Hawaii’s Energy Problems

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The concepts of energy are difficult to appreciate and the generation of electrical energy is more so.

We expect our leaders to be astute on energy issues, to appreciate the crucial roles of reliable electricity, and be wise and aggressive in sustaining future reliable energy supplies in Hawaii.


Clearly, the state of Hawaii is unique in its energy supplies. More than 95 percent of the electricity on Oahu is derived from the burning of fossil fuels, 77 percent from the burning of oil, 18 percent from the burning of coal (4.5 percent comes from the burning of Municipal Solid Wastes (MSW).

These sources provide the total electrical capacity on Oahu 1669 Megawatts. This is by far the highest dependence on oil of all of the 50 states, and all of the oil and coal is imported.

To be complete regarding the Hawaiian use of petroleum Hawaiian Electric Company website reports that of all the oil imported (including petroleum products such as jet fuel and gasoline), 32 percent is used for electrical production, 34 percent for air transportation, and 27 percent for ground and water travel. Notice that the air transportation sector uses more than all auto and shipping fuel combined).

The growth of major economies in India, China, Brazil etc., are putting serious demand pressures on oil supplies. Compounding these increased demand pressures, are the political instabilities in the Middle East. These are raising the simultaneous specters of supply interruptions. These in turn present a serious threat to the energy security of Hawaii.

According to the Hawaii State Energy Resources Coordinator Annual Report 1999 (a check disclosed that the 2005 version is available but not posted on the Web site), Hawaii imports about 141,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Around 60 percent comes from Southeast Asia and the remainder from Alaska. According to the 1999 Report none comes from the Middle East.

In addition, Hawaii imports about 19,000 barrels of oil equivalent (BOE)/day of refined oil products (gasoline, jet fuel, etc.). These come from Southeast Asia, the mainland, and a bit from South America.

The energy contained in these fuels and put to good use by Hawaiians, is huge and underappreciated. To think in terms of replacing this oil dependence requires a good understanding of the magnitude of the problem. It