The State of Hawaii, from government representatives to energy service providers to citizens, want to rely as heavily on renewable energy sources as possible. Hawaii has a clear and ambitious goal to reach 100% renewable energy penetration by 2045, and a second goal to reach 100% renewable penetration in the transportation industry. In order to meet these goals, though, Hawaiian Electric (HE) needs a method of creating predictable load patterns on the grid while simultaneously meeting ever-changing consumption demands by consumers and industry alike.
Between the exceptionally high rate of renewable energy capacity, temperate weather, government incentives, and average driving range, electric vehicles (EVs) are a natural fit for the island state. As far as state-wide adoption goes, Hawaii has the third highest proportion of EVs to conventional vehicles after Washington and California. The number of EVs registered in Hawaii increased 46% from January 2014 to January 2015, compared to a 3% decrease in gas-powered vehicle registration. And, according to the Wall Street Journal, Honolulu was the fourth highest-ranking U.S. metropolitan area in new EV sales.
Yet the overall Hawaiian EV market is still tepid, growing at a slower rate than analysts expected. The goal set by the government in 2011, which aimed for 10,000 vehicles on the road by 2015, has not been met. As of June 2016, there are only 4,300 registered PEVs on the road in Hawaii, comprising only 0.33% of total vehicles, compared to the U.S. average of 0.7%. Part of this is a matter of vehicle turnover rate, as the average car on the road in Hawaii is more than ten years old. Another is availability, since only 13 of over 20 EV models are available in Hawaii. However, even with these barriers, the outlook for EV growth in the state is very promising; government and utilities alike are, and should, be preparing for the rapid increase of EV penetration.
Many states across the country advocate EV adoption for societal benefits, such as lower air pollution and quieter streets. Hawaii recognizes and values these benefits, as well. Interestingly enough, however, the state has another, much more economic reason to advocate for widespread adoption of EVs. Considering the high penetration of renewables, Hawaii’s grid resiliency and reliability is strained by weak net demand each day. Characterized by some as the “duck curve,” Hawaii’s energy demand curve resembles more of a Loch Ness monster. Coupled with consumer-friendly net metering rules, the economic value of power generation and distribution is weakened as more renewables are interconnected. There is a solution, however, and one cornerstone to that solution is electric vehicle charging. Electric vehicle charging presents an opportunity – an opportunity to add significant load to the grid during times the utility needs it most. The concept may be counter-intuitive, but it is sound. By using storage toincrease load during times of renewable generation, the grid can be stabilized and benefits can be derived for all residents.
HE has always been at the forefront in recognizing the value of transportation electrification and renewable energy resources. In 1998, HE installed the first rapid EV charging station in the state, establishing Honolulu as the first “EV-ready” city in the country. The company’s work in the EV sector has only continued to grow over the last two decades, culminating most recently in the development of a fifth public charging station in Oahu. These investments not only enable citizens to make more efficient, connected, and environmentally sound choices, but also inspire other leaders in the sector to follow suit. As an innovative company with a forward-thinking executive team, HE recognizes that more needs to happen. With aligned values of energy efficiency and EV adoption, FreeWire and HE collaborated to deploy the first installment of mobile EV chargers. Mobi Chargers provide a consistent and predictable load with its lithium ion battery storage. As a flexible, mobile charging solution, Mobi Chargers can greatly increase the availability of EV charging. Over the next few months, the overall benefits will be carefully measured and can be realized.