Conference offers glimpses into Hawaii’s clean energy future
A report called “Transcending Oil” says that 12 years into the future we can get 84 percent of our electricity from renewable sources.
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The future does not happen by accident. It is created in the present.
A report called “Transcending Oil” says that 12 years into the future we can get 84 percent of our electricity from renewable sources. In 27 years we are committed to getting 100 percent renewable energy in our electricity and ground transportation sectors. A glimpse of this future exists today in youth and in parts of our communities.
This week was VERGE Hawaii, an energy and innovation conference held at Hilton Hawaiian Village that brought together key stakeholders in Hawaii’s clean energy future. Until this year there was one key stakeholder missing, the youth, our future decision-makers. In just three short days, 10 students from Hawaii island, Kauai, Lanai, Molokai and Oahu made their presence known and absorbed new knowledge, shared their own unique insights and wrote a declaration. Below is an excerpt from their declaration that calls on each of us working toward this future to commit to being a part of it. The full declaration is at elementalexcelerator.com/latest.
“We, the deeply committed youth of Students ConVERGE Hawai’i 2018, want clean energy for our island home. We call upon legislators, innovators, leaders of energy-using industries and community members to implement an action-oriented plan that supports the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative with specific attention and commitment to the cultural identity of our island home.
“We call on you to operate with a dynamic mindset, to execute smart planning with mindfulness and to commit to the small-scale quick implementation of new technologies in practical applications.”
University of Hawaii Maui College is carrying that torch. It is set to become the first college in the U.S. powered by 100 percent renewable energy. It is a small glimpse into the future of what it will take to reach of 2045 goals of 100 percent renewable energy and renewable transportation. And, UH Maui College plans to get there in 2019.
UH Maui College started creating the future it is seeing today in 2012. The Kahului campus upgraded its cooling systems and added solar and smart controls that optimize energy savings and comfort. Those actions already have resulted in $2.4 million in savings and enough avoided energy use to power 11,800 homes, about one-sixth of all occupied housing units on Maui.
Phase 2 of this project, which kicked off in 2018 and is set to be complete by April, will include LED lighting, on-site solar-plus storage and additional energy efficiency measures.
The same kind of progress is being made at Oahu’s community college campuses. Solar photovoltaic systems will be mounted onto building roofs, new carports and covered walkways. The solar-plus storage portion of the project is being financed by an investment from Pacific Current, a nonregulated renewable energy and sustainability subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. The university expects over $150 million in savings over the next 20 years and a decrease of about $20 million in its deferred maintenance costs. For the Oahu campuses the same measures are expected to reduce fossil fuel energy use at Leeward by 98 percent, Honolulu by 97 percent, Kapiolani by 74 percent and Windward by 70 percent by 2019. Maui’s higher electricity rates help the economics for 100 percent renewable energy pencil out faster for UH Maui College than for the other campuses.
Johnson Controls, a global solutions provider, is working with UH’s community college administrative affairs team, specifically Mike Unebasami, its vice president. This project has been on Unebasami’s mind for quite some time, but it was a 2015 mandate by the state Legislature that requires all UH campuses to be net zero by 2035 and the unpredictability in oil costs that provided the spark plug. That means the campuses must produce as much energy as they consume within 17 years. As of January, UH is only 2.57 percent of the way there. That’s partially because the community colleges combined consume about one-fifth the amount of energy as UH Manoa.
Lauren Tonokawa is head of the communications team at the Energy Excelerator. She’s a graduate of the University of Hawaii. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.