At the governor’s request, Hawaii lawmakers took special action Thursday to reconsider a bill that would change the formula the state uses to determine how much electricity comes from renewable sources.

“The current method is flawed and results in the misrepresentation of the state’s renewable energy progress,” Gov. David Ige said in a statement.

Hawaii set a goal last year of achieving 100 percent renewable energy for electricity generation by 2045. But the formula the law uses, which is based on electricity sales rather than generation, would let the state meet that goal while still relying significantly on fossil fuels.

The House, seen here in January, reconsidered a bill to change the way the state calculates how much electricity comes from renewable energy sources.

The House, seen here in January, reconsidered a bill Thursday to change the way the state calculates how much electricity comes from renewable energy sources.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“To succeed in meeting this goal, there must be an accurate method of calculating the percentage of renewable energy penetration,” Ige said.

Hawaii was getting roughly 21 percent of its electricity from renewable sources at the end of 2014.

The governor asked lawmakers to reconsider House Bill 2991, which had died in the Consumer Protection Committee after being amended in the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee. The Senate version had also stalled.

Rep. Angus McKelvey, who chairs the Consumer Protection Committee, said it’s protocol to reconsider bills when a governor or former governor asks. He moved on the House floor to waive the 48-hour notice normally given, and called for a decision-making meeting to be held on the bill roughly four hours later, at 5 p.m.

He did the same for a bill that former Gov. Neil Abercrombie asked the House to reconsider, House Bill 2081, which authorizes public agencies to initiate projects through which a public utility will purchase fuel or electricity. Abercrombie was warmly welcomed at the hearing.

House Bill 2991 initially set out to simply change the definition of “renewable portfolio standard” by substituting a single word. It would mean the percentage of electrical energy “generation” — instead of “sales” — that is represented by renewable electrical energy.

Then things got complicated.

The House Energy Committee, chaired by Rep. Chris Lee, amended the bill last month after hearing concerns from Hawaiian Electric Co. and The Alliance for Solar Choice, an advocacy group for the solar industry, among others.

HECO, Hawaiian Electric Industries’ Oahu subsidiary, was worried that the change failed to take into account electricity generated by fossil fuels coming from customers with their own power systems who connect to the grid. In theory, the utility could burn less oil and coal at its power plants but this could be offset by customers who connect to the grid with their own fossil-fuel burning systems.

TASC said rooftop solar systems shouldn’t count toward helping the utility meet the renewable energy goals because the customers pay for those systems.

The committee amended the bill by changing the definition of “renewable portfolio standard” to mean the “total renewable electrical energy generated from grid-connected renewable energy systems to the total electrical energy generated from grid-connected energy systems.”

Lee wrote in his committee report that “grid-connected” was defined to more accurately reflect the sum total of renewable energy penetration in the state.

“Specifically, the amended definition of renewable portfolio standard, when analyzed in the context of grid-connection, bases the calculation of renewable portfolio standards on the ratio of total renewable electrical energy generated from grid-connected renewable energy systems to the total electrical energy generated from grid-connected energy systems.”

If that sounds a bit confusing, you’re not alone. The Consumer Protection Committee indefinitely deferred the bill after receiving it from the Energy Committee.

That is, until Ige asked McKelvey to reconsider it Thursday. He did, and the committee passed an amended version of the bill that restores it to its original version.

“We’re going to pitch a clean slate back over to the Senate,” McKelvey said.

The full House is expected to vote on the bill next week, and its approval would send it to the Senate for its consideration.

Hawaiian Electric Industries’ subsidiaries power Oahu, Big Island and Maui County. Kauai has a member-owned electric cooperative.

HECO reported Thursday that the consolidated renewable portfolio standard for Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light combined was 23.2 percent, an increase from 21.3 percent for 2014.

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