Hawaiian Electric Asks Big Island Customers Again to Reduce Electricity Use

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Hawaiian Electric is again asking Big Island customers to limit their use of electricity in the evenings this week.

The need for conserving power, especially from 5-9 p.m., was prompted by the shutdown of the island’s largest independent power producer, Hāmākua Energy LLC, and will likely be necessary all week. Hawaiian Electric put out its initial request Monday, Aug. 29, for customers to reduce electricity use.

Hāmākua Energy is shut down because of the unavailability of ammonia used for pollution control. It is not known when the combined cycle generating facility in Honoka‘a will return to service.

“Due to supply chain issues, Hāmākua Energy LLC is experiencing a delay in the delivery of necessary product to operate within the (nitrous oxide) emission limits in accordance with the plant’s air permit,” a statement from Hāmākua Energy emailed to Big Island Now on Tuesday said. “We are continuing to pursue other supply sources and intend to have the product delivered to Hawai’i Island and transported to the plant in the next several days. Hawaiian Electric has been notified of the details of the situation and (has) been supporting us in sourcing the necessary product as best they can so that it can ensure the reliability of the Hawai’i Island grid.”


Scott Valentino, president of Pacific Current, the parent company and owner of Hāmākua Energy, said in an email to Big Island Now on Tuesday that the ammonia is a required input into the Hāmākua Energy plant’s emissions control system to decompose nitrous oxides in the exhaust gas into nitrogen and water vapor to meet emissions limits in the company’s stationary source air permit. The permit is issued by the state and the plant must be in compliance with federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

The Hāmākua Energy plant in total produces about 60 megawatts, with about two-thirds coming from two combustion turbines and the remainder from a steam turbine, if they are all running at full capacity, according to Valentino.

In addition, Hawaiian Electric’s Hill Plant Unit No. 5 is also undergoing annual scheduled maintenance and is unavailable. It normally supplies 14 megawatts of power to the utility company’s grid. The company’s 15-megawatt Puna Steam plant is also offline for extensive mechanical repairs. In addition, wind resources are forecast to be lower than usual.


“Last night, conservation efforts helped ensure sufficient power was available to meet the early evening peak demand and prevented the need for rolling outages,” a press release issued Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 30, by Hawaiian Electric said.

Hawaiian Electric also asked its larger commercial customers, including government, hotels and retail, to voluntarily reduce electricity use. By reducing demand, Hawaiian Electric can ensure enough electricity is available and prevent the need to initiate rolling, 30-minute outages to prevent a loss of power to an even greater number of customers.

“We’re all in this together,” Kristen Okinaka, Hawaiian Electric spokesperson, said in the press release. “The best way to avoid the inconvenience of a brief outage is to minimize the use of appliances, especially air conditioning and anything that generates heat. Consider shutting off your water heater for a few hours — the water will still be hot later. Every bit you conserve is a big help.”


If outages are necessary, Hawaiian Electric will notify customers in advance via social media. Check @HIElectricLight on Twitter for updates.

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