Policy and business leaders will explore the electric power generation transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy during a conference March 26-28 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, an announcement said.
Keynote speakers at "Electric Utilities: The Future Is Not What It Used To Be" are to include Amory Lovins, chairman and chief scientist with the Rocky Mountain Institute, and Ron Binz, former chief of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
"We are on the cutting edge of renewable energy growth, but we're also experiencing some growing pains," Mayor Alan Arakawa said. "In a few short years, we now have 5,000 photovoltaic systems on (an) island of 150,000 people. We have three wind farms now feeding power into the island's electric grid, but our residents do not feel that the benefits and costs of renewable energy are allocated in a way that is sustainable."
Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.’s Puunene mill adds to Maui’s energy generation Friday. It burns a mix of coal and bagasse, the fibrous remnants of sugar cane. At night and on cloudy days, residents and businesses with solar power systems still use electricity generated at this complex and at diesel-fuel-burning Maui Electric power plants in Maalaea and Kahului.
The Maui News / BRIAN PERRY photo
Conference sponsors include Hawaiian Electric, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, the Maui Economic Development Board and the Mayor's Office of Economic Development.
"Our goal in this conference is to gather those most knowledgeable about new models and new ways of thinking about how you provide electricity to the public," Arakawa said. "Together, we can find answers that truly benefit our island community, allowing utilities to provide reliable power service while treating ratepayers fairly and equitably."
Maui County Energy Commissioner Doug McLeod said innovative solutions need to be explored.
"The traditional investor-owned utility model has grown obsolete," he said.
The conference registration fee is $395. Organizers are offering limited sponsorship opportunities ranging from $500 to $25,000. To learn more, go to www.hightechmaui.com/energyconference.