April 19th, 2018
Blue Planet Foundation, Hawai‘i’s leading advocate for 100% renewable energy, is turning 10 this month. The organization was instrumental in the passing Hawai‘i’s first-in-nation 100% renewable energy requirement, educating thousands of students around sustainable energy issues, and launching a clean energy movement across the state. “Blue Planet set an audacious goal a decade ago to change our energy culture,” said Jeff Mikulina, Executive Director of the Blue Planet Foundation. “We have succeeded. With the help of many partners, we have reframed what is possible for Hawai‘i’s energy future.” Since the organization launched, renewable energy use in Hawai‘i more than quadrupled, from 6% in 2007 to over 27% in 2017. Overall electricity use fell 13% between the same period, and fossil fuel use by the utilities dropped 27%. The number of rooftop photovoltaic installations statewide grew from a couple of hundred in 2007 to nearly 80,000 in 2017—a growth from 2.5 megawatts of solar to 700 megawatts. Between the end of 2007 and the end of 2017, the number of registered electric vehicles in Hawai‘i grew by over 4000%.“For a decade Blue Planet Foundation has led Hawai‘i’s transition from dependency on imported fossil fuels to reliance on the islands wealth of renewable energy,” said Hunter Lovins, President of Natural Capitalism Solutions based in Longmont, Colorado. Lovins participated in Blue Planet’s inaugural event, the Blue Planet Summit, in April 2008 at Ko Olina. The Summit convened visionaries and energy experts from around the world, including Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., James Woolsey (Former CIA Director), Denis Hayes (founder of Earth Day), and the late Dr. Stephen Schneider (Nobel Prize winner). The event, which preceded the launch of the “Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative,” helped to set the course for the organization. The organization was founded by video game designer and entrepreneur Henk Rogers. Motivated by our climate crisis, Rogers’ vision is to end the use of carbon-based fuels on Earth. The organization’s initial success was a statewide mobilization of students to swap out inefficient lightbulbs for more energy efficient ones. The campaign helped to replace over 400,000 bulbs statewide. The effort expanded to include refrigerators and was coined “Hui Up”—a program that continues today with Hawai‘i Energy. Blue Planet Foundation was engaged early in shaping energy policy and regulation—both at the state legislature and before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). In 2010, the organization helped to pass the “barrel tax” to help fund clean energy research and development. The law was subsequently amended to include all fossil fuels, making it the first state “carbon tax” in the nation. Blue Planet also played an instrumental role in establishing Hawai‘i’s community based renewable energy program and shaping the utility’s long-term energy plan before the PUC. But the organization’s signature achievement was the three-year campaign to make Hawai‘i the first state in the nation with a 100% renewable energy requirement. When Blue Planet first advocated for the goal in 2013, the effort was criticized by the Governor at the time as “magical thinking.” But the organization persisted, launching a broad community campaign with opinion leaders and students to help persuade legislators. Blue Planet collected hundreds of illustrations drawn by Hawai‘i youth portraying what they want their energy future to look like and compiled them in a coffee table book for legislators. The group also installed two large energy monitors at the State Capitol that displayed the real-time energy consumption and renewable energy mix for Oahu. The measure finally passed and was enacted into law by Governor David Ige in June 2015. Blue Planet believes that the 100% renewable energy law has aligned the state’s planning efforts, fostered collaboration, and unlocked innovation about what is possible for renewable energy. Hawaiian Electric’s latest energy plan suggests that the state can achieve the 100% renewable target five years ahead of schedule at a cost that is billions less than the business-as-usual case. “The 100% renewable law changed the conversation about clean energy in Hawai‘i,” said Mikulina. “That’s the power of magical thinking.” Today, other states and nations are watching Hawai‘i’s progress on renewable energy and seeking to emulate its policies and programs. Blue Planet Foundation launched “Project RePower” in 2017 to help other states follow Hawai‘i’s lead on setting a 100% renewable energy target. Melissa Miyashiro, Blue Planet’s Chief of Staff, leads the project. “Blue Planet Foundation believes that Hawai‘i can be a role model for the globe on clean energy solutions,” said Miyashiro. “Our theory of change is to make Hawai‘i the template. Our islands are small, but we can have an outsized influence on the planet’s response to climate change.” “What happens in Hawai‘i can help inspire and shape what happens elsewhere,” she added. “The Blue Planet Foundation masterfully demonstrates omniscient stewardship and fearless leadership as a driving force in Hawai‘i’s transformation to 100% clean energy,” said Dr. Elizabeth Kapu‘uwailani Lindsey, National Geographic Explorer and participant in the inaugural Blue Planet Summit. “In its brief 10-year history, its accomplishments have been nothing less than extraordinary. The world needs Blue Planet’s wisdom, stewardship, and leadership as never before.” Blue Planet Foundation has been driving clean energy change through a number of avenues:
“Blue Planet’s invaluable work has helped Hawai‘i lead the way in addressing climate change globally and locally through the U.S. Climate Alliance, the Hawai‘i Commission on Climate Adaptation and Mitigation, and implementing the Paris Accord,” said Suzanne Case, Chair of the State Department of Land and Natural Resources and co-chair of the Hawai‘i Climate Commission. “We count on the Blue Planet Foundation as a core player in the collective working on solutions to Earth’s most vexing and pressing environmental issue.” Blue Planet Foundation, whose mission is to clear the path for 100% renewable energy, has grown significantly as an organization over the past decade. While Rogers, its Founder, remains a substantial benefactor, over one-half of the group’s funding comes from outside contributions, grants, and contract work. The organization has increased its staff from four individuals in 2008 to nine team members in 2018. Blue Planet Foundation has received a number of community awards, including the Native Hawaiian Economic Alliance “Community Champion Award” (2010), the U.S. Green Building Council Hawai‘i Chapter Community Award (2012), Pacific Edge Media’s “Commitment to Green Award” (2016), and the Hawai‘i Island Land Trust’s “Champion of the Land Award” (2018). “Ten years ago, Blue Planet Foundation set sail on a voyage to change the energy culture in Hawai‘i by leading the way through action,” said Ramsay Taum, Founder and Kumu-In-Residence of the Life Enhancement Institute of the Pacific and attendee of the Blue Planet Summit in 2008. “While there is still much to be accomplished, the Blue Planet Foundation can proudly celebrate its achievements knowing that Hawai‘i’s economy is on course to no longer rely on imported fossil fuels to generate electricity.” Blue Planet Foundation is celebrating its 10th year and looking ahead with more of what it does best: aggressive policy advocacy, innovative student engagement, and community action. Their plans include a large social campaign featuring individuals and organizations who have taken action to help move Hawai‘i off oil, the fourth annual Student Energy Summit, and ongoing expert advocacy before the legislature, county councils, and PUC. This Saturday, for Earth Day, Blue Planet Foundation will lead the “Blue Line Project,” where over 1,000 students will be chalking the sea level rise exposure area in blue at 15 locations statewide (further details are available at bluelineproject.org). “We are just beginning our journey,” said Miyashiro. “This year, we look forward to amplifying our climate action with new partners in Hawai‘i and beyond.” “Blue Planet Foundation is proud of the work that we have done as a community in Hawai‘i to start to make the transition to a sustainable, abundant, clean energy future,” said Mikulina. “We do this work on behalf of the people inheriting this planet. After all, this blue planet is the only one we have.” “I’m very proud of the accomplishments of Blue Planet Foundation,” said Rogers. “We will not rest until Hawai‘i has moved to using only 100% indigenous renewable energy.