At the same time we embark on our focused, five-point plan to stimulate our economy, which I outlined in my previous column (visit www.hawaii.gov/gov/economy), my Administration continues its efforts to increase our energy independence and to transform our economy over the long term.
Maximizing our use of renewable energy will help our local economy by attracting investment in Hawai‘i, decreasing energy prices for consumers, and by keeping in our state the more than $5 billion we spend annually to import oil from foreign nations.
On October 20, we took a major step forward in our pursuit of energy independence with the announcement of a historic and transformational agreement between my Administration and the Hawaiian Electric companies, including Hawaiian Electric Light Company.
Under the agreement, Hawaiian Electric has committed to purchasing 700 megawatts of power from renewable energy producers within a five-year period, including from up to five near-term renewable energy projects on the Big Island. The agreement also includes comprehensive regulatory changes, the conversion of existing fossil fuel generators to renewable biofuels, and the development of a “smart grid” that would give consumers on the Big Island and statewide more control over their energy costs (visit www.hawaii.gov/gov/energy for more details on the agreement).
My Administration recognizes that the state must lead by example in implementing bold measures to dramatically increase our energy independence over the long term. The goal of the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) that we launched in January is for our state to generate 70 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2030. The agreement announced on October 20th builds on the substantial progress we have already made.
To date, the state has received millions of dollars from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and private sector partners to increase the use of renewable energy in our state. This includes a recent federal DOE grant of $500,000 that will be combined with more than $900,000 in private sector in-kind contributions and $350,000 that the state recently received, for energy studies focused on four critical areas.
We have also received a $50,000 competitive grant from the National Governors Association to study electric vehicle policy issues, and a $300,000 grant from DOE to study undersea cabling.
On the solar front, the Department of Transportation recently selected Hoku Solar to design, build and install photovoltaic power systems at Kona International Airport, Hilo International Airport, Kahului Airport and Līhu‘e Airport. This project is part of a pioneering power purchase agreement that is expected to offset up to 15,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the system’s lifetime.
We also have made appointments within the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to help accelerate our progress. These include the promotion of Ted Peck to the top energy job in the state as the new energy administrator, and the appointment of Joshua Strickler as our state’s first-ever renewable energy facilitator. Strickler’s duties include working with federal, state and county agencies to streamline the permitting process for new renewable energy facilities.
Currently, a typical wind energy project in Hawai‘i has to go through 30 different agencies, which can take as long as six or seven years. With Strickler on board, the goal is to reduce the permitting process to one year, which will help to make our state more attractive to outside renewable energy investors.
Please feel free to send my office your comments and suggestions by e-mailing email@example.com.
Governor Linda Lingle