Lacking fossil fuels, Hawaii must import nearly all of its energy, including relatively expensive petroleum that fuels more than 70 percent of its electricity generation, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Faced with significant cost and reliability challenges, Hawaii’s grid operators have turned to a combination of renewable sources, distributed generation and energy efficiency programs. As a result, the petroleum share of electric generation has been declining, from a high of 81 percent in 2002 to 72 percent in 2013 (through November).
Meanwhile, generation from renewable sources has climbed from a 4 percent share in 2002 to more than 12 percent in 2013. Generation from coal comes from a single 180 MW facility on Oahu and has been relatively steady at 13 percent-15 percent of total generation each year.
Total utility-scale electric generation has declined six years in a row from 2007 through 2012. This reduction is attributable to distributed generation and net metering policies that encourage electric generation from homes and businesses, mostly from solar PV and increased energy efficiency measures.
In 2012, wind accounted for 36 percent of total utility-scale renewable generation in Hawaii, a contribution that rose to 42 percent in 2013 (through November). This increase followed the completion of three large wind projects in mid- to late-2012 (Kaheawa Phase II-21 MW, Kawailoa Wind-69 MW, and Auwahi Wind-21 MW).
Utility-scale solar generation has increased more than fivefold from full-year 2012 to 2013 but still accounts for less than 2 percent of utility-scale renewable generation in Hawaii. Utility-scale data understate total solar generation in Hawaii because totals do not include the much larger output from small-scale solar power installations.