The following commentary was published in the Mar. 4 edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Mahalo to Blue Planet Board Members Gov. George Ariyoshi, Christine Camp, and Dr. Peter Crouch for sharing this vision.
Why Hawai‘i must strive for 100 percent renewables
By Gov. George Ariyoshi, Christine Camp, Dr. Peter Crouch
Under the state’s existing renewable energy laws, in 2031—around the time today’s pre-schoolers will graduate high school—the majority of our energy could still come from fossil fuels. We owe it to the kids growing up today, and the ones following them, to do better than that.
Climate reality is everywhere: eroding coastlines, dying coral reefs, droughts, floods, extreme weather. In Hawai‘i, big rains are bigger and more frequent, we’re getting less trade wind days, and we’ve recorded the hottest average high temperatures on record. Sea-level rise will soak Waikiki before the end of the century. Knowing that the single most important thing we can do about all this is to stop burning fossil fuels, will we commit today to securing hope for a stable climate tomorrow?
In 2008, theState of Hawai‘i and the Hawaiian Electric Companies acknowledged and agreed:
“The future of Hawai‘i requires that we move more decisively and irreversibly away from imported fossil fuel for electricity and transportation and towards indigenously produced renewable energy and an ethic of energy efficiency. The very future of our land, our economy and our quality of life is at risk if we do not make this move and we do so for the future of Hawai‘i and of the generations to come.”
With this declaration, they set the target of 40% renewable power by 2030. We can do better.
In 2014, Hawaiian Electric proposed to beat the 40% target with 65% renewable electricity by 2030. We can do even better.
The legislature is currently considering bills targeting 100% renewable electricity (SB 715, HB 623, HB 1512). We have the resources, the technology, and the will to achieve this target by 2040, if not sooner.
Elsewhere, 100% renewable goals are becoming a norm. The island nations of Iceland and Tokelau are already 100% renewably powered. Denmark has committed to 100% renewable heat and electricity by 2035. Scotland is targeting 100% renewable generation by 2020. U.S. cities including San Franciscoand San Jose have committed to 100% renewable power within the next decade.
In 2014, the Public Utilities Commission reported to the legislature that because of our renewable targets and related policies, there is “no doubt that Hawaii is further along the path to increased utilization of renewable and indigenous resources, reduction in use of imported petroleum fuels and diversifying its fuel portfolio.” The effectiveness of the target is apparent when you compare the greening of electricity with that of natural gas (which has no renewable targets). Today, Hawai‘i gets twice as much electricity from renewables as we did six years ago, but less than half the renewable natural gas that was produced in 2009.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen tremendous progress in clean energy technology and policies, as well as a rising tide of citizens intent on reversing climate change. With continued action in these areas—building on progress like advanced rooftop solar inverters to accommodate high solar penetration, an 80% drop in solar power module prices since 2008, a strong barrel tax and greenhouse gas laws, solar hot water on every new home, low-cost green financing, and a movement to divest our university’s investments of fossil fuel companies—Hawai‘i is leading the way.
Noted business author Joel A. Barker has said, “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” We must pass legislation that can steer us to our goal of 100% renewable power. By marrying our actions with this vision, we can change Hawai‘i and the world.