By: J. S.
Hawaii Legislators aim to put Hawaii on track to reach 100% renewable energy by 2045. Senate Bill 243 calls on the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI), a unit of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at UH Manoa, to create a strategic plan to execute this goal. The bill would require the HNEI to develop a strategic plan with benchmarks to achieve a 100% renewable energy portfolio standard and to submit the strategic plan to the Legislature before the convening the Regular Session of 2023. It would also require that HNEI conduct a feasibility study on the State’s ability to achieve its renewable energy goals by 2045, and submit its findings and recommendations to the Legislature. Read the full Senate Bill 243 here. Introduced on January 22 by 13 senators, the bill was received by the House on March 9 and House Legislatures most recently voted to pass the bill, with amendments, on March 16.
If enacted into law, HNEI will be responsible for all aspects of executing the actions outlined by the bill. According to the State, previous to this time there were no strategic goals in place for the state to meet renewable energy standards set forth to be enacted by 2045. The hope is that HNEI will be able to bring Hawaii closer to moving fully over to renewable energy sources, or at least very close to that point at the designated time. HNEI has already stated its willingness to work alongside the governor, the State, and all other stakeholders “to envision and explain how Hawaii’s several related statutes regarding renewable energy, energy efficiency, and zero emissions clean economy target will be synthesized and achieved.” Source.
Hawaii Natural Energy Institute was founded 1974 within the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and has been led by Director Richard E. Rocheleau since 2000. The mission of the institution is to “ research, develop, test, demonstrate, and validate cost effective and practical solutions to deliver commercially viable renewable energy and energy efficiency to Hawaii and the world.” Source. The institute works on state, national and even global levels with researchers to determine viable sources of alternative energy. In 2007, the Hawaii Legislature established HNEI in state law with an expanded mandate to coordinate with state and federal agencies, and demonstrate and deploy energy efficiency and peak demand reduction technologies. Source.
The Institute has worked across a vast range of projects in its research, from alternative fuels such as biomass and hydrogen to renewable power generation such as ocean energy and grid system analysis. Comprising a large team with a wide range of backgrounds and fields of expertise, the institute will now face the task of taking its experiences and proving the state with tangible goals to move away from fossil fuels over the next 25 years.
Where will this leave current energy providers in the state? Hawaii Revised Statutes currently require utility companies to establish a renewable energy portfolio standard of 100% of its net electricity sales by December 31, 2045. Existing statutes also establish a zero emissions clean economy target no later than 2045. Source. The preexisting measures may have left utility companies without a clear set of goals to move forward in accomplishing either task. It appears that the hope of SB 243 in appointing HNEI to lead the way forward with tangible solutions is that all targets will be met, or at the very least, not be far off the mark.
The topic of renewable energy is nuanced and will require careful leadership as Hawaii changes its infrastructure. Already we have witnessed the shortcomings of the Green New Deal and related initiatives to move towards renewable energy sources and away from dependency on fossil fuels. The recent halt of the Keystone Pipeline is a warning sign of very real repercussions for politically motivated decisions outweighing due diligence in finding long term solutions. In Senate Bill 243, Hawaii may choose to take a less abrupt approach to change.
Those interested in submitting testimony for this bill, or any other bill currently in the Hawaii State Legislature, can find the link here.