As the most geographically isolated island chain on the planet, Hawaii is the most fossil-fuel dependent state in the country. More than 40 million barrels of oil are imported into Hawaii every year just to meet our energy production needs. Regardless of which island they live on, Hawaii residents pay substantially more for utilities such as electricity as well as gasoline. Although kilowatt rates vary by island, Hawaii residents on average pay 30.84 cents per kilowatt, nearly three times the average U.S. mainland cost of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour.
However, Hawaii is also blessed with abundant opportunities for using renewable clean energy given our year-round sunshine, trade winds, geothermal activity, and other natural resources. In fact, many Hawaii Island residents live “off grid”, meaning all their energy and water are supplied from renewable energy, including water catchment, solar and/or hydropower.
For years now state officials have been working hard to reduce Hawaii’s dependence on fossil fuels. Back in 2008, then-governor Linda Lingle signed several bills into law promoting clean energy production. The new laws enabled the Public Utilities Commission to provide a rebate to consumers installing photovoltaic electric systems, allowed for solar energy facilities to be placed on less-productive agricultural lands, and made it easier for biofuel companies to lease state lands.
That same year the governor also signed bills into law authorizing special revenue bonds to help finance renewable energy facilities using wave energy, hydrogen generation and conversion, and solar power on Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island.
Also in 2008, the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative was created when state officials and the U.S. Department of Energy signed an agreement calling for 70 percent of the state’s energy needs to be met with renewable resources by 2030.
As part of that effort, state law now requires new homes in Hawaii to have solar hot water heaters in order to receive a building permit (with a few limited exceptions).
It’s very exciting to see that these efforts are paying off! According to the Hawaii State Energy Office, by 2013 Hawaii was already generating 18 percent of its electricity from renewable resources, putting it well ahead of its interim goal of reaching 15 percent by this year.
Last year the State and the U.S. Department of Energy renewed their agreement to continue supporting the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative. This past June Hawaii Governor David Ige signed into law four bills aimed at increasing the use of renewable energy technologies throughout Hawaii. The most aggressive clean energy bill was House Bill 623, which calls for Hawaii to become energy self-sufficient by using 100 percent renewable resources by 2045. Hawaii is the only state in the country with such an ambitious goal. The aloha state is now leading the nation by stepping up to face our energy challenges head on.
In the coming months I’ll write about the different types of renewable energy available on Hawaii Island and how home buyers can save money using them.