Electrifying Hawaii's transportation sector includes more than electric vehicles

This story appeared in Pacific Business News on Friday, August 10, 2018

When people talk about electrifying the transportation sector, they most often refer to boosting the adoption rate of electric vehicles. But in order for Hawaii to become carbon neutral by 2045 – as a new law demands – changing the makeup of vehicles on Hawaii’s roads will not be enough.

“Electrification of transportation is not just about electric vehicles, it’s also about electrifying operations at the harbor and the airport,” Brennon Morioka, Hawaiian Electric’s general manager of electrification of transportation, told Pacific Business News.

The former deputy executive director of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, the agency in charge of Honolulu’s 20-mile rail project, said Hawaiian Electric is working with the state Department of Transportation’s harbor and airport divisions as well as some of their tenants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at facilities around the state.

For example, Hawaiian Electric is supporting Matson Inc.’s efforts of electrifying their cranes, Morioka said. In addition, the utility is collaborating with the DOT’s airports division to electrify various ground support equipments, such as tows, tugs and baggage truck.

“[We] are also looking at supporting the DOT in their efforts to provide preconditioned air units at the jetways. Aviation fuel is a big part of the fuel consumption here in Hawaii,” Morioka said. “When you sit on an airplane, in order for the airplane to be air-conditioned, their engines are running and they are burning aviation fuel. If there are preconditioned air units that can help keep the airplane cool while the engines are turned off, then that saves a whole bunch of jet fuel, as well.

“It’s not just about EVs and it’s not just about ground transportation, there is maritime and aviation aspects to [electrification of transportation] as well.”

According to the Hawaii State Energy Office, the transportation sector combined accounted for 63 percent of all fossil fuel usage in the Islands in 2016, with air transportation being the biggest consumer at 32 percent, followed by ground transportation at 27 percent and marine transportation at 4 percent.

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