HONOLULU (KHON2) — Officials are asking Big Island residents to conserve energy during peak hours from 5 to 9 p.m. for the next few days.
Hamakua Energy providers and its 60 megawatts of output are offline due to a lack of ammonia, which it uses for pollution control. Hawaii Electric doesn’t know when the plant will come back online, but two other power plants on the island totaling 29 megawatts are also down as they undergo maintenance.
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“It was a shipment of ammonia that did not show up. The order was made back in June. My understanding is it’s a regular periodic order of ammonia that they need for pollution control,” Public Utilities Commission chair Leo Asuncion said.
“There’s a call for conservation, especially when our reserves are going to be tight. Right because when you don’t get the reserves then you really fall into the right rolling blackouts,” Asuncion said.
State senate energy, economic development, and tourism chair Sen. Glenn Wakai said this situation could have been avoided.
“I think that this situation was totally preventable if we had planned ahead, and we have gotten all sorts of renewable projects out the door early,” Sen. Wakai said.
This comes as the Big Island’s rates have jumped 23% since 2021 to 48 cents per kilowatt hour.
“It’s frustrating for all of us,” house energy & environmental protection chair Rep. Nicole Lowen said. “Part of the reason, of course, the price of oil went up and that’s leading to this issue. It has come back down somewhat since the peak but that won’t be reflected in people’s bills for a couple more months.”
Rep. Lowen wants to see more cheap renewables like solar and battery storage.
Puna Geothermal Venture provides about 30% of the country’s power. Sen. Wakai wants to see that extended.
“Madam Pele could provide energy for all of the Big Island,” Sen. Wakai said. “All of the state and potentially create hydrogen for export. But we have not fully embraced the immensity of geothermal. If we had 100% geothermal we could care less about ammonia, coal, oil, we would be having an island that is totally self-sufficient.”
In the meantime, HECO recommends not using large appliances during peak hours.
“If you can put off taking a shower for a few hours, if you can limit your use of hot water, limit the use of any appliances that generate heat like cooking, stove, the oven,” HECO Spokesperson Jim Kelly said. “Don’t use air conditioning or use it pretty sparingly. If you have a switch on your water heater if you could turn that off for a couple of hours, using just the minimal amount of lights, and you might even consider going out to eat.”
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Customers can check HELCO’s Twitter page for updates.