Senator Brian Schatz (Democrat from Hawaii) recently announced that the Ho'āhu Moloka'i Energy Cooperative, a local group developing Moloka'i's first community-owned renewable energy resource project, will receive federal support, including technical assistance, from the U. S. Department of Energy. This is an inspiring example of what is possible when a community is empowered to think critically about how to shape its own renewable energy future.
The president of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, Leo Asunción, noted that “the time has come to adopt a new model that not only encourages support for clean energy projects on the islands, but, more importantly, empowers communities as partners that fully participate in the development of renewable energy projects that directly affect them”.Molokai has been the only community that has assumed the role of energy planners in front of the participants in energy planning. Shake Energy, a public benefit corporation for the development of renewable energy owned by women, has supported the Hoahu Energy Cooperative in several ways in designing projects, facilitating the community design process, the formation of cooperatives, etc. The state of Hawaii has set a goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2045 throughout the state, and Molokai could be on track to achieve that goal. In order to help local communities participate in the development and implementation of renewable energy projects in Molokai, Hawaii, Shake Energy offers a deeper vision to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of technical and economic approaches to the implementation of specific renewable energy projects. It aims to mitigate energy access, affordability, and reliability challenges by helping those communities design energy storage solutions.
New forms of participation address a variety of topics, from Molokai's first community-based renewable energy project to a new “participatory budgeting model” to determine community benefits. Looking ahead, Buchanan expects that there will be more requests for proposals and opportunities for the energy cooperative to help the island not only to be 100% renewable, but also to be energy independent. Therefore, it is important to understand the possible impacts that renewable energy can have on our environment and design projects to minimize those impacts. In addition to providing an overview of Molokai's energy use, needs, community priorities, and project proposals, CERAP also provides action items to introduce changes to renewable energy policies at a broader level. Among the partners is Mana Pacific, a public benefit energy development company based in Maui. This partnership was selected by the community through a process of virtual interviews with 6 co-developer candidates.
Together they are working towards helping local communities participate in the development and implementation of renewable energy projects in Molokai. The Ho'āhu Moloka'i Energy Cooperative is leading an inspiring example for other local communities across Hawaii and beyond. With federal support from the U. Department of Energy and technical assistance from Shake Energy and Mana Pacific, local communities can now take part in developing their own renewable energy projects. Through participatory budgeting models and other initiatives designed to mitigate access and affordability challenges related to renewable energy sources, local communities can now become active participants in shaping their own sustainable future.