Net-Zero energy goals for state public schools

LIHU‘E — The University of Hawai‘i and state Department of Education are the top two entities statewide that consume the most energy, state Rep. Justin H. Woodson of the Committee on Education said in a virtual meeting on Tuesday.

Both UH and DOE plan to become net-zero in respect to energy use, generating as much renewable energy as their current system consumes across all campuses by Jan. 1, 2035.

State Rep. Gregg Takayama of the Committee on Higher Education &Technology agreed with Woodson, and said particularly in the case of UH, a large chunk if not all the tuition that UH students pay will go towards the university’s electricity bill.

“So it’s hugely important for us to meet this goal,” Takayama said.

However, DOE Assistant Superintendent Randall Tanaka said there are some challenges that need to be addressed.

“We need to build systems now to control energy usage, and that’s going to be quite a challenge,” Tanaka said, noting that, in a snapshot, in a typical high school, about 54% is lighting and 20% air conditioning. “All our efforts have to focus on these two biggest consumers of electricity.”

Replacing air conditioning is key, he said.

“The scale of what has to replace is a little daunting. There are about $180 million in ACs that need to be replaced that are over 20 years old right now,” Tanaka said.

It will cost DOE $3.5 million to replace the 20-year-old ACs in Kaua‘i’s public schools, he said.

So far, DOE has reduced the amount of electricity used statewide by replacing each classrooms’ 32-watt fluorescent light bulbs with 12-watts LED T8 lamps, giving the DOE a total of 62.5% energy savings in the classrooms.

UH Assistant Vice President Mike Unebasami said Kaua‘i Community College’s solar photovoltaic farm will be operating soon.

“On Kaua‘i, we’ve been fortunate to receive legislative support of $2.5 million to install a PV farm,” Unebasami said. “And I understand that’s going to be operational within the next several months. I still need to fly over and see what that looks like.”

KCC Chancellor Joseph Daisy said KCC’s greatest expense is in utilities.

“So by moving in this direction, we hope that once the PV farm is commissioned, that we will be looking at reducing our energy consumption on a daily basis between 30 and 35%,” Daisy said. “We’re just really looking forward to the PV farm being commissioned. And also, that it leads us closer to our goal of going green and being a responsible partner for sustainability.”


Stephanie Shinno, education and business reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or

  1. CommonSenseish July 15, 2021 6:57 am Reply

    As a parent, I could care less about energy goals right now and more about getting the facilities and computer systems up to date to the 21st century! The classrooms need AC, period. All of these DOE workers sit in AC offices all day, I dare them to go sit in one of their many classrooms and try to concentrate all day, or even try to teach. DOE has their priorities all wrong and always has. BARE MINIMUM for the kids, but they keep taking raises huh?

  2. RGLadder37 July 15, 2021 8:52 am Reply

    That’s great. All those nights studying and the electricity being used for the library use and dormitory use. These students are the one lighting up the academic life for the future. Only fitting to know where the bill is spent on.

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