Accessing Funding for Renewable Energy Projects in Molokai, Hawaii

The Nooksack tribe, located at the end of power distribution lines in Deming, Washington, experiences frequent power outages during the winter that require emergency shelter. To combat this issue, the community is carrying out strategic energy planning to explore renewable and resilient energy technologies, such as battery storage, microgrids, electric vehicle charging stations, and wind generators. The plan will prioritize renewable energy projects and apply for grants to reduce prolonged power outages. Block Island is also looking to identify renewable energy sources that can generate electricity on the island and reduce dependence on electricity and imported fuels.

Subscribers buy renewable energy credits from a subscribing organization and the power company applies those credits to the subscriber's electricity bill. The U. S. Department of Energy's Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project (ETIPP) has announced nine new projects with remote and island communities to build local energy systems that are sustainable, resilient, and reliable year-round.

The communities are collaborating with researchers from four national laboratories to find solutions adapted to local energy challenges. Hawaii has implemented the Green Energy Market Securitization Program (GEMS) as an innovative and sustainable green finance initiative designed by the Hawaii State Energy Office to make clean energy improvements more affordable and accessible to Hawaii consumers. Hoahu's community-based renewable energy projects, Palaau Solar and Kualapuu Solar, will be the first on the island to offer the shared solar energy program (also known as community-based renewable energy or CBRE) to help reduce the electricity bills of Molokai customers who are unable to install solar energy on privately owned rooftops. The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides guaranteed loans and grants to agricultural producers and small rural businesses to purchase or install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements.

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture's loan program for renewable energy projects in agriculture and aquaculture also offers loans for projects related to photovoltaic (PV) energy, hydropower, wind power generation, methane generation, biodiesel production, and ethanol production. The Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra are studying the viability of achieving energy independence and resilience using community and rooftop solar energy to provide renewable energy to the islands. Molokai Island has developed a Community Action Plan for Energy Resilience that outlines 10 key energy projects. Public announcements on the Molokai Dispatch, posts to the “Molokai Renewable Energy” Facebook group, and email invitations mailed to a distribution list of more than 150 people were used to announce meetings related to these projects.

The community is carrying out an energy assessment to understand how renewable and resilient energy options can be integrated with their current grid as their population grows, energy demand increases, and the climate increasingly affects energy supply. Hoahu's community ownership is made possible by mission-aligned funding partners such as the People's Solar Energy Fund, the Hawaii Green Infrastructure Authority, Inclusive Prosperity Capital, and the Ulupono Initiative.

Catherine Geml
Catherine Geml

Extreme bacon specialist. Proud food specialist. Freelance travel nerd. Lifelong web practitioner. Hipster-friendly food advocate. Freelance social media scholar.

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