Education & Experience. Colton Ching has 23 years in the electric utility industry, working in engineering, planning and operations at Hawaiian Electric. He holds a bachelor’s of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
What do you hope this Energy Conference will accomplish? I hope that the conference will bring to Maui experts and leaders in the area of energy to engage in an honest discussion of how best to meet the energy needs for our islands.
What is your vision for the future of energy? I believe that the vision for energy in Hawaii is to have a diverse portfolio of energy resources. It will have a mix of renewables of different types, such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, waste-to-energy, ocean. These resources will be of different sizes – from rooftop solar systems that can take advantage of being located where electricity is consumed to larger centrally located systems that can take advantage of economies of scale and from building dedicated facilities for integration and interoperability with the grid. This portfolio of resources will be interconnected into a different grid. A grid of a different architecture, designed for generation in new locations, with these generators communicating with each other through a modern, high speed communications network to operate in a coordinated fashion purposefully. The grid will employ bulk energy storage systems to maintain reliability and operational flexibility with wind and solar. In addition this modern grid will employ technologies, such as distributed battery systems to give customers options on service and reliability levels and provide these options at reasonable costs to customers.
Why do you think it’s been challenging to transition from fossil fuel generated power to alternative renewable energy? The current electric system of the nation has been largely built for the last 100-plus years around large fossil fuel generators. Alternative forms of energy, such as wind and solar, are often situated in locations away from the existing grid. And the operating characteristics of these alternative forms of generation are different from conventional fossil generation. This creates a need for the grid and the operations of it to change dramatically.
Hawaii has the highest electric rates in the United States. How do you think this should be addressed? Because of Hawaii’s high rates, we need to focus on developing a portfolio of new renewable resources such that when integrated into the grid, contribute to lowering customer bills.
Why do you believe it’s important to have open and frank discussions about the future of energy? Successfully achieving our state’s energy goals will require tough decisions on tradeoffs between cost, reliability, renewable levels, and other factors that are very important to our customers. Without open and frank discussions, we cannot have a full and complete discussion on these very important tradeoffs.