Hawaii Says Aloha to Better Place

On the heels of announcing its first U.S. electric-vehicle charging network planned for California’s Bay Area, Better Place says this afternoon that Hawaii has signed on for the second U.S. network. The governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, and Better Place CEO Shai Agassi plan to make the announcement this afternoon (more on this after the event) about the partnership that has been rumored for months.

The Bay Area might have managed to eke out news of the first network, but it actually makes a lot of sense for Hawaii to turn to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. Hawaii has some of the highest gas prices in the U.S. and has been aggressively courting ways to reduce fossil fuel consumption. The state has its Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), which is aiming to have 70 percent of the states electricity from renewable sources.

Hawaii’s deal with Better Place plans to start permit work for the network next year, with electric vehicles first appearing in 18 months and becoming widely available by 2012. The startup didn’t put a price on the network investment, but the company tells us it will be similar to the planned investment in Israel and Denmark; Israel is supposed to cost around $200 million to buildout. Hawaii utility Hawaiian Electric Company has also signed on, in what it says is the first Better Place utility deal, to collaborate on infrastructure and energy production. Hawaii has been trying to spur its cleantech industry over the past year and has used state incentives and purchases to help the market grow. Solar thermal startup Sopogy has said the state legislature has approved up to$35 million in special purpose revenue bonds for Sopogy to build and operate a solar plant locally. For the deal with Better Place, Hawaii plans some sort of public-private partnership; we’ll update with more on that after the media event.