The energy emergency declaration would not provide a quick fix

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – In the past few days, gas prices have hit new record highs here in Hawaii. But the cost of oil has impacted other areas, including your electric bill.

Last month, Hawaiian Electric predicted that bills could rise 10% on Oahu and up to 20% on Maui and the island of Hawaii.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said it just proves the state needs to do more to stabilize energy costs as many people struggle with their bills.

“They don’t have to choose between feeding their kids, paying their rent, paying some bills or skipping meals,” Roth said.

“So I think it’s really important for us, for economic reasons, to think about where our fuels come from.”

Roth has asked Gov. David Ige to declare an energy emergency to speed up the green energy transition. He said the Public Utilities Commission’s decisions had been slow to make progress.

However, the governor’s office said an emergency declaration will not be a quick fix, saying in a statement:

“The requested action to expedite PUC decisions on renewable energy projects on the island of Hawaii would not address the immediate challenges as each of the projects would require additional steps following a PUC decision before they can be brought online.

“A more immediate solution would be to address Hawaii County’s backlog of permit applications for solar and battery storage. The current situation underscores the importance of Hawaii’s first commitment to renewable energy. Having more of the power grid powered by renewable energy will better insulate the state from oil market prices. Governor Ige and Mayor Roth share a vision for a renewable energy future in Hawaii and are working with many others to ensure it becomes a reality.”

On Kauai, on the other hand, residents see more stability than the rest of the island chain.

“Being able to plan their energy is a huge benefit for our members,” said Beth Tonioka, communications manager for the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative.

While other islands have seen energy costs rise 25% to 35%, Kauai has only seen a 5% increase over the past year.

This is because KIUC consists of 70% renewable energy.

“The more renewable energy we can bring onto the grid, the better for our customers,” said Alan Yonan, Hawaiian Electric Communications Specialist.

Hawaiian Electric wants to catch up. but said there are hurdles.

“For Oahu, one of the challenges is the amount of land that’s available for large-scale solar installations, for example,” Yonan said. “It’s something that Kauai has been pretty effective at handling.”

Meanwhile, people are trying to take it upon themselves to save.

“So we’ve had a lot of interest in the program over the last few years. And now it’s more important than ever,” said Caroline Carl, Hawaii Energy’s interim executive director.

“I think a general trend that we’re starting to see is a much bigger interest in smart devices, you see it in home appliances, all sorts of internet-connected possibilities,” Carl said.

Carl said special rebate programs include an instant rebate program where Costco shoppers can get LED light bulbs and have the cost deducted at checkout.

Hawaii Energy provides specialists who can help residents and business owners find ways to lower their bills. There are also a number of small things you can do to save. Learn more here.

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