Renewable Energy Basics
What is renewable energy?
Electricity can be made from a variety of energy sources. Some are fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas. Over 90 percent of all the energy used in Hawaii for electricity, surface and air transportation comes from imported fossil fuels, mostly oil but some coal. (The synthetic natural gas used in Hawaii is refined here from crude oil.)
Fossil fuels were formed underground over millions of years as organic material like plants and animals were compressed. Once fossil fuels are used they are gone and can not be replaced. We call an energy source "renewable" or "sustainable" if it can be replenished -- such as biomass, biofuels or garbage -- or will never run out – such as the sun, wind, ocean and geothermal power.
Why is renewable energy important?
Renewable energy is important for two reasons:
||To reduce Hawaii's consumption of oil. Oil is getting harder and more expensive to find and extract. It must be imported to Hawaii at an ever increasing cost, often from unstable, turbulent places over thousands of miles of open ocean. This leaves Hawaii very vulnerable economically to increases in the price of oil and disruptions in the supply. To increase our energy security and keep more of our energy dollars at home, we need to use local, renewable resources.
||To protect Hawaii’s environment and reduce our impact on global warming. Burning fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide and other emissions that cause global warming. As islands in the middle of the Pacific, Hawaii is very vulnerable to the effects of global climate change, including rising sea levels, longer and more violent storms and longer, drier droughts. Although Hawaii’s carbon footprint and our contribution to global climate change are small, we can not expect others to control their greenhouse gas emissions if we are not doing all we can to control ours.
Reducing our use of imported oil
Hawaii has historically depended on imported oil for most of its energy needs. There are many reasons. Unlike mainland states, Hawaii does not have access to fuel sources such as natural gas, or large rivers to produce hydropower. Petroleum is easy to transport and can be easily refined to create fuel for air, water and ground transportation, electricity and other uses. Until recently, oil was reasonably inexpensive and more readily available from domestic and foreign sources.
Diversifying Hawaii's mix of energy sources by using more locally produced renewable energy to produce electricity (and for transportation when possible) is the best way to help Hawaii use less oil.
Fact: Only about one third of Hawaii's imported oil is used to make electricity. About one third goes for jet fuel and about one third goes for gasoline and diesel for our automobiles and boats.
Fact: Although using renewable energy will reduce Hawaii's use of oil to produce electricity, it won't eliminate the need to import crude oil or refined product to Hawaii as long as fuel is needed for ground and air transportation. This is one reason Hawaiian Electric advocates making electric vehicles our major ground transportation vehicles.
Our fuel mix
Learn more about how Hawaiian Electric's fuel mix.
Learn more about the status and future plans for renewable energy available in Hawaii, follow these links:
Challenges to using more renewable energy
Most people favor reducing our use of imported fossil fuel for energy and support the switch to renewable energy. Still, there are challenges to overcome along the way. Learn more about these challenges.