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Hawaiʻi's Only Coal-Fired Power Plant Should Consider Biomass Energy, Researchers Say

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The head of the Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute told state lawmakers Wednesday that AES Hawaii, which operates the state’s only coal-fired power plant, should consider using biomass to produce energy.

State law requires AES Hawaii’s power plant at Campbell Industrial Park on Oʻahu to stop burning coal in September 2022.

The plant produces between 15% and 20% of Oʻahu’s power, and government officials have been concerned about how that energy production can be replaced.

Biomass is animal or plant material that is burned for energy production, and is considered a renewable energy source.

HNEI recently conducted a study on the feasibility and effects of refitting the plant to biomass.

HNEI Director Dr. Richard Rocheleau says one concern has been the increased cost of using biomass. The study found that if oil hovers around $80 a barrel, where it’s been recently, residents could face a rise in their electricity bills of about $3 to $4 if biomass is utilized.

But if oil rises to $100 a barrel, the cost of using biomass would roughly be equal to that of oil.

In any case, Rocheleau said he believes even if the AES plant shuts down completely, Oʻahu will be able to produce enough electricity to avoid a power crunch.

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