Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 |
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About ‘Leading Voices’
In this new column to be featured weekly on the Forum page in The Garden Island, key Hawai‘i leaders will weigh in on critical issues facing the state. The diverse strategies to accomplish shared goals, such as energy independence, will be detailed in this space. If you have a topic you would like to have our state leaders discuss, e-mail it to The Garden Island’s news editor, Nathan Eagle, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The democratization of power
By Gary Hooser
In his book “Hot, Flat and Crowded,” Thomas Friedman explains the dangerous convergence of economic, environmental and security interests that makes the goal of energy independence the most critical issue facing our nation.
As an island state nearly totally dependent on imported oil, the urgency for Hawai‘i is magnified ten-fold. As a place with an abundance of natural energy resources including solar, wind, geothermal, wave and ocean thermal the opportunity is magnified equally so.
Energy independence represents an immediate, clear and unambiguous pathway to a prosperous, vibrant and diversified economy. Retaining any significant percentage of the $6 billion or more presently exported annually for the importation of oil would have a massive and immediate economic-multiplier effect. The creation of new “Green Collar” jobs in both the development and implementation of renewable energy strategies represents real opportunity, but this must be dramatically accelerated.
Hawai‘i can be the world leader in the development of renewable energy.
The environmental benefits of energy independence are obvious. The risk of rising sea levels should be incentive enough for us to lead the way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Given the fragile state of our economy at the moment, any incident whether natural or manmade that might keep the oil tankers from getting here, would send our economy into a tailspin and has the potential to send our community into the dark ages, literally.
While much has been accomplished in small incremental steps over the past few years, it is time for bold action.
One such bold step was taken recently when the Legislature passed into law a “first-in-the-nation” initiative requiring a solar hot water heater or other energy efficient system be installed in all new homes starting in 2010. As the original introducer of this bill, I know first hand the challenge involved in taking bold steps and applaud my colleagues and especially Kaua‘i’s Rep. Hermina Morita for making this a reality.
Another bold step, also supported by myself and written in large part by Morita, is HB1271, now sitting under threat of veto at the governor’s desk. It is imperative that this measure which will generate millions of dollars in targeted support for food and energy security initiatives be signed into law. Hopefully the governor relents and approves, but if not the Legislature should override the veto.
Ultimately what is needed in our state is an accelerated plan in support of “democratized power production.” Every roof of every home and business should and can become its own independent power producer. Distributed generation favoring small power producers, supported by a smart grid is the model our state should be aggressively pursuing.
Unfortunately, the monolithic public utility model of the past continues to dominate and consequently inhibit the expansion of small independent power producers. For a variety of reasons, our electric public utilities statewide are resistant to change and have a clear bias toward supporting “big power” producers at the expense of smaller producers. Existing utilities must embrace and encourage the small producer and facilitate the proliferation of true distributed generation by focusing and accelerating the development of “smart grid” technology and by expanding the benefits of net metering, allowing individuals to sell their excess power back to the grid at reasonable rates.
Counties, who control the zoning and permitting process, must recognize the urgency and the benefits that come with accelerating the process that allows individual homes, farms and business to be energy self-sufficient.
The technology is available now. The public is clamoring for action. We have a White House that supports this kind of change. It is time to seize the moment. I mua!
• Gary Hooser is the Democratic majority leader in the state Senate, representing Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau. His regular column, written exclusively for The Garden Island, tackles the critical issues facing Hawai‘i.
Realizing a clean energy future
By James “Duke” Aiona Jr.
Hawai‘i will realize the promise of a clean energy future and I will do everything I can to ensure we do so in an environmentally friendly way that makes economic sense and moves our state toward greater self-sufficiency.
Last year, when electricity and gas prices skyrocketed, our families got a crude reminder that we are 90 percent dependent on foreign fossil fuel, making Hawai‘i the most oil-dependent state in the nation.
Remaining dependent on the volatile oil market threatens our environment and our energy and economic security. On any given day, Hawai‘i only has enough oil to last approximately 14 to 21 days. That is not a secure model, especially considering we send up to $7 billion overseas to import on average 45 to 50 million barrels of oil a year.
By reducing our dependence on foreign fossil fuel, as much as $4 billion to $5 billion would remain in our local economy, stimulating growth and creating jobs.
In January 2008, our administration launched the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative, or HCEI, an unprecedented and innovative partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy to generate 70 percent or more of our power from clean energy in less than a generation, including energy efficiency and such renewable sources as wind, solar, ocean, bioenergy and geothermal.
HCEI has made great progress in creating a foundation for transforming how we get our energy, but much more needs to be done to fulfill our vision.
One of the first steps forward must be securing a funding source to make the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative sustainable. Without adequate funding, our energy program will not have the resources it needs to overcome the significant roadblocks to success.
This funding source does not need to come from digging deeper in the pocketbooks of our residents. Tax increases are counterproductive to our goal, which is to create more of our own energy and become more energy efficient so that we have consistent, reliable and affordable sources of clean energy that will benefit our state for generations to come. The upfront costs for renewable energy are significant, but the supply is unlimited and thus a good long-term investment.
Another important step toward our clean energy future lies in the promise of an undersea cable that would allow major wind farms on Moloka‘i and Lana‘i to connect with the power grids of Maui and O‘ahu. By sharing resources across the islands and adding flexibility to our power grids, we will be able to incorporate more renewable resources into the system.
Clean energy is more than just electricity; it is also fuel. We are already on our way to developing the infrastructure for a statewide network of electric cars. By 2015, we envision 50,000 electric cars on our roads and 175,000 plug-in electric vehicles by 2030.
We are also developing biofuels that will strengthen our agriculture industry, create jobs and make our vehicles cleaner and more efficient.
While we are making significant progress in increasing our use of renewable energy, the cheapest watt of energy is the one that is never used.
Everyone can be more energy efficient by switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, replacing old appliances with Energy Star efficient models, getting solar water heating and changing our energy consumption habits.
By actively supporting and building upon the success of HCEI, Hawai‘i will become one of the most modeled energy systems in the world. In fact, the world is watching. Each of our islands represents a unique energy system that, when taken together, will change the way we think about energy across the globe.
• James ‘Duke’ Aiona Jr. is the Republican lieutenant governor of Hawai‘i. His regular column, written exclusively for The Garden Island, tackles the critical issues facing the state.
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