The last state to join the union is currently number one in the pursuit of renewable energy.
The Hawaii legislature is considering a bill that would require all ground transportation in the Aloha state to run on renewable energy by the year 2045.
The bill is part of a greater effort at achieving 100 percent renewable energy within the state, i.e. from solar, wind, and geothermal sources. The Hawaiian Clean Energy Initiative website claims that by achieving 100 percent renewable energy, the state could save $3 billion on imported oil, reduce the state’s dependence on tourism and the military, and attract businesses as a leader in energy innovation.
And it’s good for the environment. Hawaii is extremely vulnerable to climate change as rising sea levels will cause flooding and coastal erosion, thus destroying its infrastructure, scenic beaches and crippling its tourism industry. At the same time, rising temperatures will reduce the archipelago’s freshwater and threaten its ecosystems as demonstrated by coral bleaching.
Last July, Governor David Ige signed into law a bill (HB623) requiring that by 2045, 100 percent of the state’s electricity must be produced by renewable methods.
When it comes to automobiles, Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the non-profit BluePlanet who helped legislators with the bill, believes solar power is the solution: “Essentially, we’ll have batteries on wheels that can serve to smooth the load on the [electric] grid,” he told FastCoExist. “We have a surplus of solar energy during the day, and you can go to work and plug in and suck up that excess solar during the day when your car’s just parked. Then at night, you could go home and plug in and share that excess energy when we need it most, which is evening in Hawaii.”
Efforts at promoting solar power on other states have been far less successful. In Nevada, for instance, the state’s Public Utilities Commission ended a “net metering” policy, allowing homeowners with solar panels to sell excess electricity to the utility at retail value. What was once a booming market for solar panel installation has stalled as a result.
On a federal level, last November the Obama Administration announced it would be expanding the nation’s electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and, in tandem with the Department of Transportation, establishing designated EV routes spanning 25,000 miles across 35 states. Like Hawaii’s latest effort, the program is designed to, “combat climate change, increase access to clean energy technologies, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
Five days into Donald Trump’s presidency, it appears the new administration is punting on such efforts at developing renewable sources of energy, instead opting to further invest in fossil fuels. On Tuesday, Trump signed executive orders facilitating the advancement of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, which had been denied construction permits by the Obama Administration.
Officials in Hawaii say that the 100 percent renewable energy mark could actually be achieved by 2040. If other government follow their lead we could say aloha to a new, sustainable future with clean air and water. If not, we’ll be saying aloha to our planet.