State Becomes First To Shut Down All Its Coal Power Plants
Alen Schein Photography via Getty Images

The last coal power plant in Hawaii ceased operations this week, meaning that the Aloha State is the first in the nation to execute a ban on the fossil fuel.

AES Corporation’s coal plant on the island of Oahu, which supplied one-fifth of residents’ electricity, closed on Thursday after 30 years of operation. Hawaii was also the first state to pass a requirement for a complete shift to renewable energy before 2045.

“It really is about reducing greenhouse gases,” Governor David Ige (D-HI) said in an interview with the Associated Press. “And this coal facility is one of the largest emitters. Taking it offline means that we’ll stop the 1.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases that were emitted annually.”

The Hawaiian legislature passed a law two years ago banning the use of coal by 2023 in the interest of promoting “a swift transition to a clean energy economy.” At $0.276 per kilowatt-hour, Hawaii currently has the nation’s most expensive electricity, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

State Senate Minority Leader Kurt Fevella (R) noted to the Associated Press that Hawaiian families are already “doing what is necessary” to cope with high prices. Yet AES Clean Energy President Leonardo Moreno told the outlet that “renewables are getting cheaper by the day.” He said he envisions “a future where energy is very, very cheap, abundant, and renewable.”

However, energy costs across the United States have increased precipitously over the past two years. The average price of electricity surged from $0.143 per kilowatt-hour in July 2021 to $0.160 per kilowatt-hour in July 2022, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Several states have meanwhile overhauled their energy infrastructures to promote renewable power. The California Air Resources Board issued rules last week requiring 35% of new vehicles to produce zero emissions by 2026 — a standard that will rise to a 68% benchmark by 2030 and a 100% level by 2035. The legislatures of Massachusetts, Washington, and Virginia have passed laws enforcing the standards approved by the agency.

Charging an electric vehicle requires twice as much annual energy usage as powering a refrigerator, according to data from the Department of Energy. Indeed, power authorities in California issued and extended an alert requesting that residents “avoid” charging electric vehicles as “available power supplies” tighten during a heat wave.

The White House has also encouraged higher reliance upon renewable sources as energy costs increase. The national average price of gasoline was $2.38 per gallon when President Joe Biden assumed office, according to data from the Energy Information Administration, and increased to $3.53 per gallon by the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Prices surpassed $5.00 per gallon in early June before subsiding to $3.83 per gallon as of Thursday, according to AAA.

California is slated to close the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, which is responsible for 8% of overall energy production and 17% of carbon-free energy in the Golden State. However, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) warned lawmakers that the electric grid is not capable of handling the loss of the state’s last nuclear facility.

“California has some of the most ambitious clean energy mandates in the world,” Feinstein wrote in a letter to Democrat State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Democrat State Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins. “However, despite massive investments and commitment, development of non-emitting renewable energy resources like wind, solar, and geothermal are not projected to be installed in time to meet California’s energy demand without power from Diablo Canyon.”

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