Hawaii's Path to 100% Renewable Energy

Energy efficiency in the United States is now at an all-time high, and Hawaii is leading the way in the pursuit of a 100% renewable electricity grid. No other state in the US has achieved this milestone yet, but Hawaii is determined to create the infrastructure and safeguards necessary to make it a permanent reality. When it comes to renewable electricity generation, Hawaii is ahead of the pack in nearly every category. In Hawaii, it was relatively easy to gain stakeholder consensus around a 100% renewable energy mandate. In addition to the importance of leadership in setting and justifying a North Star to guide the state's efforts, Hawaii also offers two other lessons that can be applied more broadly to other countries undergoing energy reforms.

Apart from market forces driving customer-directed adoption of renewable energy (as well as at the utility scale), Hawaii is an important case study for the energy transition, as deliberate leadership from legislative, regulatory, utility, and grassroots levels is effectively driving the state towards decarbonization. The Maui Energy Conference, held last week on the island, focused mainly on the challenge of reaching 100% renewable energy. Governor David Ige voiced his opposition to importing Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) for electricity generation and stated that any infrastructure built to supply this resource would be “a distraction” from the work needed for the islands to reach 100% renewable energy. Germany and California are two examples of grids that already use around a third of renewable energy (California is currently close to 25%, but is quickly moving towards the third). The conference explored technical details of solar innovation for customers in a post-net metering world, nuances of harmonizing traditionally discrete and opaque planning processes, and details of implementing a performance-based regulatory framework to align utility business with a 100% renewable energy future.Although Costa Rica is unlikely to be able to sustain its renewable model in the long term, it is still an impressive accomplishment and shows that transitioning to renewable energy on a large scale is possible.

There are currently two new bills pending in the Hawaii legislature that would codify the goal of 100% renewable energy statewide, compared to the current mandate of 40% by 2030. Currently, Hawaiian Islands receive most of their renewable energy generation during daylight hours when the sun shines and wind blows, allowing energy suppliers to reduce fossil fuel generation. To understand the trend towards reaching 100% RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard), we have to go back to the oil crises of the 1970s, Mark Glick, director of Hawaii Energy Office, told attendees at the event. Hawaii is an example of transformation in the energy sector because its leaders are tackling challenges of creating a 21st century electrical system with a holistic and iterative approach. The New York model is interesting, Commissioner Champley said, but California's model - based on more gradual reforms in an environment with high penetration of renewables - may be a better example for Hawaii. But as soon as the ink dried on the new 100% renewable product portfolio standard (RPS), stakeholders in the energy sector began wondering how they would achieve this goal - a first of its kind.

To reach this ambitious target, Hawaii has taken several steps towards decarbonizing its electricity grid. The state has implemented various policies such as net metering and feed-in tariffs that have enabled customers to generate their own electricity from solar panels or other sources. Additionally, Hawaii has invested heavily in research and development for new technologies such as battery storage systems that can store excess electricity generated during peak hours for use during off-peak hours. Hawaii's journey towards 100% renewable energy provides valuable lessons for other states and countries looking to transition away from fossil fuels. It demonstrates that with strong leadership and commitment from all stakeholders involved in the process, ambitious goals can be achieved.

Explore how Hawaii is tackling this challenge and what lessons can be learned from their journey towards 100% renewable energy.

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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