Hawaii’s only coal-fired power plant received its last shipment of coal on Wednesday. The freighter “The Flying Tiger” arrived at the port in the port of Kalaeloa Barbers Point around noon.
The vessel was carrying what will be the last delivery of coal for the AES Hawaiʻi Power Plant, Oʻahu’s largest source of electricity.
It is expected to end operations by September 1 after three decades of use. But there is still work to be done before the factory closes.
Sandra Larsen, Hawaiian market sales manager for The AES Corporation, said it would take three to five days to unload the 15,000 tons of coal and transfer it to the Campbell Industrial Park plant.
“We’re working hard for one, shipping the plant out of fuel to keep it running,” Larsen said. “If we had any leftovers, we would most likely have to ship that off the island.”
Larsen says AES has already been able to place several of its employees in clean energy positions.
“We worked very, very hard with all of our employees to make sure we got jobs for them,” she told HPR. “That’s one of our big goals is to make sure we get everyone back to work when this coal-fired power station shuts down.”
The state plans to replace the plant’s power generation with 100% renewable energy, but supply chain issues and other delays have hampered progress.
“We still have a few more bends to negotiate, because the short-term challenge here is that as we shut down this coal plant in September, we don’t have as many renewable energy projects coming online immediately. And so the reality is that residents here on Oʻahu are going to see higher costs in the short term,” Larsen said.
Governor David Ige told HPR the latest coal delivery represents “a huge step forward in Hawaii’s transition to clean energy.”
“Renewable energy projects to replace coal are coming online and more are underway. While we face challenges making this transition, it is the right decision for our communities and our planet,” he said in a statement. “In its time, coal was an important resource for Hawai’i and I would like to thank the workers who ran our last coal plant.”
Larsen says AES as a whole is committed to moving away from coal by 2025. AES is set to open a new solar plus storage facility in Maui on Friday.
“It’s really the end of an era in how energy is generated for Oʻahu’s fuel and electrical needs. It’s really, really important. energy at the lowest cost available. And so we provided up to 20% of Oʻahu’s energy at about 12 cents per kilowatt hour,” she added.
This interview with Sandra Larsen of The AES Corporation also aired on The Conversation on July 28, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.