MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Let’s try to summarize this astounding Scientific American article that symbolizes the tentacles of the fossil fuel industry and utility companies in perpetuating destructive climate change.
Actually, the header and sub-headline of the piece sum it up nicely: “A Solar Boom so Successful, It’s Been Halted: Photovoltaics proved so successful in Hawaii that the local utility, [the Hawaiian Electric Company] (HECO), has instituted policies to block further expansion.”
Hawaiian residents are investing their own money to save longterm costs and the environment. The result is that they are producing a surplus of solar energy beyond what they can use in their homes. This extra energy is supposed to be diverted back into the power grid to save money on HECO’s reliance on oil and to reduce global warming.
Now the US does have an aged electrical grid and HECO makes the claim that the surge in solar energy production by homeowners is creating safety problems:
Hawaiian Electric Co., or HECO, in September told solar contractors on Oahu that the island’s solar boom is creating problems. On many circuits, the utility said, there’s so much solar energy that it poses a threat to the system and a safety issue. Studies are needed on whether grid upgrades are necessary. If they are, residents adding solar must foot the bill. And starting immediately, contractors and residents would need permission to connect most small rooftop systems to the grid.
The result is that an alternative renewable energy source that could help save the planet and reduce energy costs dramatically (in the long run, particulary as solar technology becomes less expensive) is dead in its tracks in Hawaii:
The policy change halted what has been a solar surge in Hawaii. Installations there jumped 169 percent last year from 2011. More than 4 percent of households have photovoltaics. Hawaii last year led the nation in the portion of its electricity that comes from solar, with 2.6 percent.
Now, a nation that cannot invest in fixing its electrical grid — if you believe the utility company excuse for basically shutting down solar expansion in Hawaii — is a nation that is not the greatest on earth, but one doomed to failure while its energy policy is dictated by the profiteering, environmentally toxic fossil fuel industry and utility companies.
Amidst the approval of a tar sands pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia in Canada — and the already flowing earth-killing oil into the US (accelerating with the opening of the southern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline next month) — the use of renewable non-polluting energy courtesy of the sun should be one of the nation’s highest priority.
But, as usual, the “economic royalists” (as Thom Hartmann calls them) can’t make enough money off an energy source that is free after an initial investment:
Charles Wang, with the Hawaii ECO Project, at a solar conference in San Diego earlier this month warned people from other states that Hawaii is a “cautionary tale” and “something that you will face down the road in your marketplaces.”
“I am from the future,” Wang told a room of industry and environmental representatives. “The utility is that 800-pound gorilla. If you push it to the corner of the room, it’s going to fight back. That’s what’s happening right now.”
Some residential users are even buying expensive battery storage units to save up surplus solar energy and sidestep the issue of “grid certification,” meaning, in essence, renewable energy is being kept from replacing fossil fuel produced electricity as a public power source.
When you watch those programs that try to piece together how ancient civilizations disappeared through archeological digs, the fossil fuel/utility greed and assault on the environment in Hawaii — symbolized by aging grids — will be a telling sign of what became of an empire that choked on its wallet and blocked out the sun.