Project may spark smarter power grid

WAILUKU – Beginning this fall, Maui residents may be able to participate in a more than $30 million demonstration project involving electric vehicles and Kihei homes that will aid in the development of a more efficient power grid to handle renewable energy and to support EVs.

The project, JUMPSmartMaui, is seeking 200 owners or lessees of Nissan LEAF electric vehicles and 40 homeowners living in specific locations in Kihei to assist officials from Japan and Hawaii with the program, officials said during a news conference Friday afternoon in Mayor Alan Arakawa’s lounge in the Kalana O Maui building.

This week marks the launch of the program, which is a collaborative demonstration project between Japan, the state and Maui County to improve the integration of renewable energy into the island’s electrical grid and to prepare the island for electric vehicles. The work also involves smart grid technology that can improve utility operations and help customers make smarter energy choices. Information from the project may be used for upgraded technology that can help lower electricity costs, officials at the gathering said.

A memorandum of understanding between the major funder for the program, New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan, that country’s largest public research and development management organization; and Maui County was signed during the gathering Friday.

A public launch of the program will be held from 4:30 to 6 p.m. today at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center, featuring entertainment by Willie K. The shopping center is one of five sites on Maui that has received a DC Fast Charger station for electric vehicles through the program.

Mat McNeff, manager of renewable energy services for Maui Electric Co., which also is a partner in the project, said after the news conference that he is pleased with the opportunity to have a project like this come to Maui. It can help make the electric system more reliable as well as stabilize electrical costs for the community, he said.

McNeff said that residents who participate in the study will be able to monitor their electric use and obtain guidance on the best times to use power. It is good for MECO too; the utility will not have to spend millions of dollars to do similar studies.

During the event, Arakawa commended the project, saying this is one way that Maui County can get off fossil fuels. The county could be an example for the world, he said.

“The solutions that we are working with in our county with JUMPSmart will provide us a really good future for generations to come,” he said.

Hideo Hata, president of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, offered a similar sentiment in a news release.

“We believe we can make this a leading model not only in the Asia-Pacific region but around the world,” he said.

Hata’s organization awarded Hitachi Ltd., Mizuho Corporate Bank and Cyber Defense Institute the contract to develop the JUMPSmart program. There are 10 mostly local partners in the project as well.

Speakers said that the partnership is a good one for both Hawaii and Japan – islands that depend on fossil fuels for most of their energy.

In the U.S., Hawaii is the most oil-dependent state. About 90 percent of the energy comes from imported fossil fuels, which leads to the highest gas and electricity prices in the nation, a news release said. The demonstration project will assist the state as it weans off fossil fuels and attempts to achieve a 70 percent clean energy goal by 2030.

Currently, JUMPSmart is in its “construction stage” with EV charging stations being built on the island, said Takenori Hatanaka, general manager of Smart City Systems Engineering Department of Hitachi.

Besides Queen Ka’ahumanu Center, charging stations are being put in at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, Maui Tropical Plantation, Maalaea Triangle and Piilani Village Shopping Center.

MECO officials said that they hope to have some chargers running by the end of July.

The public may sign up this summer to become part of the EV charging group in order to use the stations, MECO officials said. This group will not be automatically enrolled in the JUMPSmart program study; that registration will occur in the fall when all stations and chargers are expected to be functioning.

Initially, use of the stations will be free, officials said.

The Nissan LEAF EV is the initial choice vehicle because it offers an information system that provides data on energy consumption and it complies with special quick charging protocols.

Hatanaka said that the feasibility study for the project was done in 2011, and in 2012, a system design was completed. The official demonstration will begin in 2014 and end in 2016.

This fall, Kihei residents will be asked to participate but only some may qualify. The Kihei area was chosen for the study because of its photovoltaic systems, its proximity to MECO’s communication systems and the opportunity for collaboration with an existing smart grid project.

JUMPSmart is not part of the Maui Smart Grid project in Maui Meadows, although there is planned collaboration between the projects.

For more information on the program, see, send email to or contact the Maui Economic Development Board at 875-2300.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at