Hawaii Closes Last Coal-Fired Power Plant in Fight Against Climate Change

Last week, Hawaii closed its last coal-fired power plant after three decades in operation. The move to close this power plant, which produced one-fifth of the electricity on Oahu, comes after the islands received their last shipment of coal in July.

The closure of this coal plant makes Hawaii the 11th state in the country with no coal-fired power facilities. States such as Vermont and Rhode Island have never had any coal-fired power plants.

In a recent interview, Hawaii Gov. David Ige stated that the plant’s closure would help reduce greenhouse gases. Ige explained that the coal facility was one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases and ash on the island, noting that its closure would put an end to the millions of metric tons of greenhouse gases the plant emitted yearly.

Similar to other islands in the Pacific, the Hawaiian chain has suffered various impacts of climate change. The state is experiencing more intense storms, a rapid rise in sea level and destruction of coral reefs as a result of bleaching due to increased ocean temperatures as well as drought, which heightens Hawaii’s risk of experiencing wildfires.

Earlier in 2020, the state’s legislature approved a measure banning the use of coal in producing power by the beginning of 2023. The state was also the first in the country to set a goal mandating 100% transition to the use of renewable energy by 2045.

While the move to eliminate the use of coal is ultimately good, critics argue that now isn’t the right time to do so, as renewable sources that can replace the use of energy derived from coal are yet to come online. Supply-chain issues brought on by the pandemic, contract issues and permit delays are a few of the hindrances to the adoption of the use of renewable sources of energy.

This closure means that Hawaii will have to use oil, which is only slightly less polluting than coal, before it can deploy renewable energy sources at scale. It is expected that not using coal and the extra cost of oil will prompt a rise in electricity bills for residents, who already grapple with the highest energy and living costs in the country.

Previous projections from the Hawaiian Electric Company had shown that consumers would see a 7% increase in their bills. However, the company later revised this figure to 4%, due to a decrease in the price of oil.

While Hawaii has taken the bold step to close its last coal power plant, many other states and countries are caught in an energy crisis, which has kept them needing even more coal from producers such as Arch Resources Inc. (NYSE: ARCH) so that their energy needs can be met.

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