal-burning items in the USA peaked in 2001 at about 1,100. Greater than half have stopped working since then, with most switching to more cost effective pure gasoline.

U.S. Power Info Administration information exhibits oil generated about two-thirds of Hawaii’s electrical energy in 2021. That makes Hawaii essentially the most petroleum-dependent state, even because it tries to make a speedy transition to renewables.

Hawaii already will get about 40% of its energy from sustainable sources together with wind, photo voltaic, hydroelectric and geothermal.

State Sen. Kurt Fevella, a Republican and the Senate Minority Chief, recommended that Hawaiian Electrical Firm and different power companies ought to take in the extra value of shifting to renewables.

“The truth that Hawaii’s households are already doing what is important to cut back their power makes use of whereas nonetheless paying essentially the most within the nation for family electrical energy is unsustainable,” mentioned Fevella. “Whereas I imagine utility corporations like HECO can do extra to cut back the power burden handed on to Hawaii’s ratepayers, I additionally imagine builders of renewal power tasks also needs to bear a higher portion of the transmission prices.”

Hawaiian Electrical Firm, the state’s sole distributor of electrical energy, mentioned it could actually do little to vary the costs to shoppers.

“We’re a regulated monopoly,” mentioned Vice President of Authorities and Neighborhood Relations and Company Communications Jim Kelly. ”So we don’t set the costs. We don’t make any cash on the fuels that we use to generate electrical energy.”

AES, the operator of Hawaii’s final coal plant, has transitioned to creating clear power and is engaged on giant photo voltaic farms throughout the state, together with one in West Oahu that may substitute some misplaced coal power when accomplished subsequent 12 months.

“Renewables are getting cheaper by the day,” mentioned Leonardo Moreno, president of AES Company’s clear power division. “I envision a future the place power could be very, very low cost, plentiful and renewable.”

Sustainable power specialists say eliminating coal is essential in curbing local weather change. Whereas the present renewable panorama just isn’t excellent, they are saying applied sciences are enhancing.

“That is the last decade of local weather motion that we actually must be transferring on proper now,” mentioned Makena Coffman, College of Hawaii professor and director for the Institute for Sustainability and Resilience. “And so these can be found applied sciences they usually may get incrementally higher, however let’s not wait 10 years to do it.”

Earnings from the elevated electrical energy prices to Hawaii shoppers will go principally to abroad oil producers, mentioned Hawaii’s Chief Power Officer Scott Glenn.

Hawaii’s petroleum is distributed by Par Pacific, a Houston-based firm which has historically sourced the state’s oil from Libya and Russia. However after the invasion of Ukraine, Hawaii halted oil shipments from Russia and changed it with merchandise from Argentina.

Extending the coal plant’s operation could be difficult and expensive, Glenn mentioned, noting that the plant has been planning decommissioning for years and would now have to purchase coal at market value.

“Coal goes up. It’s getting costlier,” he mentioned of the availability Hawaii will get from clearcut rainforests in Indonesia. “If we had been utilizing U.S. coal, it will not be the most affordable power supply on the grid.”

Why would Hawaii, a small U.S. state in the midst of the Pacific, attempt to prepared the ground in transferring to sustainable power?

“We’re already feeling the consequences of local weather change,’” Glenn mentioned. “It’s not honest or proper to ask different nations or states to behave on our behalf if we’re not keen and capable of do it ourselves. If we don’t, we drown.”


Related Press information journalist Mary Katherine Wildeman in Hartford, Conn. contributed to this report.


Observe Caleb Jones on Twitter: @CalebAP. Observe AP’s local weather and surroundings protection at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment


Related Press local weather and environmental protection receives help from a number of non-public foundations. See extra about AP’s local weather initiative here. The AP is solely chargeable for all content material.

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