Renewable Energy Revolution in Molokai, Hawaii: Challenges and Opportunities

As Molokai embarks on its own renewable energy revolution, it faces a number of challenges in the current economic climate. Todd Yamashita, president of the Ho'ahu Energy Cooperative, Molokai, is one of the key local organizations involved in planning the island's energy future. Excess residential solar energy reaching the grid has become a safety issue for Maui Electric Co., according to Gregg Kresge, director of renewable energy projects. The world is racing to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources in order to prevent global warming of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next 15 to 30 years.

Hawaii was the first state to set a goal of generating 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2045, but it is still far from that goal, since more than 60% of its energy currently depends on oil sources. Molokai has a history of failed renewable energy proposals by outside developers due to a lack of community benefits and resident approval. In response to this, the State of Hawaii has established that, by 2045, 100% of the electricity sold by utilities must come from renewable energy sources. Hawaii's utility companies have come under criticism for not taking into account the cultural needs of Native Hawaiians when developing other forms of renewable energy.

To meet its goal of generating 100% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2045, Hawaii is investing heavily in solar and wind energy as well as bioenergy, geothermal, hydroelectric and hydrokinetics. However, the industry is facing ongoing challenges caused by the pandemic, economic uncertainty, rising inflation and the war in Ukraine. The fuel barge that powers the diesel generators currently supplying around 85% of Molokai's electricity could stop arriving at any time. Locally produced renewable energy could reduce electricity costs and create jobs for residents while creating a cleaner environment for future generations.

Each island operates an independent power grid which imposes market barriers on Hawaii's renewable energy industry. Several marginal renewable energy projects are at different stages of development on all islands which could contribute to Hawaii's green portfolio. Both Ho'ahu Energy Cooperative and Maui Electric Co. are working closely with Hawaiian Electric to link proposed renewable energy projects to the utility's existing network.

Smaller-scale wind turbines could be an option to increase the flow of reliable renewable energy and take advantage of Molokai's natural resources if the community so wishes. When electric bills are too high, it's best to switch to another electricity provider and find ways to get the cheapest electricity deal.

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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