Hawaiian Electric is asking Hawaii island customers to limit their use of electricity on Tuesday evening, especially from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and possibly for the rest of the week.

Big Island locator map

Conservation measures are needed to prevent the possibility of rolling blackouts, according to the utility.

The call for power conservation follows the island’s largest independent power producer Hamakua Energy’s recent shutdown. It’s also exacerbated by wind generation expected to be lower than usual.

HECO HEI Hawaiian Electric power plant located along Ala Moana Boulevard.
HECO HEI Hawaiian Electric power plant located along Ala Moana Boulevard. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Hamakua Energy normally supplies 60 megawatts of power but the plant is currently shut down due to the unavailability of ammonia used for pollution control, Hawaiian Electric said in a news release.

It’s unclear when the plant will return to service.

Due to supply chain issues, Hamakua Energy is experiencing a delay in the delivery of ammonia to operate within the pollution emission limits laid out in the company’s air permit.

“We are continuing to pursue other supply sources and intend to have the product delivered to Hawaii Island and safely transported to the plant in the next several days,” the company said in a statement provided to Hawaiian Electric.

Hawaiian Electric is helping Hamakua Energy find ammonia so that it can ensure the reliability of the Big Island grid, according to Hamakua Energy.

Adding to the island’s electrical woes is the fact that Hawaiian Electric’s Hill Plant Unit No. 5 is undergoing annual scheduled maintenance. It normally supplies 14 megawatts of power. The company’s 15 megawatt Puna steam plant is also offline for extensive mechanical repairs, according to the utility.

By reducing demand, Hawaiian Electric hopes to ensure enough electricity is available and prevent the need for rolling, 30-minute outages.

Hawaiian Electric customers are advised to check the utility’s Twitter account for updates. The handle is @HIElectricLight.

“The best way to avoid the inconvenience of a brief outage is to minimize the use of appliances, especially air conditioning and anything that generates heat. Consider shutting off your water heater for a few hours – the water will still be hot later. Every bit you conserve is a big help,” said Kristen Okinaka, Hawaiian Electric spokesperson.

Hawaiian Electric has also asked larger commercial customers, including government, hotels and retail, to voluntarily reduce electricity use. Hawaii County has already helped.

“The water department did turn off pumps at 6 sites last night in response to our request,” said Hawaiian Electric spokesperson Jim Kelly.

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