“We won’t make our 2045 energy goals unless we take more action right now.”
By Kirk Caldwell, published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser April 3, 2022
“Our state has some of the most aggressive green energy goals in our country. The Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative aims to achieve 100% clean energy by 2045, demonstrating to other states and the world that clean renewable energy can be a reality. It’s an ambitious target set in 2016, one that should make us all proud.
But six years have already passed, and we are far behind where we need to be. We love talking the talk, but we are not walking the walk.
Some of the most ambitious alternative energy projects are stalled. In recent months, several planned projects have pulled out of Hawai‘i altogether. Others are caught up in delays, bureaucratic red tape, and regulatory battles that have gone on for years.
Looking ahead, it appears that we could be as reliant on imported oil a decade from now as we are today. And the events of the last few weeks have dramatically demonstrated how volatile prices on the global oil market can be, and how quickly our Islands’ economy and well-being can be threatened.
Why are we making so little progress so slowly? It’s not for lack of awareness. Hawai‘i’s highest-in-the-nation energy costs have always been a challenge to our residents and businesses. From electricity in our homes to gas at the pump, it’s as obvious as the money we pay out of our pockets every day. So what’s the hold up?
First – and I’m certainly not the first to call this out – our state is over-regulated. When clean energy companies willing to invest in Hawai‘i have to fight again and again just to do what we claim we want them to do, it’s no wonder they give up and walk away. From solar to wind to biomass, we keep moving the goal posts and changing the rules.
Second – we aren’t willing to sacrifice or compromise. Nobody wants it in their backyard. Everyone wants the new technologies to be cheaper, cleaner and completely perfect. When they’re not, the shouting starts.
Oil and coal, until now our primary fuel sources, leave the largest carbon footprint. Solar and wind are cheaper but dwindle or disappear when it’s cloudy, stormy, or at night (and battery backups last HOURS, not days or weeks). Geothermal, hydropower, and biomass produce “firm” 24/7 power but sometimes at a higher price. Rooftop solar and electric vehicles are part of the solution, but only a part.
The fact is every approach has trade-offs that must be considered. So we have to become more practical. We need to compromise to get the right mix of renewable technologies to power our homes and industries, protect our environment and energize our economy. All-or-nothing attitudes always fail.
We need balanced solutions like H-Power that reduces reliance on imported fossil fuel AND shrinks our landfills. Like growing eucalyptus or other biofuel crops to establish a local fuel source AND create ag jobs. Like expanding solar, wind, and geothermal AND creating “energy zones” to reduce electricity rates for the neighboring communities directly impacted.
The race from now to our clean energy goals of 2045 must move into high gear. And no single path or energy philosophy is going to get us there.
If we’re serious, it’s time to stop talking, and start walking.”