Maui EVA & the Smart Grid
No, that’s not the name of a hot new garage band, but it just might be the start of an energy revolution.
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Custom cars with yellow-and-black flame jobs, open-top cruisers, and brilliant-hued classics pack the Great Lawn of the University of Hawaii Maui College at a nighttime event highlighting the school’s auto technology program. Several-hundred car enthusiasts stand proudly by their rides, while bass lines and drums from a live band vibrate air and ground. I sit tucked into the darkened backseat of a Chevy Volt — one of only two electric vehicles (EVs) at the show — talking with a different kind of enthusiast. Unlike the hot-rod owners, who spend weekends and hard-earned cash on paint jobs and supersized mufflers, my host cares less about what’s on the outside than what makes this car go. Surrounded by the old-school party outside, it feels almost conspiratorial — a meeting with one of an elite club, plotting a revolution to change the existing power structure — literally, the energy that fuels our cars and keeps the lights on.
Getting Maui off imported oil can’t come quickly enough. Even though foreign oil provides an estimated 85 percent of the island’s electricity, Maui’s relatively small market puts Maui Electric Company at the mercy of global price fluctuations in oil. Hawaii’s consumers feel the pain not only at the pump but every month with the highest electricity rates in the country.