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Asia Minute: Australian Energy Lessons for Hawai‘i?

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Government and industry officials are considering what energy investments will be required over the next several decades.  It’s a discussion that’s going on in Hawai‘i as regulators consider NextEra’s bid for Hawaiian Electric Industries.  But it’s also a conversation that’s happening right now in Australia.  HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

730-billion US dollars.

That’s the approximate price tag of investments that Australia’s electricity networks will require by the year 2050.  The figure was reached by two groups: an industry association representing energy distributors and a federal government agency focused on scientific research.  The investment costs may sound steep, but the head of the industry group says it should not translate to significantly higher electricity rates for consumers.  He told the Australia Broadcasting Corporation that for most Australians, electric bills should remain where they are—about two to three percent of household income.   That might sound like a bargain to many Hawai‘i residents…but there are some closer parallels.

Australia faces at least one solar challenge similar to Hawai‘i—how to encourage the use of rooftop solar while increasing its benefits to people who don’t live in single-family homes, or those who rent.  One Australian solution under consideration: changing the way electricity is priced.  Regulators are working on a formula that would distribute costs so that major users of power might pay more while the benefits of alternative energy would be shared among a wider population.  This week’s findings are part of an interim report—the final one is due by the end of next year.  

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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