“Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace.”
My family and I are back on the island of Oahu in Hawaii for March Break. The weather is perfect and the landscape is truly paradise. I could easily see retiring to the Aloha State rather than Florida or Arizona, as so many Canadians do. (Or perhaps I could look into whether they need any more cardiologists right now!)
But when you care about a topic like the environment as much as I do, it never leaves you. So even though this is a vacation, I am always making observations regarding environmental initiatives and how the island is making efforts to go green. There are little things, like at the Polynesian Cultural Center on the northeast part of Oahu. As everyone can relate to, the closer you get to any large building such as a theme park or even shopping malls, you notice the closest parking spots to the entrance are reserved for a variety of groups. These usually include people with mobility issues, pregnancy, or even parents with young children. But at the Polynesian Cultural Center these prime parking spots are reserved for patrons with electric vehicles, complete with the ability to charge their cars while they are enjoying all of Polynesia in a day!
Here are some quick facts about Hawaii according the the US Energy Information Administration:
- With its mild tropical climate, Hawaii had the third-lowest per capita energy use in the nation in 2013. The transportation sector accounted for about half of Hawaii’s energy demand in 2013, led by commercial and military aviation fuel use.
- In 2013, Hawaii imported 91% of the energy it consumed and, in 2014, the state had the highest electricity prices in the nation.
- Hawaii is one of seven states with installed geothermal capacity. In 2014, 19% of Hawaii’s renewable net electricity generation came from geothermal energy.
- Hawaii’s utility-scale electricity generation from solar energy more than doubled in 2014. Hawaii generated 29% of its renewable electricity from both utility-scale resources and small-scale solar photovoltaic panels installed on rooftops across the islands.
- Hawaii is the first state to set a goal of producing 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources. The state plans to reach that goal by 2045.
In 2008, the state of Hawaii in cooperation with the US Department of Energy created the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative. This project is striving to achieve energy independence by working toward the goal of having 70% of its energy come from energy efficiency (30%) and renewable sources (40%) by the year 2030.
This may seem ambitious but for Hawaii it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. My family and I can attest to the amount of sunshine the state experiences so it’s not surprising that the initiative includes measures to have all new homes that are built to be equipped with solar panels. The big island already generates electricity from geothermal sources, and if you’re old enough to remember Greg Brady surfing (and wiping out because he was wearing that bad-luck tiki), you can appreciate why wave energy is being explored. Wind energy is also abundant, especially on Maui, so wind turbines are another source of renewable energy the state can look to.
I am very impressed with the attitudes of the people of Hawaii toward green energy. Granted, part of this results from economic need: it’s costly to generate electricity from fossil fuels on remote islands. But recognizing the abundance of renewable sources of energy Hawaii has to offer has led to a dramatic shift for these little islands in the Pacific. They’re working toward the goal of becoming the greenest state in the union, with a healthy rivalry now existing between Hawaii and California. With the progressive attitudes I have witnessed, I have no doubt that they’ll accomplish their goals. I only hope the rest of us can learn from their example.