Energy Perspective: A more open discussion is needed between islands

Robin Kaye

In an effort to identify the problems and propose solutions to Hawaii’s energy future, The Hawaii Independent proposed questions to individuals who could contribute their unique insight in the energy dialogue.

Robin Kaye lives on the island of Lanai and is a spokesperson for Friends of Lanai, a community group formed to give voice to the the island’s residents who strongly oppose the Oahu industrial wind power plant on Lanai. Here are Kaye’s responses:

1. What do you do to conserve energy?

We have had solar hot water for two years, and just last week installed a photo-voltaic system on our roof. We hang clothes to dry almost daily and have switched to CFL bulbs.

2. What do you think are Hawaii’s most pressing energy obstacles?

There are several.

(1) The absence of a community discussion on how to achieve energy independence and self-sufficiency on each island. 

(2) The State’s insistence on pushing wind as “the” answer. As Rep. Denny Coffman (D) said recently, our energy policy is being pushed by a project (Big Wind) rather than a plan. 

(3) A clear, open conversation about how much more renewable energy will cost the ratepayers and taxpayers, in the form of grants and subsidies. 

(4) The necessary but challenging policy discussion of centralized power (e.g., an undersea energy cable that interconnects the islands) vs. decentralized power.

3. Are Hawaii businesses, organizations, and individuals on the right path in terms of reducing our energy consumption?

Some are. For instance, those who are working toward explorations of all the potential sources.  Unfortunately, we are not hearing enough about conservation of energy, especially on those island that use the most.

4. What do you see as Hawaii’s best source of alternative energy?

I see a variety of sources. Geothermal, OTEC, solar, concentrated solar, and hopefully in the near future, wave power.

5. Will the State of Hawaii reach its 2030 goal of 70 percent clean energy? Why or why not? And more importantly, at what cost?

Let’s remember first that this is a goal. Should HECO not reach it, the penalties must come from their shareholders, not their ratepayers—and they might not be imposed by the Public Utilities Commission at all. Several states have already begun to roll back their Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), acknowledging that achieving them is simply too costly to do in a very short time frame. What the Legislature giveth, the Legislature can amend.

What’s your response? Please email [email protected] with “Energy Perspective” in the header.

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