In brief: April 5, 2021

Hawaiian Electric transitioning fleet to zero-emissions

To optimize charging of its electric vehicles, Hawaiian Electric is partnering with AMPLY Power on a pilot to manage charging infrastructure for four of its vehicles, which are part of the passenger fleet that is set to be fully electric by 2035.

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The pilot program is unique for both AMPLY Power and Hawaiian Electric, as it utilizes the industry standard of OpenADR (Open Automated Demand Response) to optimize vehicles charging on the system. Elemental Excelerator, a commercialization catalyst for growth-stage climate technology companies, facilitated and contributed funding to the venture.

AMPLY’s Charging-as-a-Service will ensure that Hawaiian Electric’s four passenger EVs in this pilot are fully charged and ready to drive at the beginning of each day for minimum cost and minimum impact to the grid. The vehicles being used in the project are three Kia Niros, and one Nissan LEAF. Hawaiian Electric is expected to leverage data from the pilot to inform its electrification efforts for its five-island service territory.

“Transportation accounts for nearly two-thirds of imported petroleum and discharges over half of our greenhouse gas emissions. That makes this pilot an integral part of our effort to transition our own passenger vehicle fleet to electric by 2035 and bring carbon neutrality to our islands by 2045,” said Aki Marceau, Hawaiian Electric director of Electrification of Transportation. “We look forward to working with AMPLY and using the data collected to encourage other commercial fleets in the state to transition to electric as well.”

US jobless claims rise as labor market recovery remains choppy

Applications for U.S. state unemployment insurance unexpectedly rose last week but remained near the lowest levels of the pandemic as the labor market meanders toward full recovery.

Initial jobless claims in regular state programs increased to 719,000 in the week ended March 27, up 61,000 from the prior week, Labor Department data showed Thursday. Economists in a Bloomberg survey estimated 675,000 claims. The prior week’s figure was revised down to 658,000, which is below the Great Recession’s peak.

The unexpected increase in claims underscores the choppy nature of the labor market recovery and indicates it will take time to recoup the millions of the jobs lost because of the pandemic. However, vaccinations are increasing and business restrictions are easing, suggesting employment will accelerate in the coming months.

Virginia, Kentucky and Georgia led states with the biggest increases in unadjusted claims from the prior week. The data have been volatile during the pandemic amid backlogs, fraud and new programs.

The figures come a day before the monthly employment report. The median forecast of economists in a Bloomberg survey calls for a 650,000 gain in payrolls in March, the most in five months, and some economists are expecting an increase of 1 million.

Historical revisions to initial and continuing claims for 2016-2020 were also released Thursday. The pandemic peak was revised down to 6.149 million initial jobless claims in regular state programs from 6.867 million.

Gun stocks rise on record March FBI background checks

Gunmakers Sturm Ruger and Smith &Wesson rose Thursday after the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) showed U.S. unadjusted criminal background checks rose 25% to a record in March from a year ago.

Unadjusted checks climbed to 4.69 million from 3.74 million in March 2020, and gained 36% from 3.44 million in February. Six days in March made the list of the top 10 highest days for background checks since 1998. The week of March 15, 2021 to March 21, 2021 was the top background check week on record, while March 22, 2021 to March 28, 2021 was the fourth best week.

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Sturm Ruger climbed as much as 2.8%, while Smith &Wesson added 3.8%.

While gun sales aren’t tracked in the U.S., NICS data is considered a proxy for sales by the firearms industry. A background check doesn’t mean a gun sale occurred.