Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit

by Henry Curtis

The Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo was held from August 30 – September 2, 2010 at the Hawai`i Convention Center.

I found the conference exciting and relevant. Panels include green buildings, electric vehicles, smart grids, ocean energy and biofuels. About 1200 people attended from around the U.S. and many Asian countries. There were large meetings with keynote speakers and a series of panel discussions which were all well attended. The lunches and the evening socials had sufficient food including vegetarian selections. The layout of the conference was conducive to meetings and talk stories.

Among those attending were Senator Daniel Inouye and his wife Irene; Hawai`i Representatives Denny Coffman, Mina Morita and Cynthia Thielen; Public Utilities Commission Chair Carl Caliboso and Commissioner John Cole; Governor Lingle, Lt Governor Aiona; the Director of the State Department of Health Sandra Kunimoto; the Director of the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) Ted Liu; several DBEDT staff members including Ted Peck and Estrella Seese; a few but not over-powering number of utility people including Coltan Ching and Lisa Giana; Tom Williams (Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel); Richard Ha, T. Michael May (former head of HECO) and the Emcee Gerald A. Sumida (Carlsmith Ball).

The National Anthem and Hawaii Pono`i were sung by Jalee Fuselier, Miss Hawaii 2010.

As is true for most conferences, this one then started with the political speeches including several less than credible statements by the Governor.

Senator Daniel Inouye: “Just think where our nation would be, and this world would be, and where oil would be, had we just stayed the course 30 years ago ... This time we cannot waiver. This time we cannot blink. This time we must stay the course. Our nation’s energy security requires, the future of the planet requires this, and the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren demands it. ... Hawaii is on the way to become the national alternative energy test bed. We have all of the natural resources to produce energy from the sun, the wind, the ocean, the volcano.”

Gov Linda Lingle: “This energy transition for Hawaii, for America, for the World is not simply about technology or oil or the cost of electricity, it is indeed about world peace and our contribution to bringing about a world where no one is fighting over limited resources in order to generate electricity.”

Cheap oil has enabled the world population to skyrocket from 2 billion to 7 billion during the 80 years from 1927-2007. In the year 1900, only 7% of the world’s population lived in towns with more than 5,000 people. Cheap oil, mechanized agriculture and the explosive growth in population, has led to an explosion in urban poverty. They are now 1 billion people who live on less than $1.25 per day.

Gov Linda Lingle: “You all recognize by now that the US military is an important part of our nation’s move towards energy independence and they have been a great partner for us at HCEI. ... My own Adjutant General, the leader of our Hawai`i National Guard, and our State Department of Defense, General Bob Lee, was among the very first to recognize this important linkage between energy independence and the United States military.” ?!

Patricia Hoffman, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability: “One of the things that were trying to do at the Department of Energy is to continue to move that transition forward, continue to invest in the clean energy economy, set the pathway and really get down to the details of how to make this investment happen and how to make the transition sustainable.”

That is precisely what needs to happen: setting the pathway and getting into the details. The devil is in the details. There are several forks in the road where one must make a choice, for example, do we want greater centralization or decentralization. There are opportunity costs, where committing funds for one massive project will dry up funds for alternative approaches.

Electric Vehicles

The Summit showcased several electric vehicles, panel discussions were held, and Nissan held a press conference in front of the Hawai`i Convention Center.

Nissan plans to roll out the all electric Nissan Leaf in California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Tennessee in December 2010.

This will be followed by rollouts in the rest of the country in 2011 starting with Texas and Hawaii in January; Washington DC, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina and Alabama in April; and the rest of the US in the fall.

Hideaki Watanabe, Nissan Corporate VP, Zero Emissions Business group: "Throughout the world we have over 60 partnership agreements, all over the world, especially in Japan and the US we have a lot of those agreements, and I am very happy that Hawai`i is now part of it.”

Governor Linda Lingle: "This is a landmark day for the people of Hawai`i to be the first place in the world that these vehicles will be rolled out."

Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona: "We want to thank Nissan for choosing Hawai`i to be a part of this opening and the unveiling of the Nissan Leaf. You know part of the reason why Nissan has chosen Hawai`i is because of our commitment to electric vehicles and clean energy and this is something I believe that is missing in many parts of our country here."

Brian Carolin, Nissan North America senior vice president of sales and marketing: "We have brought a 100% electric vehicle to market and the State of Hawaii is made a huge commitment to the necessary infrastructure to support the vehicle. ... I'm particularly pleased that the State is also supporting the vehicle with incentives, there is a tax credit of $4500, if you combine that with the federal tax credit then it makes this vehicle extremely affordable. It means that the effective price for the vehicle is a little over $20,000."


I found the biofuel panel very interesting. Traditionally at government conferences, biofuel panelists are ardent supporters of biofuels and they are usually oblivious to any negative consequences. This panel did not have these problems. Nor were any of the panelists dry and pedantic.

Panel Facilitator Meredith Kuba, DBEDT Fuel Specialist for biomass and bioenergy for transportation and electricity: “Recently Hawaiian Electric issued a Request For Bids for locally produced biofuels and the Department of Defense is also leading the way with their U.S. Department of Agriculture and Navy Memorandum of Understanding and also the recently issued Request For Information for locally produced biofuels. So there is definitely a demand signal. However there are challenges to developing bioenergy in Hawai`i. There are limitations of land, water, labor ...technological barriers, as well as economic and environmental impacts.”

Joelle Simonpietri, Senior Military Analyst, US Pacific Command Energy Office, stated that biofuels are needed for aviation, the one area where other alternatives will not work.

When asked a question about Imperium Renewables, Joelle Simonpietri replied: “What brought Imperium down was the business model for the company overall and not just the plant in Hawai`i in that they were unable to execute the IPO needed to finance all of their plants, not just the one in Hawai`i. Now the holdup for the plant in Hawai`i was that initially for biodiesel fatty acid methyl ester, an oxygenated fuel, the feedstocks that made commercial sense at the time, this was a few years ago, was not corn and soy oil, it was palm oil imported from Malaysia and Indonesia. Malaysia and Indonesia palm oil plantations don’t meet US agronomic practices for sustainability. ...

There are a couple of things that have changed. First of all advanced biofuels have a higher energy density and higher productivity, you can only produce a certain amount of gallons per acre using a palm oil or terrestrial crop. ... As to the whole question of whether or not to import feedstocks or not, I can tell you that from the Pacific Command’s point of view ... a reduction in the amount of product that is imported to the islands to demonstrate local production, local refining, local use. We don’t really see a difference between petroleum coming from Malaysia vs natural gas Fischer Fischer-Tropsch fuel coming from Malaysia or palm oil from Malaysia. It’s all still imported product.”

Dr. Mark Huntley, Cellana (joint venture between Shell Oil and HR BioPetroleum): “The life cycle analysis is really important. In the end I will say you it’s not technically difficult to extract algae from oil and do the whole process. Technically it’s feasible but to do that with a low carbon footprint and low energy consumption so that you’re net energy positive and so that you have a carbon footprint that is competitive with other biofuels is pretty much of a challenge.”

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar (HC&S) General Manager Chris Benjamin is a pessimist on biofuels: “I’m always a little anxious about being on a panel with Paul Zorner because especially when the topic includes the word challenges because I come out looking like Debbie Downer and he looks like you know the most optimistic you in the world. ... He’ll get you lifted up after I depress you. ...

We have one thing that is unique to Hawai`i which is a two year crop and I’ll get back to that later when we talk about converting potentially from a sugar plantation to an energy plantation we may move away from a two year crop and go to a one year crop and that is not an insignificant undertaking. ...

So for us it’s more of a transformation from one product to another. For others though it will really be a re-start ... But even for us the transformation of an existing plantation to a different model is going to be challenging we’ve been doing what we’re doing for a century, a 120, 130 years, and so you don’t change the long habits really easily. ...

To produce the biomass to create bioenergy is going to require, as I said before, bringing a lot of land back into cultivation.”

“There are a lot of challenges here that I think everybody recognizes: selecting the right conversion technology, developing the right end products, for the right customers, dealing with the environmental issues, permitting issues, as I said before, effluent disposal, off-take agreements, again with the right set of customers, cost, the economic feasibility, financing, those things you all know about and I’m not going to spend a lot of time on them...

What all of you do and what we’re talking about here which is technologies and off-take agreements and jet fuel and everything else that’s the sexy part of renewable energy but someone’s got to plant the seeds, someone’s got to irrigate the fields, someone’s got to harvest, someone’s got to do the dirty work and there is not a large number of people in Hawai`i that relish those kinds of jobs. We have 800 left and I can tell you that there ages are getting on. ...

Especially on Maui where you have a lot of folks who have come over to buy vacation homes and they didn’t sign even though we were there when they bought the house they didn’t really understand what they were signing up for with cane smoke or other issues.. So I think especially if we go to bring some fallow lands back into cultivation, they’re people who may not be prepared for what that entails.”
Dr. Paul Zorner, President and CEO, Hawaii BioEnergy is the optimist: “The current state of Hawaii’s energy and food security is not great. We import ...90% of our energy, 80% of our food, for a total export from our economy of at least $10 billion per year It’s a remarkable drag on our economic health and it’s not, it’s not sustainable.”

Smart Grid

The panel focused on answering the questions: "Is the electrical grid really the dumbest big machine man ever made? Are the elements of the smart grid going to increase reliability, efficiency, and renewables, or will they introduce new weaknesses into this essential -- but vulnerable -- infrastructure?"

Cary Bloyd, the Senior International Research Advisor with the Energy and Efficiency Division of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory: “Usually when you come and anyone brings up with Smart Grid, people will say to you well, no more definitions, because there are so many definitions, but yet still there is a lot of interest. In reality since a Smart Grid is about linking together, and to me the key ... is bringing two way communication, where before pretty much before there was only one. A key thing about that two way communication is that it is bringing it to all of these pieces ... If you look at how we produce and particularly consume electricity there are a lot of pieces.”

KC Healy, Director with Deloitte Consulting, “How many of you are familiar with the Gartner hype cycle?”

“So that’s essentially its Gartner views of how technology is adopted. Initially after you get some sort of technology introduction you go through this rapid cycle of inflated unrealistic expectations and then followed shortly thereafter by a fall into the dismal trauma of disillusionment and at some point you hit this slope of enlightenment and you start to come out of it. So I guess the question is: is there a slope of enlightenment in this trough we seem to be in because right now because of what I have heard today, there’s starting to be this growing realization that Smart Grid might be harder than people anticipated and it may not deliver on all of the promises.”

Hawaiian Electric had jumped on the Smart Grid revolution, not wanting to wait to see how things shook out, and asked the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for approval of Smart Meters as a first step. After the initial buzz, HECO decided to slow down and they asked the PUC for a 1 year delay and followed that up with a request for another 18 month delay.

Clay Collier led the effort to create and commercially deploy the first Demand Response Automation Server based on an Open message set.

Clay Collier: "I'm going to talk about one mechanism that we use which is automating demand response as an element in implementing the Smart Grid ... California Public Utilities Commission mandated a program where they would get efficiency by clipping the peaks, and as people looked at it they said, 22 days a year in the heat of the summer, where everyone is cranking on the HVAC, kids are home have all of their electronics plugged in, factories are running, stores are running, everyone is consuming electricity, and if you get rid of the 22 peaks you get rid of 30% of capacity demand, wow."

Integrating Renewables

The focus was on large central station renewables utilizing cables, such as wind from Moloka`i and Lana`i. The focus was not on Feed-In Tariffs and self-generation.

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion

The oceans contain between 1,000 and 10,000 times the total energy needs of the world. Seventy percent of the energy from the Sun goes into the oceans. The Pacific Ocean, covering 32% of the earth’s surface, receives nearly one third of the Sun’s energy.

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is a method of extracting a small fraction of the energy from the ocean and converting it into electricity. OTEC facilities could be installed off the coast of almost 100 countries.

The concept was thought of by a friend of Jules Verne, tested in Cuba in the 1920s and successful on-shore and off-shore facilities were built at the Natural Energy Lab of Hawai`i (NELHA) in the 1980s and 1990s.

Lockheed Martin plans to build a 10 MW Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) facility for the Navy. The off-shore facility would be located south of Kalaeloa Harbor.

The plant would be about half an acre in size (150 feet per side), contain 16 heat exchangers (10 feet by 10 feet by 30 feet) and require 10,000 gallons of water per second. The cold water intake pipe would be 3000 feet long and have a diameter of 10 feet.

Wave Energy

Oceanlinx has successfully designed and tested three sequential wave energy systems. They operate using oscillating water columns. Ocean swells raise the water level forcing air out of a blowhole. As the swell recedes, the air is sucked back through the hole. A turbine, the only moving part of the facility, is located above the water line, and spins as the air moves back and forth through the blowhole. A commercial 2.7 MW system will be built off Maui on 2012.

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Wow. Good, thorough stuff. A great rundown for an event I've yet to attend.

Great job capturing the videos from speakers at the conference. Really useful especially for those of us who were not able to make it. Mahalo!

Yeah, well done review.

Nice overview, Henry, but it still begs the question alluded to in your blog's header, "News you may not find in the local media. Learn why it was disappeared.", as to why it was so poorly covered by the media.

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Requiring those Captcha codes at least temporarily, in the hopes that it quells the flood of comment spam I've been receiving.

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