Update as of May 6, 2015
House Bill 623, a measure that would require Hawaii to produce 100 percent of the state’s electric power from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal by 2045, passed the Legislature with a 74-2 vote on Tuesday and is now headed to the governor. The target year of 2045 is a compromise between two earlier versions of the bill, which had set dates of 2040 and then 2050.
“With this bill, we’ll now be the most populated set of islands in the world with an independent grid to establish a 100% renewable electricity goal,” said Sen. Mike Gabbard, Chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee. “Through this process of transformation Hawaii can be the model that other states and even nations follow. And we’ll achieve the biggest energy turnaround in the country, going from 90% dependence on fossil fuels to 100% clean energy.”
Considering that Hawaii already produces about 21 percent of its power from renewable energy, many believed the state could strive for much better than the current goal of 40 percent clean energy by 2040. HB 623 also sets interim goals of 30 percent renewable energy dependence by 2020, 40 percent by 2030, and 70 percent by 2040.
Being the first state in the nation to move towards 100 percent renewable energy will reduce energy bills for Hawaii residents, create jobs in our local renewable energy industry, and be the best choice for not just Hawaii but the entire planet.
Hawaii possesses unique challenges and potential when it comes to electricity generation. On one hand, geographic isolation and lack of conventional energy resources make Hawaii the largest consumer of fossil fuels per capita in the U.S. On the other hand, the islands have an ample supply of natural resources including solar, wind, geothermal, and wave power. Recognizing this potential and how much our fossil fuel dependence is costing us, both financially and environmentally, legislature is well on their way to requiring the Aloha State to generate 100 percent of its energy needs from renewables by 2050.*
“We are on the leading edge of the 21st century renewable energy transformation,” Chris Lee (D), Sponsor of the House bill, HB 623, and chair of the House Energy and Environment Committee. Lee has been wanting to propose a 100 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) for three years, but this is the first year there has been overwhelming support to move forward.
In 2001, Hawaii enacted its current RPS of 70% clean energy by 2030. The state has made significant improvements such as generating a little over 21 percent of our power from renewable sources, a 12 percent increase over the past six years, and installing over 600 megawatts of renewable energy capacity in 2013 alone. The bulk of this 600 MW capacity consisted of wind, biomass and geothermal, so there is a lot of potential to add more solar to the energy mix, especially considering that the Hawaii solar industry has been doubling in size every year for the past five years. At the rate we’re going, having already exceeded our 2015 target of 15 percent renewables, many believe that increasing the goal to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 is not only feasible but necessary.
“Even our utility is saying we can hit 65 percent by 2030, so 100 percent is definitely doable,” Sen. Mike Gabbard (D), sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, SB 2181, and chair of Hawaii’s Energy and Environment Committee. “This is huge for our state’s future. Each year, we spend $3 to $5 billion importing fossil fuels to power our economy. Our electricity bills are roughly three times the national average.”
Not only is our electricity and the cost of transporting fuel expensive, but it also creates air pollution and contributes to climate change — a key fact that the Hawaiian islands, with its unique ecosystem and tourism-based economy, cannot afford to ignore.
According to the 2014 National Climate Assessment, rising air and ocean temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, and changing ocean chemistry in Hawaii will greatly affect everything from native plants and marine life to food and fresh water supply, infrastructure, and public health. These changes, in turn, impact tourism, especially on islands with more developed infrastructure. The loss of Waikīkī Beach alone would cost the state $2 billion in visitor expenditures annually.
In an op-ed in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, former Hawaii Governor George Ariyoshi, real estate developer Christine Camp, and dean of the college of engineering at the University of Hawaii Peter Crouch sum up perhaps the biggest reason why we need to aim for 100 percent renewable energy, “Under the state’s existing renewable energy laws, in 2031—around the time today’s pre-schoolers will graduate high school—the majority of our energy could still come from fossil fuels. We owe it to the kids growing up today, and the ones following them, to do better than that.”
The bills must pass final floor vote by May 5th. Stay tuned as Haleakala Solar keeps you updated on Hawaii’s path to 100 percent renewable energy and other important energy news.
*Former versions of HB 623 and SB 2181 had set a goal of 100 percent renewable by 2040. The bills have since been amended to aim for 70 percent renewable by 2040 and 100 percent by 2050.
Under the current RPS, our utilities must establish the following percentages of “renewable electrical energy” sales:
– 15% of its net electricity sales by December 31, 2015
– 25% of its net electricity sales by December 31, 2020
– 40% of its net electricity sales by December 31, 2030