Big plans for a big cable

We had a chance Thursday to meet with representatives of the Hawaii State Energy Office to discuss the proposed 112-mile underwater cable that would link Maui and Oahu’s power grids.

Mark Glick, the administrator of the energy office, and Robert R. Mould, an energy analyst for the office, were accompanied by Bob Kendall, a consultant with a company called Navigant that has experience with such cables.

The main arguments advanced for the 200-megawatt cable are that it would stabilize grids on both islands, provide some reduction in rates for consumers, and allow for the introduction of more energy from sustainable sources.

It should also allow for new, cleaner, more modern power plants. Those, in turn, will help the state meet its Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative Standards goal of generating 40 percent of our energy through renewables by 2030.

Glick said a goal of combining the two grids into basically a single modernized one is to have diversified sources powering them.

Renewables would be expanded to include photovoltaic and, perhaps, geothermal. Since the power would flow both ways in the cable, the location of the original sources is moot.

The modernized grid should also be able to easier handle what Glick and Kendall called “micro-grids” – power generated by smaller, consumer-owned photovoltaic systems.

Glick and Mould said initial estimates of rate savings of between $100 and $170 per year per residence are conservative and both believe those savings would be much higher.

The Public Utilities Commission is expected to consider whether there’s a public benefit for the cable in the first quarter of next year. If what we heard from Glick, Mould and Kendall is borne out in the PUC’s study, the cable could be a win for consumers, utilities and the state.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.