Renewable energy said to be key to economy

LIHUE — County and industry leaders said Monday investments in renewable energy systems are key to lowering dependence on fossil fuels while strengthening the economy.

In front of about 150 people at the Kauai Energy Conference, KIUC CEO David Bissell said $400 million has been invested in renewable energy projects, with an upcoming project set to be coming online in 2019.

“What’s really taking place is a shift away from fossil fuels and money that the island is spending and negative environmental and financial issues and greenhouse gases,” said Bissell, one of three keynote speakers.

Bissell hopes a deal inked with AES Corporation, a leader in sustainable energy, is set to come online in 2019.

The dispatchable photovoltaic system would push the cooperative’s goal of 50 percent renewable energy five years before its initial target.

“We totally transformed half the island and are well on our way to transform the second half,” he said. “We’re well in our midst of a third dispatchable PV project that hopefully we’ll be announcing successfully negotiation sometime this year.”

Susan Tai Kaneko, president and CEO of the Kauai Economic Development Board, said working together to invest in the local energy industry has been one of the most immediate and effective ways toward stabilizing energy resources as well saving money.

“Initiatives like these significantly impact many of Hawaii’s businesses, residents and local governments who spend millions of dollars each year on their energy needs,” she said. “(These initiatives) help keep some of these much needed monies circulating in our local economy.”

Kate Gordon, a senior adviser at the Paulson Institute, said the consumer market is a major share of the investment in renewable energy systems.

“We are a big part of it — not the business sector. It’s not just the government,” she said.

She said there are moments when consumers, governments and businesses must decide to invest in cost-effective, efficient and renewable energy.

“What happens with your furnace? What happens with your light bulbs? Every time one of those opportunities comes up, people need to think about what are my climate risks,” she said. “These moments happen every single day. This is about using these key moments to make a different kind of decision.”

The conference also saw Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. declare a proclamation in support of the Paris agreement by developing a community Greenhouse Gas (GHG) inventory, setting near- and long-term targets to reduce emissions and developing a Climate Action Plan aligned with the city’s target.

The pledge connects the Kauai to a network of over 200 U.S. mayors representing over 50 million Americans

Shasta White, a senior from Kapaa High School, said she is amazed people are taking steps toward a greener future.

“They’re finding more and more that it’s economically smart to switch to sustainable because gasoline is getting more and more expensive and more and more scarce,” said the Princeville resident.

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