Sunrise brief: Hawaiian Electric calls for maximum customer-owned solar to hit decarbonization goals


Hawaiian Electric is seeking public input on its strategy to boost rooftop solar and similar customer energy resources to a scale large enough to hit the state’s clean energy benchmarks.

The company filed “Customer Energy Resources for Hawaii; A Customer-First CER Strategy for a 100% Clean Energy Future” with the Public Utilities Commission.

The utility said it needs to maximize customer-sited resources like rooftop solar and batteries, electric vehicles, and emerging electricity management technologies to decarbonize its energy systems by 2045. The utility said the state lacks enough open land to “sustainably balance renewable energy with other vital needs such as housing and local food supply.”

The CER strategy follows a year of work with the rooftop solar industry to smooth and speed the interconnection process. The utility said that in 2020 nearly 6,000 new rooftop solar systems were installed across Hawaiian Electric’s service territory, a 55% increase from 2019.

The CER strategy lays out what the utility calls the “Equity Principle,” namely that expanded CERs must benefit all customers, including those with moderate or fixed incomes, and must “fairly allocate utility costs” among customers based on benefits they receive or provide the grid.

The strategy envisions a grid with about half of all customers’ electricity needs coming from customers rather than large power plants.

Customers would be paid through a variety of mechanisms including:

  • Pricing where they may use electricity rate options to help manage their bills.
  • Programs that are streamlined and simplified versions of today’s choices for rooftop solar, batteries, and other devices.
  • Voluntary engagement with aggregators that link customer-based systems and pay customers to provide services that stabilize the grid in normal and emergency situations.

The strategy noted that energy efficiency and conservation are essential to customer involvement. The state’s Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard targets a continuing 30% electricity sales reduction by 2030.

DOE funds hydrogen research

The U.S. Department of Energy said that eight university-led projects will receive nearly $6.2 million for research and development projects aimed at advancing hydrogen as a fuel for turbine-based electricity generation.

The projects will study fundamental scientific challenges and applied engineering issues associated with advancing the performance and efficiency of combustion turbines fueled with pure hydrogen, hydrogen and natural gas mixtures, and other carbon-free hydrogen containing fuels.

The universities receiving awards include:

  • Georgia Tech (Award amount: $799,997)
  • The University of Central Florida (Award amount: $800,000)
  • San Diego State University (Award amount: $600,000)
  • Purdue University (Award amount: $800,000)
  • Purdue University (Award amount: $800,000)
  • Ohio State University (Award amount: $800,000)
  • The University of California, Irvine (Award amount: $800,000)
  • The University of Alabama (Award amount: $800,000)

Canadian Solar backs AI tech provider

Canadian Solar entered a strategic partnership and investment with Habitat Energy Limited, a UK-based provider of power trading and asset optimization services for battery storage assets that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The partnership will allow Canadian Solar to offer the technology to developers and owners of battery storage assets to capture additional revenue from trading optimization.

Habitat Energy services include a trading platform with route-to-market capabilities for wholesale and balancing markets.

The partnership will leverage Canadian Solar’s global scale and reach to build on Habitat Energy platform’s current global rollout and on their existing presence in the UK and Australia.

Mitsubishi targets hydrogen storage

Mitsubishi Power Americas and Texas Brine Co. agreed to develop large-scale long-duration hydrogen storage to support decarbonization efforts across the eastern United States.

This collaboration expands Mitsubishi Power’s capability to store hydrogen in salt caverns across North America. As one of the nation’s largest brine producers, Texas Brine and its affiliates have salt positions in New York, Virginia, Texas, and Louisiana that will enable access to major load centers in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and the Gulf Coast.

Expanding the use of salt caverns for hydrogen energy storage offers an opportunity to create an infrastructure for clean energy resources throughout the U.S. to benefit industries such as power, transportation, and manufacturing that are targeting net zero carbon emissions.

Canadian companies float blue hydrogen, but with strings

Canadian companies Suncor Energy and ATCO Ltd. are collaborating on early stage design and engineering for a potential hydrogen production project near Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. The project would produce more than 300,000 tonnes per year of “blue” hydrogen.

An estimated 85% of the hydrogen would be used to supply existing energy demand. Around 65% of the output would be used in refining processes and cogeneration of steam and electricity at the Suncor Edmonton Refinery, reducing refinery emissions by an estimated 60%. Another 20% of the output could be used in the Alberta natural gas distribution system.

The project would use conventional fossil fuel methods to produce the hydrogen, known as “gray” hydrogen, but would earn its “blue” hydrogen moniker by capturing more than 90% of the emissions generated in the production process.

Several hurdles need to be removed for the project to move forward, the partners said. They called for further regulatory certainty and fiscal support for the project to move forward. They said the availability of carbon sequestration rights, emissions reduction compliance credits, regulations to allow hydrogen blending into natural gas, and investment tax credits for carbon capture and storage “are all critical” to the project’s economic viability. The companies said they are working with the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada to address these issues.

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