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Gov. Ige to sign nation’s first 100 percent renewable energy requirement

All of Hawaii's electricity must be produced from solar, wind, geothermal, and other clean energy sources, before 2045.

News Report
Hawaii Independent Staff

Governor David Ige’s signature today makes official a law that requires all of Hawaii’s electricity to be produced from renewable energy sources no later than 2045. Enactment of House Bill (HB) 623 makes Hawaii the first state in the nation to adopt a 100 percent renewable requirement.

“Hawaii is making history today, not only for the islands, but for the planet,” said Jeff Mikulina, Executive Director of the Blue Planet Foundation. “We are making a promise to future generations that their lives will be powered not by climate-changing fossil fuel, but by clean, local and sustainable sources of energy.”

Governor Ige will be signing HB 623 in a ceremony today at 11:30 a.m. A live stream of the ceremony can be seen by following Blue Planet Foundation (@blueplanetfound) through the Periscope app.

Blue Planet Foundation, whose mission is to clear the path for 100 percent clean energy, worked with legislators to draft the bill and led the grassroots campaign to pass the bill. The organization praised both the governor and legislative leaders for their resolve in establishing the new target.

“We applaud the visionary leadership of both the House and the Senate, and of the energy committee chairs, Rep. Chris Lee and Sen. Mike Gabbard, for helping make this historic policy a reality,” said Mikulina.

“As the first state to move toward 100 percent renewable energy, Hawaii is raising the bar for the rest of the country,” said Lee, the Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection and introducer of HB 623. “Local renewable projects are already cheaper than liquid natural gas and oil, and our progress toward meeting our renewable energy standards has already saved local residents hundreds of millions on their electric bills. Moving to 100 percent renewable energy will do more to reduce energy prices for local residents in the long term than almost anything else we could do.”

Senator Mike Gabbard, Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment and a champion of the measure in the Senate, shared that sentiment.

“With this bill, we’ll now be the most populated set of islands in the world with an independent grid to establish a 100 percent renewable electricity goal,” said Gabbard. “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 percent dependence on fossil fuels to 100 percent clean energy.”

Some locations around the globe have already achieved 100 percent clean energy (Iceland, El Hierro, Tokelau, and others), and some have set 100 percent renewable energy targets (Denmark, by 2050; Tuvalu, Cape Verde, and other small island nations, by 2020; and Japan’s Fukushima prefecture by 2040). Currently, 29 states plus Washington, D.C., have renewable energy standards. Since 2009, Hawaii has had the highest standard (40 percent renewable by 2030), although several states are already exceeding these standards by using renewables for 60 to 90 percent of their local electricity generation. The California Senate has recently passed a measure to increase the state’s requirement to 50 percent renewable electricity by 2030.

Many believe that Hawaii can achieve 100 percent renewable electricity in a shorter timeframe than the law requires. Hawaii’s renewable energy use has doubled in the past five years, with the islands currently generating about 22 percent of their electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy resources.

“For more than a decade, Hawaii has consistently come out ahead on its clean energy goals,” said Richard Wallsgrove, Program Director for Blue Planet Foundation. “Overwhelming public support for renewable energy, rapid technological advances, and volatile oil costs are all driving us to replace fossil fuels sooner than we think.”

The new law also increases an interim requirement, targeting at least 30 percent renewable electricity by 2020. Failure to achieve the new standards could cost Hawaii utilities two cents for each kilowatt hour of excess fossil fuel electricity.

“The greatest achievements in history all started with a goal,” said Henk Rogers, President of Blue Planet Foundation. “Setting our new goal of 100 percent renewable energy for the islands is the vision we need today to achieve a sustainable tomorrow.”

Community leaders also praised the legislature’s leadership in setting the nation’s highest renewable energy standard.

“Hawaii can be a bright spot—a story of hope for environmental stewardship around the world,” said Nainoa Thompson, Native Hawaiian navigator and the president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. “Our islands will be some of the first to be deeply affected by climate change, and we have an opportunity today to take the lead for the nation. Together, we will chart a course for a more sustainable Hawaii and a more sustainable Island Earth.”

Blue Planet Foundation led a broad grassroots effort to cultivate support for the policy. The organization also led an effort to channel the support of students statewide to lawmakers in the form of letters and illustrations. Over 500 drawings were collected (and available for viewing online). The illustrations were compiled into a coffee table book that students delivered to all legislators and the Governor.

“The messages from the students were really a special moment—they underscored why we worked so hard to lock in 100 percent energy independence for Hawaii,” said Melissa Miyashiro, Operations Director for Blue Planet Foundation. “These students will be inheriting the consequences of decisions leaders make today. They are raising our aspirations-and our expectations.”

In addition to House Bill 623, Gov. Ige signed into law Senate Bill 1050, a bill directing the Public Utilities Commission to establish a community solar program. The new law creates a program that enables electricity customers to own or lease renewable energy equipment located anywhere on their island grid. Participants will receive credit for that energy on their electric bill, just as if the panels were located on their own roof.

“The Governor today put an expiration date on fossil fuel use for electricity,” said Mikulina. “Hawaii has set the course for a sustainable, renewable future.”

He added: “Hawaii is sending a signal to the world that 100 percent renewable energy isn’t just a vision, it’s a commitment.”