High Energy at the MACC as the Hawaii Energy Conference returns

High Energy at the MACC as the Hawaii Energy Conference returns

The 2023 Hawaii Energy Conference (HEC) was an exciting event for the 401 attendees interested in sustainable-energy practices and the future of renewable energy. After three years of virtual streaming, attendees from Maui County, neighbor islands, continental U.S., Canada and Japan celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the conference as it returned to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on May 24-25.

Presented by Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) and supported by the County of Maui Office of Economic Development, the Hawaii Energy Conference brought together experts in the field to share their knowledge and experiences. Speakers and panelists included energy industry leaders, researchers, entrepreneurs, and county and state-government policymakers.

The conference opened with welcome remarks by Leslie Wilkins, President and CEO of MEDB. “Each panel and invited talk was designed to give attendees the tools, knowledge, and connections they need to make meaningful changes. We have to commit, incentivize innovation, and work together to reach our sustainability goals for a brighter future for Hawaii.”

“The Hawaii Energy Conference is more important than ever,” said HEC Program Committee Member, Doug McLeod, DKK Energy Services, LLC. “It is clear that meeting in-person is vital to building trust while discussing issues and solving challenges. Permitting, equity, community engagement, and the general pace of reaching our sustainable goals were key concerns discussed this year, and so much more. The responsibility of our energy transition falls on each one of us.”

The keynote speaker Daphne Frias, a 25-year-old youth activist from New York, spoke about the importance of including our youth in the energy conversation. Frias also spoke about the innate resiliency of disabled people and how that relates to adaptability and sustainability in the energy sector of the economy.

“About one eighth of the global population is disabled but does not have a proportional voice in the public conversation,” explained Frias.  “However, the disabled community has learned to be resilient. They watch out for each other. This translates into how we can deal with climate change.”

She continued, “An inclusive infrastructure is close to being a green infrastructure. We should ask how clean-energy mandates work for disabled and disadvantaged communities who are more impoverished.

“There was a clear message of the need for engagement and empowerment in our communities at the 2023 Hawaii Energy Conference,” said Jacqui Hoover, HEC Program Committee Chair; Executive Director and COO, Hawaii Island Economic Development Board (HIEDB); and President, Hawaii Leeward Planning. “Beginning with our first keynote speaker, youth climate and disability activist Daphne Frias, the conversation addressed equity and inclusion. Many of the panelists in the different energy sectors acknowledged the importance of all voices being heard and included in our energy solutions. This is the most holistic way of moving forward to achieve our goals.”

“Having conferences like the Hawaii Energy Conference where we can talk-story helps us to drive legislation that will execute sustainability and renewable energy,” said Senator Lynn Decoite, State of Hawaii, who spoke on a panel on Recent Activity in the Hawaii Legislature. “The legislators need support. We need to see ourselves 10-20 years from now and commit to our sustainable future.”

Keynote Speaker, Daphne Frias, a 25 y.o. activist from New York, kicked off HEC2023

L. to R. Alicia Moy, Hawaii Gas; Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric; Jacqui Hoover, HiEDB

L. to R. Rep. Nicole Lowen, Senator Lynn Decoite; Mark Glick, Hawaii State Energy Office

Day 2 began with Shelee Kimura, President & CEO of Hawaiian Electric, and Alicia Moy, President & CEO of Hawaii Gas, who discussed “Sharing Our Visions, Opportunities and Challenges in the Energy Industry.” Moderated by Hoover, the conversation included a look at the importance of diversity in the energy sector, including leadership.

“The true message of the conference this year was that we have to look at our issues holistically, by listening to all voices and hearing new perspectives,” said Hoover.

Hawaiian Electric hopes to adopt the 2030 aspirational goal to reduce our carbon emission by 50 percent in the state’s economy and by 70 percent in the electricity sector.  Hawaii Gas’s long-term plan is intended to help Hawaii reach our 100-percent renewable-energy goals by 2045.

Kimura explained, “Our individual paths are unique, but when we frame them together, which we must now, we can get things done. We are both working to get clean-energy projects permitted, interconnected, and operational in a reasonable amount of time. Hawaii Gas is an important part of that.”

Moy added, “Shelee and I have bonded over Hawaii’s energy solutions, especially for the future of our next generation. I feel that there has been a shift. Once there was that competition, but now we know our future depends on working together.”

The Hawaii Energy Conference addressed three main focus areas: community engagement as we move toward our 2045 goals; whether we are moving fast enough toward these goals and whether they are realistic; and new tools and technology for future energy generation and distribution.

In her closing remarks, Leslie Wilkins, remarked on the high representation of women at the 2023 Hawaii Energy Conference. “Ten years ago when the Hawaii Energy Conference began, women were significantly underrepresented in the energy sector. This year, we have women leading in policy, utilities, as developers, conference leaders, and so much more. There is no question that women are bringing their leadership into the energy-industry sector and it is making it stronger.”

In addition to the general sessions, the conference also provided networking opportunities for attendees. There was high energy in the exhibit venue with attendees relishing the opportunity for face-to-face connections after three years of virtual programming. Participating sponsors showcased the latest renewable-energy technologies and services during breaks and the networking reception.

“The Hawaii Energy Conference is great because it brings everyone from all the different energy sectors together,” observed Jim Kelly, VP Government and Community Relations and Corporate Communications, Hawaiian Electric. “Reconnecting in-person with others in the industry after so many years is key to moving forward with our energy transition. We need in-person events like the HEC to discuss everything that is essential towards our renewable goals.”

Kenzie Judson of Institute for Integrated Energy Systems, Canada remarked, “I have enjoyed being at the Hawaii Energy Conference. I was surprised to learn that a small island and a huge entity like Canada are considering a lot of similar solutions.”

The 2023 Hawaii Energy Conference was sponsored by Johnson Controls, Ulupono Initiative, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI), FranklinWH, Hawaiian Electric, AES, Ameresco/Bright Canyon Energy, Aukahi Energy, Brookfield Renewables, Burns & McDonnell, Hawaii Energy, Par Hawaii, Aloha Charge, Generac Power Systems, Hawaii Gas, Hawaii State Energy Office, Kamehameha Schools, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, Moss & Associates, Osmose Utility Services, RE+ Events, Sol-Ark, STEM Energy and Sunrun.

“The Hawaii Energy Conference is important for us because Kamehameha Schools are very involved with renewable-energy projects on Maui, Oahu and the Big Island. Therefore, renewable energy is an important topic for us,” said Dana K. N. Sato, Director, Leasing & Transaction, Kamehameha Schools. “In general, all of our students are being educated about sustainability, good environmental practice, and aloha ‘aina. It is part of our cultural identity to take care of our environment.”

“This is my first time at the Hawaii Energy Conference,” said panelist Kirstin Punu of AES Hawaii and representing Women in Renewable Energy (WIRE.) “I have made so many connections and have received so many ideas from my peers in the industry. The conference provided a synergistic approach to having conversation, a shared sense of urgency behind the energy issues. I think the programming has been phenomenal and engaging.”

The final networking opportunity was co-sponsored by WIRE, a non-profit organization in Hawaii that brings together women from all sectors of the energy industry to have open and trusted conversations.  Many were already looking ahead to returning to the MACC for the Hawaii Energy Conference in 2024.

 “I was surprised to see how many different folks from different parts of the world have come to the Hawaii Energy Conference to talk about energy,” observed Zendo Kern, Director of Planning, County of Hawaii “Plus, they did not just complain; there was this consistency of here’s what we have to do, here’s our goals, here’s our challenges, and here’s some of our solutions.”

Kern concluded, “The Hawaii Energy Conference was well organized and kept building on itself from the community engagement theme, to permitting, and to planning what’s next. I found the conference insightful, engaging, and, ultimately, fun.”

Exhibitors and Attendees enjoy the opportunity to network face-to-face at the 2023 Hawaii Energy Conference



In Hawaii, there is a long history of working together on important issues: no task is too big when done together by all (a’ohe hana nui ke alu’a). The first three panels explored the energy transition and asked whether the process is working as hoped.


From Molokai’s recently approved community-based renewable-energy project to a new participatory budgeting model to determine community benefits, Hawaii is attempting new ways of engagement.

“Community engagement is important to help us all reach our sustainable energy goals,” said moderator Murray Clay, President, Ulupono Initiative. “At Ulupono, we find that social infrastructures are as important as technical infrastructure in demonstrating all the possibilities of renewable energy.”

Leilani Chow, Energy Program Manager, Sust’āinable Molokai contributed, “Our Molokai Action Plan would increase the island’s renewable energy, including sustainable emergency preparedness capabilities, and strengthen infrastructure. On Molokai, we agree that we need to be drivers of our destiny as a community to shape growth that aligns with our cultural values. Our community self-determination, initiative, and organization matter. Even if there is a lot of land available, we do not want to compromise our living environment.”

“When we look to enhance a community-driven process, at least 40 percent of benefits need to flow down to disadvantaged communities,” added Mark Glick, Chief Energy Officer, Hawaii State Energy Office. “There needs to be an alignment of interests between developers and residents, and shared responsibility.”

Vice President of Resource Procurement, Hawaiian Electric, Rebecca Dayhuff Matsushima said, “The local community knows their own needs and constraints the best. In community engagement, you are dealing with many competing interests, such as housing, food, and transportation, in addition to energy. This makes it hard to hear the collective voice, given that we always have vocal individuals.”

“I’m mainly concerned with utility-scale solar projects, where no community support means no project,” explained Nicola Park, Director, Hawaii, Clearway Energy Group. “Challenges in community-led projects require communication with all stakeholders, including residents. In considering the trade-offs between renewable energy and new housing, the community often favors renewable energy projects. In the future, electric bills will go up. However, the increase will be less than the cost of what other options would have been.”


Caroline Carl, Executive Director, Hawaii Energy and Robert “Rocky” Mould, Executive Director, Hawaii Solar Energy Association shared the stage for a 15 minute presentation.

“At Hawaii Energy we focus on making energy-efficiency education and clean-energy initiatives more accessible and more affordable to Hawaii families and businesses,” said Carl. “Customer-sited rooftop solar leads Hawaii’s renewable-energy transition. We remain tasked with accelerating energy-efficiency and clean-energy technologies by raising awareness and inspiring action. There are 489 appliances provided through our Appliance Trade-up Program. Through our EmPOWER Grant from 2020-2022, there have been significant customer bill savings and grant dollars distributed.”

The Hawaii Solar Energy Association works with industry, regulators, policymakers, and other stakeholders to drive Hawaii’s clean-energy transformation, create green jobs and provide resilient alternatives. Mould said, “Customer roof-top solar presently leads Hawaii’s energy transition. There are about 100,000 residential installations statewide. This accounts for 50 percent for all renewable installations in Hawaii. However, with the highly variable number of permits over the years, we have a ‘solar-coaster’ effect that needs to be evened out,” he warned. “Together, we need a collaborative partnership of stakeholders harnessing all the available resources.


Attendees were brought up to date on the work of Hawaii state legislators with panelists Senator Lynn Decoite and Representative Nicole Lowen. Moderated by Mark Glick, Chief Energy Officer, Hawaii State Energy Office. Discussions centered around whether they have solutions to allow more participation by the community in energy decisions, or whether they have answers to the high cost of electricity.

“Of great importance is the sensitivity to the overall economic and cultural needs, as well as the desires, of the people throughout Hawaii,” said Glick. “We are essentially disparate from the continental states, and we need to work together on a lot of initiatives.”

Senator DeCoite, who serves as the Chair on the Hawaii Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development, and Tourism, said “We need to involve the community residents in legislative sessions and debate, beyond just testifying. We need to figure out what happened last session and engage specific legislators who stalled bills on issues of concern.”

“In addition, we want to make sure the average person can participate in the transition. Solar roof tops are difficult to obtain for the average person. For this reason alone, it is critical to have powerful legislation.”

Representative Lowen is the Chair on the Hawaii House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection. She commented, “The key policy objectives are very diverse. However, we are not the biggest player in resolving these issues, so much depends on the technology that becomes available. The legislature can do straightforward things like setting efficiency standards for appliances and phasing out old-style fluorescent lighting in favor of LEDs.”

“Clean-energy legislation such as SB 691 can be read online at https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov.,” Lowen continued, “Personally, I think we need to be less attached to individual bills and more attached to the problems that need to be solved. Resilience, affordability, reliability, all of the above, are critical issues, but the legislature is not the biggest player in this issue. Energy independence is so important. We need to focus on what the next steps are that will help facilitate a just and equitable transition.”


Jonathan Koehn, Director of the City of Boulder Climate Initiatives Department and a member of the HEC Program Committee returned to Maui to moderate this panel to discuss some of the new ideas from Hawaii and beyond. “We need to include everyone in an ‘energy democracy’ with new policies and coalitions to design an inclusive energy system,” he stated. “We have to think collectively on how to reach our energy goals through new policies and coalitions. Also, we need to think creatively for a more holistic approach to protect the most vulnerable.

Panelist, Forest Frizzell, Co-Founder & CEO, Shifted Energy said, “With nearly half of Native Hawaiians no longer able to live in Hawaii, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to replace imported fuel with renewable energy. This will bolster our local economy and job market long-term to keep our residents from leaving.

“If we want economic resilience in Hawaii, we need to take advantage of the opportunity to level the playing field for local companies. Smaller companies also need to be able to participate in clean-energy opportunities.”

“Technology brings half the solution for energy transition,” said Dawn Lippert, Founder & CEO, Elemental Excelerator. “The community brings the other half. That is why I encourage new companies to invest in community, especially low-and-middle-income families.

“Energy is an important issue for a healthy and affordable lifestyle. I think this is where we can be innovative: How do we do cooling better? How do we do better filtering and make people feel comfortable? We have to be much more creative. Air-conditioning is a huge issue for wellness. This is an opportunity for technology advances in that area of expertise. A dollar of investment for energy-efficiency goes further here in Hawaii because of our higher energy costs.

“We should be more competitive and work more strategically with alignment in all aspects and sectors. Now, more than ever, we are in a competitive place for technology resources. We need to be learning as fast as we can. Start-ups are key.”

Stephany Vaioleti is a Community Engagement Navigator with Hawaii Energy. She said, “Companies need to figure out how to collaborate with competitors in order to achieve energy transition by 2045. We have competing priorities, so conflicting values are an issue. Our Energy Equity Hui, a statewide government-nongovernment collaborative, is working to ensure equitable transformation in our clean-energy goals. We must create a pono path with stronger, equitable outcomes through values, trust, partnerships, increased education, transparency, and economic development.”


In another 15 minute segment, two presenters discussed managing local workforce needs.

Damien Kim is the Business Manager/Financial Secretary for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1186 who spoke on how the IBEW Apprenticeship Program is teaching participants to help the workforce stay up to date on our energy needs.

“Orientation into an electrical program takes about five years. Workers make about $19 an hour and can make $112,000 a year, plus benefits like health care, a pension, and more. It is a great program with minimal tuition, paying students while they learn their skill. There is no school debt. Currently, we have about 400 participants in our program statewide. We bring about 50 more each year. We are always searching for people who want to work hard and grow.”

Kim continued, “Today’s challenge of getting a good workforce is finding the people with the right attitude, common sense, and good work ethics. We are working with schools and career-path programs, such as engineering, architecture, and others, to find talented students and enter them into our program. We also look for soldiers coming out of the military to help them find good paying jobs. Bottom line, we are trying different ways to create and recruit to keep our local people here. With good careers, they can live and thrive in Hawaii.”

Danielle Irwin is President of Makaha Learning Center, a native 501(c)3 non-profit that was started to create opportunities for Native Hawaiians through leadership, trade-training education, and outreach programs. She said, “The renewable-energy transition will completely change our landscape, our economics and the way we do business, like it happened with the sugar cane industry. We had to import people from all over.”

“I would like to challenge us to make sure, before it is too late, to educate a workforce that is local. Historically, Hawaii has been good at exporting resources and importing expertise, which is why I think workforce development has high payoff in this state.

“We have been able to educate over 200 students specifically in solar industry jobs, including general construction, renewable energy, electrical apprenticeship, and photo-voltaic technology.

A career in solar can be extremely lucrative, and we can adapt quickly to changes in the energy industry.”


Islands, and other areas subject to extreme weather events, need more resilient energy systems. Is progress too slow? Are the goals realistic?


Jacqui Hoover, Chair, Conference Program Committee moderated this panel. “We discussed whether permitting policies and rules even make sense. Our homes all need energy. What happens if we don’t meet our 2045 goals? How can we all participate in the permitting process so it benefits everyone? How much do permitting interventions interrupt the process?”

“Everyone wants certainty in the permitting process, said Kathleen Aoki,Director of Planning, Maui County. “Developers, community members, environmentalist, and others all want to know what, where, and how their projects will happen.

“We are in the process of rewriting our zoning code; many things need to go, and our land-use ratings are outdated. It is a tradeoff on what our priorities are” Aoki continued, “Pre-planning by developers with communities and others affected can reduce interventions during the permitting process. We need unity and collaboration in planning projects. Finding inclusive solutions is vital.”

Gary Huffman, Senior Client Relations Manager, Burns & McDonnell Engineering contributed,

“The permitting process outcomes can be very different in different states and in different counties in Hawaii for the same project. Hawaii has achieved rooftop-solar penetration that is larger than any other state and yet Hawaii’s permitting is slower than other states.”

“The speed of receiving permits depends on how much the developer and investors put into it. It is simple if you check all the boxes, including working within the community through outreach, education, hearing their concerns, and explaining what it is in the project that can benefit the community. All stakeholders must collaborate.”

“Applicants for permits want certainty,” said Zendo Kern, Director of Planning, County of Hawaii. “The community also needs certainty that previous work and their values are being honored. Permitting is a necessary part of planning projects because it improves the reliability of projects. Rooftop single-home solar projects should be instantly permitted.”

Mahina Martin, Chief of Communications and Public Affairs, County of Maui Office of the Mayor said, “We are at a critical point where we have to make quicker decisions about taking Hawaii forward in clean energy. We should recognize that health care facilities and nursing homes need energy. We are facing a reflective time with tradeoffs for our safety, health, and environmental protection.”

“Permitting is just part of the process,” Martin concluded. “Culturally, communities want to slow it down, while investors want to speed it up. We have a kuleana in Hawaii to our ‘aina, which sometimes clashes with big infrastructure.”

Jordan Molina, Director of Public Works, County of Maui, said “I have been on all sides of the permit process and have a sense of empathy to all parties that need to go through this process. There is a way through it; however, we need to be partners to make it succeed. In general, the quality of submissions should be better. It is important to put the effort in at the front of the project to get the best results without having so many interventions during permitting.


Celeste Connors, Executive Director, Hawaii Green Growth moderated this panel to review the different 100-percent goals involving renewable energy, carbon, and sustainability. “It was essential to discuss whether we are on track for 2045 in context of other priorities like housing, education, wellness, and others. Two-thirds of imported oil in Hawaii goes to transportation.”

Connors pointed out, “We want 70-percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and 40 percent of energy production from renewables by 2030. At this point in time, Hawaii’s goals pre-date even the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Greg Gaug, Senior Vice President, Investments & Analytics, Ulupono Initiative, said, “Electrifying ground transportation will result in 50-percent reduction in carbon emissions. It is vital to understand the importance of tradeoffs and benefits associated with adding more renewable energy to electric systems, and the potential impact on agricultural land. We must always preserve high-quality ag land and the lowest electricity rate, with less or no offshore wind-generation.

“Ninety percent of our food in Hawaii is imported. If we are concerned about sustainability and self-sufficiency, we have a trade-off of land for renewable-energy generation. We need to both increase our renewable energy production and our food production.

President & CEO of Hawaiian Electric, Shelee Kimura, said, “The renewable fraction of energy produced in Hawaii has gone from 9 percent in 2010 to 32 percent today. We need to execute projects quicker, which means better cost-effectiveness because electricity demand will double by 2045.”

“We must consider pathways to cut carbon emissions to achieve net-zero in electric power generation by 2045, in all sectors. Also, additional carbon-dioxide removal is needed to offset residual non-CO2/non-combustion emissions. Data shows the path to the goals. Over the next seven years, we need to get to 70 percent.”

Mahina Paishon-Duarte, Co-founder and Executive Officer/Managing Partner, Waiwai Collective said, “We need to have partners early-on to identify the hardest equity issues by creating a roundtable for everyone to contribute. Using a Malama Implementation Tool, a comprehensive project assessment tool to support partners in project development efforts, we can prioritize locally relevant measures of success.”

“Scoring well with this tool will indicate our achievements towards Hawaii’s statewide sustainability commitments. Measuring it against the Aloha+ Challenge Dashboard, we can identify relevant goals and metrics indicating Hawaii’s progress toward achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.”  


This panel featured the most successful developers of our state’s largest wind and solar projects to date. They discussed recent challenges and future opportunities in developing and building utility-scale energy projects in Hawaii.

Wren Wescoatt, Director of Development, Hawaii Longroad Energy moderated the panel, stating, “As our state moves toward 100-percent decarbonized power, much of the lowest-cost clean energy will come from large grid-connected renewable projects. These projects are complicated, expensive and sometimes controversial, but they really move the needle in replacing fossil-fuel generation.”

“The conversation about climate change, sea-level rise, impact to our state and the part that renewable energy plays in this, is essential. The state and utility have already started campaigns where they are informing the public about possible projects. It is time for real community ownership.”

D. Noelani Kalipi, Executive Vice President, with Progression Energy is currently working on a fully offshore wind farm, Aukahi Energy. “Being the first of its kind, our offshore floating wind project had challenges and skepticism to deal with, including triggering every permit imaginable at the federal, state, and county levels in multiple ways.”

“It takes a lot to develop in Hawaii,” she added. “We put relationships first, and we believe that shared values drive project success. In strategic planning and implementation, you have to envision the impact of a project into the future.”

Nicola Park, Director, Hawaii, Clearway Energy Group, said, “Developing can be really challenging, so it’s vital to work together for a common goal. Technically, all of us on this panel are competitors and have gone head-to-head on the same projects; however, we are all really good friends. We are on a common battlefield together, going through many of the same challenges, and we actually collaborate when and where we can.”

“Collaboration, building trust, and honest communication are key elements in all of our projects. It takes a village!” said Kirstin Punu, Project Origination, AES Clean Energy, Hawaii.  “Where there are challenges, there are also solutions. Our current online projects are a very critical component of enabling the responsible and equitable transition we are making across the state.”

We encourage community feedback and input often, throughout the planning and permitting process, and we discuss how transition upgrades will benefit the residents.”


Stephany Vaioleti of Hawaii Energy returned to the stage to introduce Grace Relf, Chief of Policy and Research, Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, explaining “The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is requesting public input on how the state’s energy system can be more equitable. Their new docket seeks to define energy equity and integrate energy-justice practices into the commission’s proceedings.”

 “The PUC is working to improve community engagement and affordability of energy, especially in the home, as electricity rates increase,” shared Relf. “Certain populations have been left behind in the renewable-energy transition and we have to correct that. We want our Energy Equity Docket to include public input to assure thriving communities in the face of climate change. Getting out into the community and hearing their ideas is a good way to get more people involved, educated, informed and engaged in our energy solutions. We have posted our meetings related to the docket online, and anyone can provide comment at any time.”


If we want different outcomes, we may need new tools.


Moderator Julie Yunker, Director of Sustainability, Government and Community Affairs, Hawaii Gas introduced the panel, “Hydrogen has been the new buzz word in the past couple of years. It’s been around for a while, but seems to have a recent resurgence with a lot of funding from the federal government.”

“Working with Hawaii Gas, we are already transporting hydrogen in blended form with natural gas in pipelines,” said Ganesh Arumugam, Senior Materials Engineer, Oceanit. “Currently fossil fuels account for 98 percent of our hydrogen production, and only10 percent goes to transportation and other uses. Most of the hydrogen is used in chemical industry processes.”

“However, Hawaii Gas can transport natural gas blends containing up to 15 percent hydrogen and they already have 1,100 miles of pipeline. What remains to be done is to study the effect of enriched hydrogen blends on existing home appliances.”

“Hydrogen already has an infrastructure for public transportation,” said Mitch Ewan, Hydrogen Systems Program Manager, HNEI.  “It is lighter than batteries, has rapid fueling, and a long range of transport. Hydrogen-fueled vehicles are already operating for the general public on the Big Island. Public transportation is the key to hydrogen acceptance. People will become aware that hydrogen is very quiet and odor-free. The only exhaust product is water vapor, although it requires cheap electricity for its production.”

Riley Saito, Energy Specialist, County of Hawaii shared the work they are doing on the Pacific Hydrogen Alliance which consists of facilities in Namie, Japan (near the famous Fukushima nuclear power plant); Lancaster, California; and in Hawaii County. “Currently, we are using above-ground pipelines for low-density hydrogen transport,” he said. “The Alliance is studying where local county funding matters the most when trying to transport hydrogen on a large scale. Their job is to figure out where the delivery points for the hydrogen need to be, and then let researchers figure out how to produce the hydrogen on a large scale.

“The permitting process is critical to scaling up hydrogen production. Also, commercial and household acceptance is not yet complete. People are afraid of explosions, and they are not aware that hydrogen is a renewable resource, although it requires electricity to produce the hydrogen gas.”


HEC Program Committee member Colton Ching, Senior Vice President, Planning & Technology, Hawaiian Electric moderated this panel that discussed how Hawaii’s economy can achieve a 50-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the 2005 levels by the end of this decade and net-zero carbon emissions by 2045. “Decarbonization is an economy-wide problem,” Ching began. “We may need to reset the whole economy. Decarbonization targets are hardest to hit in the Hawaiian Electric sector of the economy.”

Mark Glick of the Hawaii State Energy Office (HSEO) who was back on stage as a panelist said “We are primarily concerned with energy-efficiency, renewable energy, and clean transportation. The state of Hawaii needs a comprehensive strategy for all of these. The HSEO has to consider energy storage, grid modernization, transportation, electrical generation and other energy production.

“The biggest energy users in Hawaii are air travel, marine shipping, and agriculture. We currently have a study underway to see the extent to which hydrogen may become a near-term solution for ground transportation. We are producing a report on the decarbonization pathway for Hawaii, to be delivered to the legislature by December 2023.”

“Hawaiian Airlines has a goal to be net-zero for carbon by 2050,” said Alanna James, Hawaiian Airlines Managing Director of Sustainability Initiatives. “Aviation jet fuel is 27 percent of the total petroleum consumption in Hawaii. In the U.S., only Alaska has a higher percentage devoted to aviation fuel. Inter-island flights account for only 11 percent of the aviation fuel consumption, while long-haul flights consume 89 percent. Therefore, most of the work for decarbonization in aviation has to deal with the long-haul flights.”

James continued, “The main decarbonization drivers for Hawaiian Airlines are fleet renewal, decreasing fuel consumption; operational efficiencies, using cleaner ground power; and air-traffic control modernization, being done through the federal government. For the short-haul flights, it is possible that next-generation aircraft using new technology might reduce the fuel consumption on short flights. However, this is a very long and expensive technical development.

“About two thirds of Hawaiian Airlines reduction to net-zero decarbonization will come from using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The federal government has posed a grand challenge, with funding, to researchers to use non-petroleum sources for aviation fuel production and to modify existing airplanes and infrastructure to be able to use up to 50-percent blends of SAF and traditional fuels.

“We need new policies in place to encourage the production and use of SAF, which is largely a federal government responsibility. Hawaiian Airlines operates in many different states and countries, each with different decarbonization requirements. Therefore, SAF, as it is produced in limited quantities, will go to the markets where it has the most value. Hawaii must compete in those markets.”

Amber Mahone, Managing Partner, Energy & Environmental Economics (E3) added, “Hawaii has unique challenges and opportunities for decarbonization. For example, we do not have much space-heating requirement in Hawaii because of the local climate. Also, we have little heavy manufacturing, mining, or refining in Hawaii. However, the technologies necessary for decarbonization are not yet commercialized. Hawaii also has to resolve competing land uses. For example, should we convert more agricultural land for renewable-energy production?”


Leslie Wilkins, President & CEO, Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) introduced this presentation on workforce initiatives. “Workforce development is economic development. We are truly transforming the energy-transition workforce pipeline at MEDB to build equity and access to ensure the STEM education pipeline is reflective of the true demographics of our state with equity and access for all.”  

As a Program Officer with University of Hawaii Community Colleges System, Joshua Kaakuais involved with innovative-opportunity workforce training programs for Hawaii residents. He said, “Good Jobs Hawaii is a coalition among the University of Hawaii Community Colleges, businesses, educators, and community partners that will help people in Hawaii get high-quality jobs, while ensuring employers meet their needs for a skilled and local workforce.

“Good Jobs Hawaii offers free skills-training in Hawaii’s high-demand sectors, including clean-energy information, skilled trades, information technology, healthcare, and creative industries, which can all lead to more prosperous careers. It is important for students to get involved in this partnership with training providers, universities, employers, and the stakeholders who are involved in making our state’s workforce development better.”

Katie Taladay, Director of Education and Workforce Development at MEDB talked about MEDB’s all-new K-12 Energy Education Curriculum for the Hawaii State Energy Office (HSEO). “This curriculum aligns with the national standards for science. However, when designing this program, we were surprised over the lack of K-12 energy-literacy in Hawaii.

It is essential to have energy-related literacy coming into the college level or we will not produce any energy-related degrees or careers.”

Taladay continued, “Every module in the curriculum was designed as hands-on activities to cover every energy-related topic from wind to solar, to geothermal, electricity, smart grid, and more. Every teacher that participated received a tool kit to use in their classroom. The kits are now available on the HSEO website. So far, we have trained almost 200 teachers across the state. In addition, the kits are available in our STEMworks™ Lending Library. Also, K-12 educators can request to borrow a renewable-energy kit by going to our STEMworks website.”


Doug McLeod, DKK Energy Services, LLC led this panel that looked at the benefits of energy storage in three separate markets.

“As renewable adoption increases, clean-energy optimization is needed to stabilize the grid,” said Ashley Henderson, Principal Program Manager, Stem. “Opportunities to pair energy storage include solar, backup generators and EV charging. Benefits include utility-bill savings; resilience and backup power; flexibility and solar self-consumption; demand charge management; and demand reduction.

“Utilities use storage to defer traditional infrastructure investments and to deliver energy where it’s needed. For example, Transmission and Distribution (T&D) Deferral, discharges batteries to reduce peak loads during overload; Resource Adequacy, called by utility to discharge batteries when generation resources are limited; and Transmission Congestion Relief, discharges batteries when locational pricing is high, reducing the need to transmit power into a region or zone.

Joti Mangat, Chief Revenue Officer, Rising Sun shared how VPP (Virtual Power Plants)  program offers significant incentives for existing and new energy storage systems powered by rooftop solar.

“VPP home battery reward programs use behind-the-meter smart-energy-activating assets to perform different functions at different times based on the value to the grid and to the home. The 6000-home aggregation of behind-the-meter energy storage into a VPP program provides a total of 81.7 MW of combined grid services with capacity-build during excess renewable-energy generation, capacity-reduce during peak usage, and fast frequency response.

“With intelligent home energy management, value-stacking grid service payments improve bill economics and offer periodic checks for customers with negative bill balances. By harnessing the collective power in our homes, we enable a more affordable and resilient Hawaii that also helps us meet our 100-percent renewable-energy goals.”

“Kauai’s utility-scale energy is already 60-percent renewable overall, using only short-term energy storage batteries,” shared Brad Rockwell, COO, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative. “In West Kauai, we are currently constructing long-term hydroelectric energy storage from a water reservoir which will run a 4MW hydroelectric generator and a planned 20MW generator. We run every sunny day at 100-percent renewable, sometimes 10 hours without fossil fuel, but we still have no solar at night. We need to crack that last nut.”

“With this long-term energy storage, Kauai can reach 100-percent renewable and eliminate oil,” concluded Rockwell to spontaneous audience applause. “With numerous benefits for the community and state, we are almost there and we are very proud of it!”


Maria Tome, Managing Director, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Hawaii State Energy Office moderated this panel that looked at the future of geothermal energy. She was joined by

Nicole Lautze, Founder and Director, Hawaii Groundwater and Geothermal Resources Center; Professor, Hawaii Institute of Geophysics who said, ““Geothermal is potentially a very attractive renewable-energy option. It is relatively inexpensive, has a low footprint on the land, and is available 24/7. It is also dispatchable between certain upper and lower limits, meaning that you can vary the output at a given facility to respond to increased or decreased demand, as needed.”

“We have very incomplete data about geothermal resources in Hawaii, even though we have several volcanoes. Surveys are expensive. For example, making a single 5-inch slim hole to a typical depth of 2km would currently cost about $3M. At the moment, no state or federal funding is earmarked for geothermal development.”

Michael Kaleikini, Senior Director, Hawaii Affairs with Ormat Technologies, a leading geothermal company engaged in geothermal and recovered-energy generation. He said, “The Puna Geothermal Venture, operating from its start in 1993 to the present, is a geothermal energy power plant on the Island of Hawaii. The plant was shut down shortly after the start of the May 2018 lower Puna eruption, and resumed power generation in November 2020. The State of Hawaii owns all geothermal resources since they are considered mineral resources. Consequently, any private exploitation of geothermal energy will have to pay fees to the state and is also very expensive.”

Na’alehu Anthony, Chief Executive Director, ‘Oiwi TV; Principal of Paliku Documentary Films was also on the panel and shared, “There is a vast set of resources available to us as we move forward in our clean-energy goal initiatives. We must use them wisely. Given that, we need to find organizational tools to allow for this information to be available and accessible to all stakeholders so that we can work together for the best solutions for all.”


Launched in 2014 by Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) with support from the County of Maui Office of Economic Development, the Hawaii Energy Conference (HEC) brings together experts on energy policy, strategies, leadership and innovation. Energy leaders from Hawaii, the Continental U.S., Asia-Pacific and more exchange ideas on how to better serve our communities in today’s rapidly changing power generation and delivery environment.

Powering the Future: Hawaii Energy Conference May 24 and 25 at the MACC

Powering the Future: Hawaii Energy Conference May 24 and 25 at the MACC

The 2023 Hawaii Energy Conference (HEC) Program is shaping up to be an exciting event for those interested in sustainable energy practices and the future of renewable energy. The conference will be held at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center from May 24-25 and will bring together experts in the field to share their knowledge and experiences.

“One of the major themes of the conference is the role of renewable energy in Hawaii’s future.” said Sandy Ryan, conference director. “The state has set a goal of reaching 100% renewable energy by 2045, and the conference will explore how this goal can be achieved.” Topics such as energy storage, grid modernization, and community-based renewable energy projects will be discussed. The speakers and panelists include energy industry leaders, policymakers, researchers, and entrepreneurs.

The conference will open with a keynote by Daphne Frias, a 25-year-old youth activist from New York, who will speak to the innate resiliency of disabled people and how that relates to adaptation and sustainability. Day 2 kicks off with a conversation with Shelee Kimura, President & CEO of Hawaiian Electric and Alicia Moy, President & CEO of Hawaii Gas discussing “Sharing our visions, opportunities and challenges in the energy industry.” The discussion will include a look at the importance of diversity in the energy sector, including in leadership.

Murray Clay, President of Ulupono Initiative, will moderate a panel exploring community-engaged approaches to renewable energy to empower residents. From Molokai’s recently approved community-based renewable energy project to a new “participatory budgeting” model to determine community benefits, Hawaii is attempting a new way of engagement.

The community focus continues with a talk on energy efficiency and solar energy. Hawaii has some of the highest electricity rates in the country, and energy efficiency measures can help to lower these costs.

Mark Glick, Chief Energy Officer of the Hawaii State Energy Office will moderate a discussion with Hawaii legislators. Senator Lynn DeCoite and Representative Nicole Lowen will discuss solutions to allow more participation by the community in energy decisions and ways to address the high cost of electricity. DeCoite is the chair on the Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development, and Tourism, and Lowen is the Chair on the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection.

Alicia Moy, President & CEO, Hawaii Gas

Shelee Kimura, President & CEO , Hawaiian Electric

Mark Glick, Chief Energy Officer, Hawaii State Energy Office

Murray Clay, President, Ulupono Initiative

Senator Lynn DeCoite,
State of Hawaii

Representative Nicole Lowen, State of Hawaii

The second focus area of the 2023 program will question whether we are moving fast enough towards renewable goals. Islands and other areas subject to extreme weather events need more resilient energy systems. Are the goals realistic?

Panels include a look at the building permit process, a review of the data measuring different “100% goals” plus a developer’s roundtable will discuss what it will take to develop and build utility-scale clean energy in Hawaii.

The third focus area on new tools and technologies in energy include discussions on use of hydrogen in Hawaii; decarbonization pathways; the risks and benefits of energy storage PLUS the potential of geothermal resources in Hawaii.

In addition to the general sessions, the conference will also provide networking opportunities for attendees. There will be an exhibit venue featuring the latest renewable energy technologies and services, as well as social events to facilitate networking and collaboration.

The 2023 Hawaii Energy Conference promises to be a valuable and engaging event for anyone interested in the future of energy and sustainability. With a diverse range of speakers and topics, attendees can expect to gain new insights and knowledge about the latest developments in the industry and connect with other professionals and stakeholders. The conference represents an important step forward in the global effort to transform energy systems and build a sustainable future for all.

Program details and registration can be viewed at www.hawaiienergyconference.com. An advance rate offers savings to those registering before May 17.

The HEC is presented by the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) with the support of the County of Maui Office of Economic Development. 2023 Sponsors are: Johnson Controls, Ulupono Initiative, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI), FranklinWH, Hawaiian Electric, AES, Ameresco/Bright Canyon Energy, Brookfield Renewables, Burns & McDonnell, Hawaii Energy, Par Hawaii, Aloha Charge, Generac Power Systems, Hawaii Gas, Hawaii State Energy Office, Kamehameha Schools, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, Moss & Associates, Osmose Utility Services, RE+ Events, Sol-Ark, STEM Energy and Sunrun.


Hawaii Energy Conference Celebrating 10 years Announces Keynote and Program Topics

Hawaii Energy Conference Celebrating 10 years Announces Keynote and Program Topics

After three years of virtual streaming, the Hawaii Energy Conference (HEC) is returning to the Maui Arts and Cultural Center May 24-25, 2023 for an in-person gathering. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the conference is presented by the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) and will feature a mix of keynote speakers, panel discussions, case studies and an exhibit venue.

Daphne Frias, Youth Activist, will keynote the 10th annual Hawaii Energy Conference

The conference will open with a keynote by Daphne Frias, a 25-year old youth activist who is a loud champion for the disabled community. Born and raised in West Harlem, NYC, Daphne has seen how minority communities are disproportionally affected by climate change — she has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to ambulate. Daphne will speak to the innate resiliency of disabled people and how that relates to adaptation and sustainability.

Energy is a complex topic, and it is easy to get lost in the details.  We rarely get to talk about the bigger purpose of our work,” added Doug McLeod, of DKK Energy Services and a member of the HEC Program Committee. “In the first ten years of this conference, the discussion evolved from whether our planet was experiencing climate change to whether our energy policies will be enough to avoid excessive climate change. Our keynote speaker this year is part of the next generation of climate leaders. Her story and her message are inspirational.” 

In 2019, Daphne was appointed as one of the North American Regional Focal Points for Sustainable Development Goal 16 at the U.N. Major Group for Children and Youth. In this position, she works to highlight and represent the voice of her fellow youth and the work they are doing to become pivotal peacemakers. As a freelance organizer, she spends her time speaking at various colleges, summits, and panels. In addition, she consults with non-profits, crafting engaging campaigns highlighting the voices of Gen-Z.

Daphne is a really great spokesperson for personal resilience, for accessibility and she does an amazing amount of community organizing,” said Jonathan Koehn, a founding member of the HEC Program Committee and Chief Sustainability & Resilience Officer, City of Boulder. “I think it’s a good opportunity for the conference to kick-off with a discussion oriented to those who are most vulnerable in our communities.”

Daphne’s presentation will segue into a segment of panels that focus on community engagement and empowerment as it relates to energy. The discussion will look at new ways of engagement including the new participatory budgeting model and Molokai’s recently approved community-based renewable energy project.

A second focus area of the 2023 program will look at Hawaii’s clean-energy goals in which panels will question:

  1. It takes how long for a building permit? A discussion on the challenges and solutions of permitting for distributed energy resources like rooftop PV and lithium-ion batteries.
  2. What does the data say? This panel will discuss the different “100%” goals involving Renewable Energy, Carbon, and sustainability, whether Hawaii is on track to meet them and whether the focus needs to change?
  3. Why are large scale renewables across the US coming online slower than expected, and often at higher cost? Wren Westcoatt of Longroad Energy will lead this developers’ roundtable.

A third focus area of the 2023 Hawaii Energy Conference will look at new tools and technologies in the renewable energy domain, including geothermal, aviation fuel, energy storage, and use of hydrogen.

The HEC consistently attracts energy leaders from Hawaii, the Continental U.S., Asia-Pacific, and more exchange ideas on how to better serve our communities in today’s rapidly changing power generation and delivery environment. It is supported by the County of Maui Office of Economic Development and 2023 Sponsors: Johnson Controls, Ulupono Initiative, Hawaiian Electric, AES, Kamehameha Schools, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, Sunrun and STEM Energy.

More program details can be viewed at www.hawaiienergyconference.com. Registration is now open with early bird rates available until March 31.

Hawaii Energy Conference back at the MACC

Hawaii Energy Conference back at the MACC

After three years of virtual streaming, the Hawaii Energy Conference (HEC) is returning to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center May 24-25, 2023 for an in-person gathering. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the conference is presented by the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) and will feature a mix of keynote speakers, panel discussions, case studies and an exhibit hall.

There is so much to talk about when we meet in person again, both the formal panel discussions and all the informal ‘talk story’ conversations that occur away from the stage and during the breaks,” said Doug McLeod of DKK Energy Services and a lead member of the HEC Program Committee. “It was good that we could continue to have some dialogue while meeting virtually but we all know the conversation is more lively in person.”

“The survey results we get always emphasize networking as an important feature of the Hawaii Energy Conference and important connections can build from a chance meeting during a break.”

The Hawaii Energy Conference (HEC) brings together experts on energy policy, strategies, leadership and innovation. Energy leaders from Hawaii, the Continental U.S., Asia-Pacific and more exchange ideas on how to better serve our communities in today’s rapidly changing power generation and delivery environment.

The Hawaii Energy Conference panel discussions bring together experts on energy policy, strategies, leadership and innovation

The Exhibit Hall at the Hawaii Energy Conference offers networking and an opportunity to connect with sponsors

The first conference was held in 2014 to explore the challenges and opportunities in our nation’s transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Since its launch, the conference has almost doubled in size. It has covered topics including the future of electric utilities, Hawaii’s goal of becoming 100% renewable by 2045, decarbonization, and innovation in the industry. 

The 2023 program committee have identified key topics for discussion at this years conference including:

  • Is getting to 100 % Renewables still desirable, still doable, still worth the price?
  • How can we get clean energy projects permitted, interconnected, and operational in a reasonable period of time?
  • What is the next step in our efforts toward decarbonized energy, and what role does hydrogen play?
  • What are the energy related priorities of the Hawai’i Legislature and the Governor?
  • What is Energy Equity and how do we achieve it in the pursuit of state energy goals such as 100% renewables and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions?

Energy companies will enjoy being back at the MACC with the opportunity to showcase their products and services in the Exhibit Hall. The networking sessions are social and high-energy. “It’s much easier to attract someone to your exhibit booth at a live event,” says Sandy Ryan, HEC Conference Director. “Attendees are more attentive and committed to participating fully in the conference than they are in a virtual environment.”

Registration now open with early bird rates available until March 31.

So much to talk about at HEC2023

So much to talk about at HEC2023

We have so much to talk about! Save the date for 2023 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Hawaii Energy Conference. Finally back live and in person at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center May 24-25, 2023.

  • Is getting to 100 % Renewables still desirable, still doable, still worth the price?
  • How can we get clean energy projects permitted, interconnected, and operational in a reasonable period of time?
  • What is the next step in our efforts toward decarbonized energy, and what role does hydrogen play?
  • What are the energy related priorities of the Hawai’i Legislature and the Governor?
  • What is Energy Equity and how do we achieve it in the pursuit of state energy goals such as 100% renewables and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions?
  • and more….

The HEC brings together experts on energy policy, strategies, leadership and innovation. Energy leaders from Hawaii, the Continental U.S., Asia-Pacific and more exchange ideas on how to better serve our communities in today’s rapidly changing power generation and delivery environment. Registration launching next month.

Exhibit space is available for sponsors to display products and services, present hands-on demonstrations to highlight new technologies, and promote your organization. Learn more

2022 Hawaii Energy Conference explored all things Electrification

2022 Hawaii Energy Conference explored all things Electrification

The 9th Annual Hawaii Energy Conference (HEC) returned to the virtual stage with 368 participants joining the conversation on “Electrification: Where are we now? What does the future hold?”.

Presented by Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) and supported by the County of Maui Office of Economic Development, the online two-day conference May 10 and 12 brought together experts on energy policy, strategies, leadership and innovation to revisit all the aspects of electrifying the grid and transportation—current successes, potential pitfalls, and future opportunities.

The Hawaii Energy Conference provides a forum for the exchange of ideas on how to better serve the community in today’s rapidly changing power generation and delivery environment. In his opening welcome. Mayor Victorino stated, “Hawaii is a leading state for solar energy in the nation with a goal of 100-percent renewable energy by 2045. Our famous trade winds can help generate electricity and we have the potential to capture wave energy and geothermal for our energy needs. We have sustainable energy, and an abundance of sunshine and resources to help us. We look to the engineers, scientists, and other experts at this conference to help the people of Hawaii make a transition to renewable energy sooner than later.”

The virtual conference featured keynotes, panel discussions, interviews, networking, and exhibits. Panel’s discussed Electrification in relationship to — the Community; Transportation; Battery Storage; Carbon, Climate Resiliency, Energy Efficiency and more.

Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President and CEO said, “Electrification will completely impact how we approach the issues of energy, production, distribution, energy equity, resilience, and more. Our program focused on the challenges and opportunities before us all in building a resilient, sustainable, affordable, secure, and equitable energy future.”

The opening keynote was presented by Abigail Anthony of the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission. She spoke on the topic “When Tradewinds Blow: Maintaining Course during the Energy Transition.” In an interview format Commissioner Anthony said, “Rhode Island, the smallest state in the country, roughly the size of Oahu, asserts that right rates and benefits are needed in order to encourage residents to convert to electrification. Electrification is no longer just for early adopters; it is ready to go to scale. We are focused on advancing equity, by making sure our customers are paying only for things that they can benefit from as well as afford.”

Electrification and Energy Efficiency

Caroline Carl, newly appointed Executive Director of Hawaii Energy, gave a Spotlight Talk on Energy Efficiency. She said “The role of energy efficiency is important in the movement to electrify almost everything. Hawaii Energy, the rate-payer-funded energy efficiency program serving the islands of Maui, Oahu, Hawaii, Molokai, and Lanai, operates directly under contract with the public utilities commission. Our mission is to help local families and businesses make smart energy choices.”

This model began when Hawaii’s first clean-energy initiative was formalized in 2008 when the state committed to achieving 70 percent clean energy by 2030. Forty percent was to be from renewable generation and 30 percent from energy efficiency and conservation. This led to the establishment of the state’s energy efficiency portfolio standards, which set a reduction goal of 4300 gigawatt hours by 2030. The Hawaii Energy programs were created to help realize these goals.

“Today the Hawaii Energy programs have saved the people of Hawaii more than a billion dollars off their energy bills by helping them make smart energy choices,” Carl pointed out. “Nevertheless, the programs of the past decade are not what the programs of the next ten years will look like. We are facing a time of significant change across the entire energy landscape. Our programs will need to respond to the impact associated with the number of external drivers. As we face power plant retirements on Oahu and Maui, increasing concerns around capacity reserve shortfall and the Covid pandemic economic impacts remain significant even though looking ahead the outlook appears positive as the global economy continues to recover. Despite all these competing forces, at Hawaii Energy we believe the efficiency programs are key to helping customers and transforming the market for clean energy.”

Day 2 – Keynote Amy Jaffe

Day 2 kicked off with a keynote presentation by Amy Myers Jaffe. The Research Professor and Managing Director of the Climate Policy Lab at the Fletcher School of Tufts University is a leading expert on global energy policy and sustainability.

Considering the question ‘Why Electrification.’, Jaffe said, “We are about to face a major shortfall of diesel fuel throughout the global commodity market. With Hawaii being vulnerable to the volatility in the price of diesel fuel, it does seem that energy security is going hand in hand with decarbonization in thinking about the impetus for electrification.”

“And everything is digital today, everything is connected to your smartphone, it’s all automated, based on data and therefore everything runs on electricity.” she added.

A Conversation with Shelee Kimura

Later on Day 2 Jacqui Hoover, Executive Director at Hawaii Island Economic Development Board and HEC Program co-chair, interviewed Shelee Kimura, the newly appointed President and Chief Executive Officer for Hawaiian Electric. Kimura currently leads Hawaiian Electric’s strategy to provide safe, affordable, reliable clean energy for customers on the islands of Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, Lanai and Molokai. With her leadership, Hawaiian Electric plans to cut carbon emissions from power generation 70-percent by 2030. Kimura’s vision is to generate electricity with zero or very little carbon emission by 2045, if not sooner.

 “Meeting our 2030 commitment will be a stretch, but it is achievable if public policies and community priorities are aligned to ensure that this energy transformation leaves no one behind,” Kimura explained. “Equity is an important issue at Hawaiian Electric. We have been focused on it for many years and we look at it in many ways. From a financial perspective, we want to make sure everyone can afford our transition to renewable energy. Also important is equity from a geographic perspective. We need to integrate many megawatts of renewable energy and we know that takes a lot of land. These conversations about where the projects will be sited, how they will be sited, the relationship with community—these are all really important topics that we have been trying to nurture over the last several years. We know that as we put more and more renewables on the electric power system there will be challenges. It is an issue that the entire energy eco-system cannot ignore.”

In addition to watching the presentations live, participants were able to connect and network with each other and sponsors through the virtual platform. Participating sponsors and exhibitors were: Hawaii Natural Energy Institute; Ulupono Initiative; Hawaiian Electric; Kauai Island Utility Cooperative; Burns & McDonnell; Elemental Excelerator; G70; Hawaii Energy; Hawaii Gas; Innergex; Progression Hawaii Offshore Wind; Shifted Energy; and AES.

“There is no doubt that the push to electrification will affect our way of life,” concluded Frank De Rego, Jr., Director of Business Development Projects, MEDB, and Co-Chair of the Conference Program Committee. “Electrification demands attention, among other things, to upgrading the grid, working out a reasonable and responsive regulatory framework, and responding to community needs and concerns, including equity.”

The Hawaii Energy Conference is planning a return to an in-person event on Maui in 2023.

Abigail Anthony, Commissioner,
Rhode Island PUC gave the keynote on Day 1 of the Hawaii Energy Conference
Caroline Carl, Executive Director of Hawaii Energy spoke about Energy Efficiency
Amy Jaffe of the Climate Policy Lab at the Fletcher School of Tufts University gave the keynote on Day 2 of the Hawaii Energy Conference
Shelee Kimura, President & CEO, Hawaiian Electric Company addressed the Hawaii Energy Conference on Day 2
Johnathan Koehn (bottom left), Chief Sustainability & Resilience Officer, City of Boulder; Interim Director, Climate Initiatives Department, City of Boulder moderated a panel on “The Role of Electrification in a Climate Resilient Future” Panelists from top left were Rachel Golden, Carbon-Free Buildings, RMI; Karl R. Rábago, Rábago Energy LLC; and Craig Lewis, Clean Coalition
Keynote speakers announced for 9th Annual Hawaii Energy Conference

Keynote speakers announced for 9th Annual Hawaii Energy Conference

The 9th Annual Hawaii Energy Conference will feature two keynote speakers to headline each of the days of May 10 and 12 as it explores the theme “Electrification: Where are we now? What does the future hold?” The conference will open with Abigail Anthony, Commissioner, Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission speaking to the topic “When Tradewinds Blow: Maintaining Course during the Energy Transition.”  

Commissioner Abigail Anthony is currently the Chair of the Commission on Energy Resources and the Environment of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the President of the Board of the New England Utility Cybersecurity Integration Collaborative. Previously, she was the director of Acadia Center’s Grid Modernization and Utility Reform Initiative, and the organization’s Rhode Island director.  During her time as director of Acadia Center, Anthony was appointed to the Rhode Island Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council, where she served from 2010 to 2017 overseeing the implementation of the state’s energy efficiency programs and policies.

On Day 2, Amy Myers Jaffe, Research Professor and Managing Director of the Climate Policy Lab at the Fletcher School of Tufts University will address the conference. Jaffe boldly declared recently in the Wall Street Journal, “The electrification of (almost) everything is coming, and we’re just not ready for it.” 

A leading expert on global energy policy and sustainability, Jaffe previously served as senior advisor for sustainability at the Office of the Chief Investment Officer at the University of California, Regents and as executive director for energy and sustainability at University of California, Davis where she led research on low or zero carbon fuels and transportation policy. Jaffe has taught energy policy, business, and sustainability courses at Rice University, University of California, Davis, and Yale University.

Widely published, Jaffe is the author of “Energy’s Digital Future: Harnessing Innovation for American Resilience and National Security” and is co-author of “Oil, Dollars, Debt and Crises: The Global Curse of Black Gold.” She is chair of the steering committee of the Women in Energy Initiative at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy policy and a member of the Global Future Council on Net Zero Transition at the World Economic Forum (Davos).

Presented by Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) and supported by the County of Maui Office of Economic Development, the Hawaii Energy Conference will be virtual and in addition to the keynotes will feature panel discussions, interviews and exhibits over the two days.

The program includes a conversation with Shelee Kimura, newly-appointed President and CEO of Hawaiian Electric. Shelee previously served as senior vice president of Customer Service & Public Affairs and senior vice president of Business Development & Strategic Planning. She provided leadership for the company’s customer care initiatives through the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn, making equity and access a top priority while improving customer satisfaction and stakeholder engagement. She led the development of Hawaiian Electric’s 2015- 2020 Strategic Transformation Plan. During that period, she strengthened and grew the Hawaii market for affordable, clean energy resources and launched the electric transportation division, which will play a critical role to help decarbonize Hawaii’s economy.

Abigail Anthony, Commissioner, Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission

Amy Myers Jaffe, Research Professor and Managing Director of the Climate Policy Lab at the Fletcher School of Tufts University

Shelee Kimura, President and CEO of Hawaiian Electric

Panel topics to be explored over the two days are:

  • Electrification and Battery Storage
  • The Community and Electrification
  • Electrification and Energy Efficiency
  • Electrification and Transportation
  • Electrification and Carbon: It’s a Math Problem
  • Systemic Shocks and the Changing Pace of Electrification
  • Electrification and the Cost of Resilience: Are We Prepared?

A study by Princeton University predicts that by 2050 electrifying transport and buildings could double the amount of electricity consumption in the U.S.

“There is no doubt that the push to Electrification will affect our way of life,” stated De Rego. “Electrification demands attention, among other things, to upgrading the grid, working out a reasonable and responsive regulatory framework, and responding to community needs and concerns.”

The virtual venue will be open up to a week in advance, encouraging attendees to network to connect and build important relationships prior to, during and after the conference. They will be able to visit the virtual exhibit hall where companies showcase their products and services and can connect with attendees via chat or video.

Learn more about registering for the 2022 Hawaii Energy Conference

Hawaii Energy Conference returns virtually to explore Electrification 

Hawaii Energy Conference returns virtually to explore Electrification 

Amy Myers Jaffe, a research professor at Tuft’s University, boldly declared in the Wall Street Journal, “The electrification of (almost) everything is coming, and we’re just not ready for it.” The 9th Annual Hawaii Energy Conference will explore the theme “Electrification: Where are we now? What does the future hold?” as it revisits the challenges of electrifying the grid and transportation – current successes, potential pitfalls, and future opportunities. 

Presented by Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) and supported by the County of Maui Office of Economic Development, the conference will again be virtual and will feature keynotes, panel discussions, interviews and exhibits over two days – May 10 and 12. 

The concept of electrification usually refers to a loosely defined slogan – the “electrification of everything,” explained Frank De Rego, Jr., Director of Business Development Projects, MEDB, and Co-Chair of the Program Committee. “In essence, electrification means all the energy we rely on to power our homes, offices, industries, and transportation will eventually come from electricity. For a growing number of states in the U.S. that energy must be produced by 100% clean, renewable sources by a date certain – for Hawaii it’s the year 2045.” 

Electrification has created the potential for new technologies associated with the production and use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel source and has necessitated innovations in battery storage for utilities and transportation. Electrification also demands attention, among other things, to upgrading the grid, working out a reasonable and responsive regulatory framework, and responding to community needs and concerns.  

“There is no doubt that the push to Electrification will affect our way of life,” stated De Rego. “A study by Princeton University predicts that by 2050 electrifying transport and buildings could double the amount of electricity consumption in the U.S.” 

He continued, “Our communities will need to develop disciplined, proportional responses to the challenges Electrification poses. Strategies for energy efficiency and the equitable distribution of electrification’s benefits must balance building capacity for increased consumption.” 

  The two-day discussion will review the issues surrounding electrification with the following thoughts in mind: How do we define “electrification” and is it the same everywhere? How are the community’s needs and concerns being addressed as the infrastructure for electrification become more prevalent? How is resilience being brought into the equation of electrification? What has been and will be the impact of COVID-19 on customers of the utility? What should the climate goals of electrification be – net zero carbon, net negative carbon, or zero emissions?  What is the role of hydrogen in electrification?  …and more 

With in-person gatherings still impacted by COVID-19, the virtual presentation allows the energy industry leaders from Hawaii, the Continental U.S., Japan and Europe to continue to exchange ideas on how to better serve the community in today’s rapidly changing power generation and delivery environment.  

The conference will also include a virtual exhibit hall for companies to showcase their products and services and connect with attendees.  The virtual venue will be open up to a week in advance, encouraging attendees to network to connect and build important relationships prior to, during and after the conference.  

Learn more about registration for the 2022 Hawaii Energy Conference.

Frank De Rego, Jr, (pictured right) Director of Business Development Projects, MEDB and Co-Chair of Conference Program Committee hosts the 2021 Hawaii Energy Conference with former Chair, Doug McLeod

Media Coverage 2020

Maui Economic Development Board, with support of Maui County Office of Economic Development, wrapped up the virtual 2021 Hawaii Energy Conference on June 25.  The Conference attracted a record number of participants – 413; 54 speakers and 18 sponsors &/or exhibitors from Hawaii, Continental U.S. , Japan, Canada and Australia.

Below is a list of articles published by the press and other online sources before, during and Post-Conference.


8th Annual Hawaiʻi Energy Conference to Focus on Investment in People and Projects – MauiNow April 18

Conference to explore the energy transition in Hawaii – Lahaina News April 16

Energy conference set for June 22, 24 – Maui News April 6 

Virtual Conference To Explore Energy Transition in Hawaiʻi Set for June 22 & 24 – MauiNow.com April 1

Highlights of the 2021 Hawaii Energy Conference

Highlights of the 2021 Hawaii Energy Conference

The 8th annual Hawaii Energy Conference (HEC) welcomed over 370 participants as it explored the theme Energy Transition in Hawaii: Focus on Investments in People and Projects. Presented by Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) and supported by the County of Maui Office of Economic Development, the online two-day conference June 22 and 24 featured keynotes, panel discussions, interviews, networking, and exhibits.

Doug McLeod, Frank De Rego, Jr and Leslie Wilkins, get ready to welcome attendees to the 8th Hawaii Energy Conference

With in-person gatherings still limited due to Covid-19, the virtual presentation allowed the energy industry leaders from Hawaii, the continental U.S. and beyond to continue to exchange ideas on how to serve the community better in today’s rapidly changing power generation and delivery environment.

Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President and CEO, reflected, “As we explored our theme, the word ‘investment’ was used in its broadest sense. Besides financial capital, it includes our cultural, social, and human capital. We all know that every community in the U.S. and throughout the world must invest in and draw upon the knowledge, understanding, and skills of the people to develop a clean, secure, resilient, and sustainable energy future.”

The conference began by reflecting on the HEC’s special focus of our responsibilities to the life of the land and its people with a pule (blessing) by Clifford Nae’ole, cultural advisor to The Ritz Carlton in Kapalua. Wilkins commented, “Clifford said it elegantly: ‘Look to the future, respect each other, listen, understand, decide. The future is ours. We are all connected by a single source of energy.’”

“In Hawaii we are approaching the renewable energy ‘tipping point’ where most of the daytime energy on the grid comes from renewable energy. 2021 promises to be another year of big change in the energy sector, both in Hawaii and the rest of the nation,” said Doug McLeod, Chairman of the HEC Program Committee. “Our opening keynote speaker, Suleman Kahn from Swell Energy, talked about Virtual Power Plants (VPPs). VPPs are an interesting concept because it is a vision that is so much broader than where we started on batteries.”

Day two kicked off with invited speaker Mark Toney, Executive Director, TURN (The Utility Reform Network) with an engaging presentation on Stop Overpaying For Solar and Other Pathways to Affordable Bills. As Executive Director of TURN, Toney sets the organization’s strategic course and directs TURN’s legal and political advocacy on behalf of over 37 million Californians.

In addition to the panel discussions there were interviews of Jennifer Potter, Hawaii Public Utilities Commissioner, on the subject of Performance Based Regulation (PBR); Leilani Chow, Project Manager for Molokai Clean Energy Hui; Henry Curtis, Executive Director and Vice President of Life of the Land; Bob King, President and Founder of Pacific Biodiesel Technologies, LLC; and Dawn Lippert, Elemental Excelerator CEO.

Fifteen minute spotlight talks featured Ulupono Initiative on Investing in EVs, and a discussion on Hydrogen with Chuck Collins, Board Member, Hawaii Hydrogen Alliance and Michelle Detwiler, Executive Director, Renewable Hydrogen Alliance.

Participants were able to view all the presentations live as well as connect and network with each other and sponsors through the virtual platform. Participating sponsors and exhibitors were: Hawaiian Electric; Hawaii Natural Energy Institute; Ulupono Initiative; Elemental Excelerator; Kauai Island Utility Cooperative; Progression Hawaii Offshore Wind; Swell Energy; Burns & McDonnell; and Generac Power Systems.

The 2021 HEC participants recognized cultural knowledge and community participation as key to implementing new energy projects,” concluded Frank De Rego, Jr., MEDB Director of Business Development, Vice Chairman of the HEC Program Committee, and President of the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce “The attendees all benefited from the cultural ‘ike (knowledge) shared.”

Watch the replays

Continue reading for highlights from all the presentations.

DAY 1 | JUNE 22

Keynote: Suleman Kahn, Swell Energy

Creating Transformative and Inclusive Opportunities with VPPs

Suleman Kahn, CEO of Swell Energy gave the keynote at the 2021 Hawaii Energy Conference

In January, the Public Utilities Commission ( PUC) approved a $25 million contract for Swell Energy, a California-based energy and grid services provider, to partner with Hawaiian Electric for the delivery of various grid services. Swell Energy will be the administrator and operator of a VPP for the islands.

Kahn said, “At Swell Energy we establish ways to further integrate distributed energy resources into various grid networks in a manner that aligns the interest of consumers, utilities, regulators, and financiers. A VPP is an aggregated network of distributed solar and energy storage resources that can be centrally controlled by a grid operator and an aggregator, instead of a traditional centralized power plant. By creating a critical mass of dynamic and responsive team energy resources such as solar and energy storage within specific utility areas, Swell Energy  delivers resilient VPP networks and grid services to utilities, which are fundamental to a carbon-free distributed energy system.

“Our vision is to expand the network of distributed energy resources, such as solar power batteries, across Hawaii in a manner that allows us to maximize the utilization of valuable energy resources and to insure that this energy transition happens in an equitable manner across communities and people.

“In the midst of this progress, there is a key point to be made about exactly how to deploy the energy resources across the islands. The rapid and expansive deployment of decentralized energy resources can be one of the most efficient ways to affect this transition to renewable energy. We must ensure that this evolution happens in a manner that is equitable across communities.

“When VPPs come into the picture, they allow consumers to participate in a two-way transactive process for generating and consuming energy to and from the grid. In the past, when energy has been a one-way flow, the power plants allowed for transactive energy between the customer and the utility. This is key to the transformative value of VPPs. It does represent somewhat of a power shift or a power flattening across the various constituents on the grid. We must acknowledge that these distributive energy resources aggregated in the form of VPPs can help ensure that distributed energy resources work together for the greater good and the greater community service.”

PANEL: Investing in Hawaii

Moderated by: Frank De Rego, Jr., Vice Chair, HEC Program Committee; Director of Business Development Projects, MEDB; and President of the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce.

De Rego said, “This panel discussion was one of numerous conversations at this year’s HEC about the importance of cultural knowledge and values in such things as systems of governance, sovereignty, economy, and energy project development.”

Carol-Marie Kaʻonohi Lee, Poʻo, ʻAha Moku O Honuaʻula Council
Suzanne Singer, Founder and Executive Director, Native Renewables
Wren Wescoatt, Director of Development, Hawaii, Longroad Energy

Carol-Marie Ka’ Onohi Lee said, “Developers contact me to learn the lay of the land about areas they want to develop. We work with the method of managing the land ‘from mauka to makai’ because mauka affects the ocean. To better serve the community, developers need to understand basic native Hawaiian values in addition to historical and generational knowledge.

“The earlier the developer consults with us the better it is to discuss any cultural impacts to the environment, as well as to Native Hawaiian resources. Being responsible to the host culture lays the basic foundation for a successful relationship prior to even proposing the project.

“As the initial conversation gets further along, the developer is usually accommodating and can offer the community options for what they would like to see. Modifications are always needed on a project, hence the importance of balance and compromise.”

Wren Wescoatt said, “Building trust and respect within the context of equitable community development is vital. As a local representative in clean energy transition, my job is to help stakeholders understand the culture and values of the host community. My company develops and builds large utility-scale energy projects, wind and solar. I assist them in the context of who our host community is in Hawaii, their culture and the environment around the project.

“We consider what is personally important to the people, in terms of their values and how our plan will fit in their community. Planning a project from the inception with community members is a new way to approach it, even to designing the project. You must ask people what is important to them; what are the stories and the cultural lens of the area, including agriculture, education, and respect for cultural and archaeological resources. It takes work and patience to be willing to change the project if needed. Community outreach has to be a two-way conversation. You have to be sincere and build trust in order for the conversation to be honest. A successful project here in Hawaii does not just produce clean energy, it needs to respect the values of the community.”

Suzanne Singer said, “The mainland and Hawaii have strong cultural ties to community and land, both vital to the development of renewable energy projects. The cultural knowledge and values of our indigenous Navajo and Hopi nations, many of whom are off the electric grid, is essential to discussions with developers about our economy and energy transition.

“In Navajo and Hopi nations, energy access is still an issue. The Navajo nation is about 27,000 square miles of land and about 15,000 people still have no access to good electricity. My organization, Native Renewables, was started to work on these vital issues. We focus on residential solar for families that currently rely on propane lamps, kerosine, and generators to get their power. There is a lot of water infrastructure still missing, internet access, food distribution, and more.

“Our team focuses on education to explain maintenance needs in projects and how they work. We need to be visual so people can conceptualize what is happening. Also, because sovereign nations have their own processes and ways of doing things, developers and tribal indigenous communities need patience working with each other.”

PANEL: Distributed Energy Resources: Clean, Affordable, and Resilient Power for a Carbon-Free Energy Future

 Hawaii is at the leading edge of distributed rooftop solar and storage. This panel discussed what is happening in the Distributed Energy Resource (DER) market here in Hawaii and globally as market participants and policy-makers team up to innovate and build a more resilient electrical grid and economy to combat climate change and prosper.

Moderated by: Clarice Schafer, Supervising Utility Analyst, Hawaii Public Utility Commission (PUC)

Jon Fortune, Vice President, Grid Services Market Development, Swell Energy
Robert “Rocky” Mould, Executive Director, Hawaii Solar Energy Association
Kylie Wager Cruz, Staff Attorney, Earthjustice

Clarice Schafer said, “Our discussion concerns the latest developments with DER technologies, programs, and policies in Hawaii. With the upcoming retirement of some of the largest fossil fuel power plants on Oahu and Maui, DERs including efficiency grid services, community based renewables, rooftop solar and distributed storage, will play a critical role in fulfilling the capacity and grid service needs. The launch of VPPs throughout the Hawaiian islands involves the recent establishment of bring-your-own-device programs through the scheduled dispatch writer, and an Emergency Demand Response Program on Oahu that was just recently established to provide incentives to customers for measured load reductions during reliability-triggered events. Also, there are industry efforts to reduce DERs where energy is generated or managed behind the electricity meter in the home or business, that is, generated on the energy user’s side of the meter but still connected to the grid.

“It is imminent now that we get new VPP and DER programs implemented and for people to sign up. The emergency need is because of the upcoming retirement of the 180 megawatt power plant on Oahu as well as for those that will be retired on other islands. These new programs are clean, cost effective ways to mitigate the needs that come with the retirement of the dirty power plants.”

Jon Fortune said, “Swell Energy develops VPPs from DERs, which at this point are primarily solar and battery storage deployed behind the meter to homes and businesses. We connect the communities by deploying these systems to provide customers with benefits such as bill savings, resiliency and reliability. The utility or community will benefit by making the grid more resilient by being able to aggregate these systems over the internet and provide resources to make the grid operation more efficient and less costly.

“What is unique about Hawaii is it manages its own isolated island grids. Because of the increased renewables in Hawaii, the ability is there for us to provide services directly to Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc. (HECO) and we are able to provide fast frequency response support for the grid. Our VPP program targets customers who want to install new solar storage, and also intends to enroll existing battery systems that are already out there in the marketplace, in order to leverage the resources that Hawaii has already installed.

“To date, Swell has approximately six virtual power plants in development across the U.S. Plus, we are developing the VPPs across three islands in Hawaii that represent over 15,000 systems being deployed behind the meter, mostly at residential facilities. The VPP is designed to allow HECO to signal Swell to dispatch the systems to provide services. The program requires an aggregator such as ourselves with a software program that is able to monitor and optimize the performance of the battery. With a VPP there is a lot more active control and monitoring of the system to manage the resources in a more targeted way.”

Rocky Mould said, “We need to discuss opportunities going forward for DERs to provide an alternative to, or an enhancement of, the traditional electric power grid. Distributed rooftop solar has led the way in Hawaii over the last few years. Next is wind. Permits and installations and soft costs have gone up. In Hawaii we are adding the cost of storage also. We need to focus on what to do to bring costs down. In the U.S. the costs are higher than other countries. So, we need policies and programs going forward.

“In our local industry we have a bill passed to simplify the permitting process and the time to get permits through. Per the bill, there is a 14- day period for a completed application to get approval. We also need cleaner and clearer rules for town homes, multi-family and low to moderate income markets put into place. This opens up a whole new market here in Hawaii that will help maximize and optimize renewable energy going forward. Also, it covers smaller scale solar storage and solar hot water projects, as well as electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.

“The Demand Response Program brings resources online as quickly as possible to utilize existing capacity and adds battery compacity to serve this need. It is designed for existing customers to add new battery compacity as well as the EV generation, but also new customers coming in will be able to enroll their batteries. Although we have a long way to go, we are looking forward to new programs going forward.”

Kylie Wager Cruz said, “Some of the more recent policy development programs for DER developments in Hawaii include rooftop solar, home batteries, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency measures like solar water heaters. DER programs are established by the PUC and they preset compensation rates terms. DERs empower communities to participate in renewable energy and provide clean energy services to the grid. We can reduce customer electricity bills, we can avoid the competitive and lengthy bidding process that applies to larger utility-scale projects, and we can avoid community concerns about big projects competing with other large land users like agriculture.

“Oahu is planning to retire its largest power plant by the end of 2022. Due to delays in bringing big solar farms online, they expect an energy shortage during the peak demand period in the fall of 2022 and the fall of 2023. The PUC is looking at all options like DERs and energy efficiency to fill grid needs without resorting to fossil fuels. The new 50-megawatt Energy Demand Response Program allows existing customers to install batteries so they are no longer on the more passive systems. To help them serve their own load at home, they will install home batteries and have the ability to add up to 5 kilowatts of generation to their system. The big focus in the DER docket is to expand access for low and moderate income customers. Some of the ideas on the table are establishing virtual net energy metering for affordable housing, condos and town homes, and establishing DER incentive and solar saving programs.

“Another plan, the Community-Based Renewal Energy Program, is a community solar program where customers can enroll in a renewable energy project that is managed by a third party. The project can be rooftop or off-site. The customers who subscribe would be able to receive credits on their bills for the energy produced by the projects. This can open up access for renters, condo dwellers, and townhome dwellers.”

“At the county level, we have a 100-percent clean ground transportation energy mandate and a 100-percent carbon neutrality goal for the state by 2045. We need to start thinking about utilizing DER programs to maximize the power of EVs that can be coming online in the next two decades. We need programs that encourage charging outside of the peak period and allow for export to the grid. Hopefully, we will also have a program that can possibly use vehicles as a resource to contribute back to the grid.”

PANEL: How Will Environmental Social Governance (ESG) Affect Energy Investment in Hawaii?

 This panel discussed how companies’ commitments to environmental impacts, social aspects and governance are impacting investment decisions that may shape Hawaii’s energy future. ESG criteria help investors find companies with values that match their own environmental criteria that may include a company’s energy use, waste, pollution, natural resource conservation, and treatment of animals.

 Moderated by: Lorraine Akiba, President and CEO, LHA Venture

Jon Powers, Co-founder and President, CleanCapital
Dana Sato, Director, Leasing & Transactions, Community & ʻĀina Resiliency Group, Kamehameha Schools
Scott Valentino, President, Pacific Current

Lorraine Akiba said, “In keeping up with ESG framework, businesses today require a plan of action that reflects their purpose. It takes real world experience to hardcode ESG principles into growth strategy and operations. It also takes the commitment of leadership to bring people and technology together to drive meaningful action and sustained outcomes for their stakeholders.  Disclosures for all companies are more important than ever. Regulatory certainty through ESGs will benefit Hawaii with clear measures and present a level playing field for investors and for those who rate investments in Hawaii. ESG is not just a responsibility. It is a mindset and an opportunity to get the project right.”

Jon Powers said, “At CleanCapital, engaging ESGs started with energy and sustainability. Our founding mission was to accelerate the flow of institutional capital into clean energy. We realized that there was a real opportunity to unleash more efficient cost effective capital in the clean energy market and we are committed to making clean energy accessible to everyone. By professionalizing ESG investing there is understanding of how a project is handled. We look forward to working with Hawaii and bringing investors that have a social impact governed with the values and principles of stewardship of the land.

“Clean Capital breaks down barriers to entry and invites direct investment in the clean energy generation. Using cutting-edge data and analytics, we canvass the market for quality projects and package them into high-performing portfolios for our investors. Our innovative technology streamlines the acquisition process, enabling us to underwrite renewable energy portfolios efficiently and then manage them into the future to optimize returns.”

Dana Sato said, “As the largest landowner in the state of Hawaii, Kamehameha School is attending the HEC from the landowner perspective. We are currently involved in six renewable energy projects at the utility level. What is unique about Hawaii is that when we look at our land we see our responsibility to take care of our ‘aina. We recognize the land is chief and it will be here forever, and it truly rules. Man is, in fact, its servant because we are here for a temporary period of time.

“We measure the stewardship of our lands against five values: education, economics, environment, culture, and community. When we look at the land from the values we stand on, our expectation is to find energy partners that are willing to work with us. We are not just focused in one area, but all five areas. Many developers come to Hawaii and think they are here to do a good thing, so it is hard for them because we expect a lot more. We expect educational programs to contribute to what they do as well. For example, economics tie into whether they will be hiring our local people here. Culturally, we are sensitive to how the ‘aina is being treated, which ties into community, etc.

“Actually, from a cultural perspective in the ESG movement, an ideal situation for us would be to work with more local companies. It is a good thing that the State is finally going in the right direction with clean environmental and climate-change projects.”

Scott Valentino said, “At Pacific Current, a subsidiary investment platform for accelerating Hawaii’s sustainable future, we are joining forces with local partners and community members to catalyze the development of sustainable infrastructure projects that will advance Hawaii’s environmental and economic development objectives. To deliver long-range positive returns, we incorporate ESG investments into our renewable energy decisions as part of our selection process. We identify, assess, and manage environmental and social risks to ensure that our potential partners’ values align with our own and positively impacts our communities.

“Pacific Current’s multi-sector sustainable infrastructure strategy goes beyond electricity to be aligned with Hawaii’s de-carbonization goals, of which transportation is one of the largest contributors. We operate in all the sectors that contribute to Hawaii’s carbon-neutral goals by 2045, offering solutions to developers that can help with the adoption of technologies for cost-effective solutions.”

Jennifer Potter, Hawaii PUC

INTERVIEW: Jennifer Potter, Hawaii Public Utilities Commissioner, on the subject of Performance Based Regulation (PBR)

 Potter said,PBR includes a set of alternative regulatory mechanisms intended to focus utilities on performance and desired outcomes, such as increased renewable energy, lower cost, and improved customer service. The PUC issued a decision and order approving a portfolio of new Performance Incentive Mechanisms (PIMs), scorecards, and reported metrics. The portfolio went into effect on June 1, 2021.

“PIMs, key components of the PBR framework for HECO, are built on the historic transformation of the electricity industry in Hawaii. The portfolio offers additional financial incentives targeting exemplary performance in achieving the State’s clean energy goals, and penalties for the reverse. The PUC continued the collaborative process utilized to develop the PBR framework, and worked with a wide variety of stakeholders to finalize the critical details of the performance mechanisms.

“The commission’s order, developed over an almost three-year stakeholder proceeding, aligns the company’s actions, the customer’s experience, and Hawaii’s ambitious clean energy goals. It provides the right incentives to aggressively move ahead with modernizing the company’s and Hawaii’s energy system.

“Hawaiian Electric became the first U.S. investor-owned utility to transition away from cost of service regulation. We are moving away from the regulatory compact that has been in place for over 100 years to this new regime that will be evaluating the companies based on their performance rather than looking at the capital expenditures and the capital that they earn. Over five years, it will move from earning revenues based on capital expenditures to PBR and financial stability, based on limited rate-based revenues and rewards for achieving public policy goals and cutting customer costs. There will be day-one savings when this goes into effect and we expect to see more savings as the other opportunities are used.

“The approved portfolio of scorecards and reported metrics will track and measure utility performance across a wide spectrum of categories to provide valuable data that can inform future planning and development efforts. It is a big paradigm shift. We will build a platform and web page to show performance on several metrics. The metrics from the PBR will be recorded on the electric company website where we will see the advancements.”

PANEL: Possible Federal Decarbonization Standards: How Could That Change Policies, Plans, Rules, and Regulation in Hawaii?

Discussions are taking place in Washington DC on establishing national clean-energy standards based upon one of several national, economy-wide decarbonization standards. This panel talked about how such a national clean-energy standard could impact Hawaii’s efforts, its impact on Hawaii’s policy, plans, regulation, and other goals to achieve 100-percent Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

Moderated by: Colton Ching, Senior Vice President, Planning & Technology, Hawaiian Electric

Murray Clay, President, Ulupono Initiative
Scott Glenn, Chief Energy Officer, Hawaii State Energy Office
Josh Sawislak, Senior Advisor, Hawaii Green Growth
Ed Sniffen, Deputy Director for Highways, Department of Transportation, State of Hawaii

Colton Ching said, “I work on strategies and plans for Hawaiian Electric in all the five islands we serve. This topic of de-carbonization is something that is front of mind for me as we plan out the electric system in Hawaii, not only for our local and state goals, but for how we become part of the global effort to de-carbonize the entire world economy.

“Currently, we are working on reducing or eliminating carbon from certain sectors of transportation. There are a lot of opportunities to electrify the transportation sectors, such as light and heavy duty vehicles, marine transportation, and even aviation. Electrification opportunities to reduce gas emissions are going to require greater production of electricity and lower carbon. Reducing the greenhouse gas economy is a challenge with tourism being up and a big part of a carbon-intensive activity.”

Murray Clay said, “I feel like the RPS that we have in Hawaii is already at a higher standard. I think that our renewable standard is in a great place, although we are not connected to a continental grid; our position of solar and wind is better than almost anywhere on the mainland.

“Electrification is our path forward. We are seeing more and more of inter-island business plans to fly electric planes. The price up front for EVs may be a little more, but everyone can benefit from the fact that the total life cycle cost is cheaper.

“We want to protect Hawaii’s natural beauty. Locals and tourists would rather see a solar or wind farm than a power plant. They do not want to see a ruined environment in a place they live or visit.”

Scott Glenn said, “Hawaii has an ambitious goal to be carbon-negative. We have a net-negative goal and want to get it done by accelerating progress to get carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere no later than 2045, and not put anymore into it.

“The cutting edge piece will be the electrification of transportation. It is the really important work on the ground. We must start transforming our fleet and hope residents will do the same in the near future. Before Covid started, we put together an innovative procurement method to use sustainability as a service by leasing EVs and charging stations. Federal electrification might benefit us. One of the best forms of energy efficiency is to promote bicycling, walking, and using mass transportation buses to help with de-carbonization.”

Josh Sawislak said, “During his climate summit, President Biden announced a new nationally determined contribution for the U.S. under the Paris Agreement that would reduce carbon emissions from the 2005 levels by 50-52 percent. Plus, the administration is talking about 100-percent carbon-free electricity by 2035. This is a driving goal that lines up well with what Hawaii is trying to do. My guess is that in our new clean-energy standard there is a nationwide standard. We should look at it as a national program with a goal we want to get to. The problem we have to solve is carbon. We have to understand that we must de-carbonize.

“We have great opportunities to do experimental work to convert the state’s fleet of vehicles to electric as the federal government electrifies their military, civilian, and postal fleets. Conversations around the federal fleet will hopefully work for our state and local electrification. We can also use the new fleet we create to help us with storage. We have great opportunities in Hawaii. We have already demonstrated how to make the island more sustainable.”

Ed Sniffen said, “Hawaii is well on its way to providing a credible first-hand account of the need for climate resiliency in transportation. Based on fuel consumption alone, transportation is a large contribution to the release of carbon dioxide into the environment in Hawaii and globally.

“There are important measures to converting the transportation sector. We talk about barriers all the time in electrification. On the private side the barriers have always been cost, and on the other side it has always been contracting. However, overall, electrification is a net saving for the state.

“We already have a system that we can build on and put into place. We need to make sure we have emission reductions through the technologies that we have, and that EVs are part of that. Further initiatives are possible because of networking, resource sharing, and coordination at all levels of government in Hawaii. Nationally, we encourage sharing of resilience initiatives in all areas.”

SPOTLIGHT TALK: Investing in EVs by Ulupono Initiative

Stakeholders from across the state took part in the Ulupono Initiative video which termed Hawaii as the first to enact a 100-percent carbon-neutral goal when it signed a law to become carbon-neutral by 2045. Hawaii took the wheel on its own transportation future through a statewide, multi-agency service contract. Currently, there are approximately 300 charging locations in the state and nearly 700 ports.

David Y. Ige, Governor of the State of Hawaii, said, “As the most oil-dependent state in the nation, Hawaii spends roughly $5 billion a year on foreign oil to meet its energy needs. Making the transition to renewable, indigenous resources for power generation will allow us to keep more of that money at home, thereby improving our economy, environment, and energy security.”

On the national level, it was mentioned that President Biden plans to replace the government fleet with EVs, while leading investors urge all governments to end support for fossil fuels. Also, groups controlling an enormous amount in assets signed joint statements calling on world leaders to bolster net-zero targets.


INVITED TALK: Mark Toney, Executive Director, TURN (The Utility Reform Network)

Stop Overpaying For Solar and Other Pathways to Affordable Bills

As Executive Director of TURN, Toney sets the organization’s strategic course and directs TURN’s legal and political advocacy on behalf of over 37 million Californians.

 Toney said, “TURN, founded in 1973, fights for the cleanest energy and best phone service at the lowest prices. We participate in over 100 California public utility commission proceedings annually. We have a lobbying team in Sacramento to impact legislation, and an organizing team to bring communities of color into policy design and decision-making. Plus, TURN has a communication team to drive the public debate on key policy initiatives. TURN believes that we can and should live in a society in which electricity, broadband, and phone services are treated as basic rights for all families.

“Planet-change policy needs to be centered on climate equity. The cost of greening the grid should not cut off black, brown, indigenous, or any low-income communities from the grid because the prices are too high. In 2019, California utilities cut off power to over 800,000 families just because they fell behind in paying their bills.

“We cannot afford to let electricity prices rise so high that it undermines fuel-switching to electric vehicles from gasoline vehicles, to building electrification from natural gas. We need to design electricity rates for an equitable equity transition, because if we do not bring down the prices we are going to have a crisis on our hands. In order to reach climate equity we have to have a paradigm shift, we have to stop depending on subsidies as the primary driver for climate policy and we need to move from subsidies to the regulatory requirements. We need to figure out a way to move residential energy efficiency from being dependent on building and appliance standards.

“When it comes to EV charging stations, we need to replace subsidies with revenue from the transportation sector. When it comes to building electrification we need to replace subsidies with a requirement that new buildings are all electric and existing buildings get transformed to electric as a requirement to escrow.

“In California, the largest driver for increasing climate equity is overpaying for rooftop solar. Non-solar customers are overpaying for rooftop, solar customers are paying too little for the energy grid, and low-income communities of color are systematically excluded from rooftop solar. Climate equity means that all communities get to share clean-energy benefits. Currently, rooftop solar customers benefit from generous subsidies that significantly favor higher-income homeowners and disproportionately leave low-income and people of color behind.

“Smarter and more solar incentives will provide a factor to transition to solar energy, lower the cost of electricity bills, and create a more fair and balanced system. Prioritizing the largest renewable energy system which can support entire communities instead of single homes can make renewable power a reality for low-income families and help us achieve our climate goals more quickly.”

DISCUSSION: Hawaii’s Inclusive Energy Transition

Chief Energy Officer Scott Glenn of the Hawaii State Energy Office and Community Leader Sunny Unga discussed including welcoming perspectives and input from local communities during Hawaii’s energy transition.

Scott Glenn said,Due to the Kahuku incident in 2019, where approximately 160 arrests were made over wind-turbines protests, I sat down with community activist Sunny Unga to discuss what future energy plans should look like with respect for the people and their communities. It is apparent that policymakers and developers will have to find a way to navigate community concerns if they want their projects to move forward. A major issue is community involvement.

“Conversations that Unga and I had will help shape the Energy Office going forward. We exchanged questions at the HEC to listen and hear each other’s opinions even if we did not agree on everything. I believe it is important to keep the line of communication open as the job of the Energy Office is to work with everyone in the State─ stakeholders and communities.

“I reached out to the residents of Kahuku and the developers to learn more through the Aloha Spirit Law. I got to know Unga, who said our energy policy work does not include the community. I now realize that it is not only about technology. The challenge is how we work together.

“It is important to know when to consult with the community and how to work with folks across all the islands. The Energy Office must be doing a lot more of that. We want to put upcoming meetings on our website and be a source of information that can be used to help make decisions. We are trying to help communities with energy scale projects. However, a lot of the projects are location- based which provides many challenges. We must add Aloha and show we can work together and listen to each other. We have to be wise stewards of our resources together.”

Sunny Unga said,  “We need to reflect on what happened in Kahuku that led to the mass arrests in the community and be willing to make an honest assessment on what failed our Kahuku community. The utility and developers need to listen to our experiences to be more transparent with the community.

“I appreciated the conversations at the HEC about equity and community; however, these discussions on inclusiveness are being had without the community present. Therefore, it is vital that we do what we are philosophically talking about: adequately address those principles of equity with community involvement and consent in a meaningful way. I believe this starts by giving the community a seat at the table, having community approval before all the plans and permits are decided upon.

“I believe in the mandate to get to the 100-percent renewable energy goal; however, my question is how do we become more inclusive in our energy transition? Understandably, ways to combat climate change and projects are needed. Nevertheless, these goals need to encompass indigenous rights and sustainability as a whole. If it is only focused on what the utility and developers want, regardless of our other important goals, such as food security and agriculture, then we will end up with bad projects.

“I want to reiterate that this top-down profit-driven approach really puts corporate interests and profits over the well-being and interest of the community. We need to ensure that communities are active participants and meaningfully engaged in the development of creative energy projects that are culturally driven. The current system is broken. It does not seem to matter how much effort we put in, we continue to feel that we are not being heard. What does a meeting mean if the developer does what they want at the end of the day? Hawaii has to lead in a right and pono way with equity, with community in mind, and with environmental justice.”

VIDEO PRESENTATIONS: Community Insights: Different Views, Similar Goals

A series of interviews arranged in collaboration with Josh Porter of Solar Coaster showcased the energy innovations, challenges, and goals within our island communities. The Community Insights video conducted by Porter and Conference Chair, Doug McLeod,  featured Leilani Chow, Project Manager for Molokai Clean Energy Hui; Henry Curtis, Executive Director and Vice President of Life of the Land; and Bob King, President and Founder of Pacific Biodiesel Technologies, LLC.

Leilani Chow said, “The Molokai Clean Energy Hui (MCEH) is an independent community-led group committed to helping Molokai become a sustainable, clean-energy community. I facilitate the group’s work on energy conservation, renewable energy, and clean transportation options for the island.

“I am a Kanaka Maoli aloha ʻāina advocate raised on Molokai, and have worked with Sustainable Molokai since 2010, first as a student volunteer, then as an intern, and most recently as the Hui Up Appliance Exchange Project Coordinator as well as Coordinator for the newly formed MCEH. We aim to help the community understand and engage effectively with the complicated processes and project proposals surrounding renewable energy. We also offer early vetting and input to potential energy developers and other organizations to help them understand Molokai’s priorities, questions, and concerns regarding the impacts and benefits.

“MCEH would like to see clean-energy goals and achieve 100 percent renewable energy. However, we are very aloha ‘aina so there are things that we are not willing to compromise on.  We are working on a way to meet in the middle to have mutually beneficial projects. Based on our size—approximately 7,500 people live on Molokai—we need only a couple of large-scale projects to take care of our sustainability and energy resiliency needs.

“Currently, MCEH is working on a resilience plan with best ways to stabilize our grid. Once all the technical aspects are taken care of, and the community is brought into the conversation, it will be easier to find a developer who understands our needs. Building trust and respect between stakeholders within the context of equitable community development is vital. The Molokai community is continually active towards our energy future.”

Henry Curtis said, “Technology must be resilient. There are bad actors out there so we have to evaluate the bad actor risk factors. It must be considered. Infrastructure can be attacked, through hacking or some other form, especially in Hawaii. We must think about how to design a grid that is environmentally, culturally, community and cyber-community wise—a smart way to the future.

“Resilience has mostly centered on hurricanes; however, now technologies and projects need to be considered for safety. We have evaluated the risk from nature. Now we need to consider a risk that is done purposely.

“We are excited to hear about VPPs. However, when the control is in a centralized location we take a risk that anyone can get in and do harm. Dispatchable power means one person can control it from miles away. Vulnerability to infrastructure is a key issue. The challenge is how to safely design our grid.

“The military says a grid system is vulnerable the more we put on it, and an attack can come from anywhere. There are efforts under way to deal with the cybersecurity and climate-change threat. We need to begin to think about how to design our grid so it will be environmentally and culturally designed for protection.”

Bob King said, “I have been in business for 25 years making biodiesel in Hawaii. We have built dozens of plants around the world. However, in the last five years we have concentrated in Hawaii to make our home a better place. Biodiesel fits in the renewable economy as a gold standard of renewable energy. You can store it easily and use it when you need to run both mobile and power generation equipment.

“The challenge is where biodiesel fits in our energy future. We have to follow the science, and keep all options open. We are going to need diversity; however, the bad guy is fossil fuel. We will need huge batteries to make it through a cloudy windless week. Biodiesel is a perfect fit. It lasts for several years without degrading, and can be used as little as possible. The last ten or twenty percent is where we can make it.

“Also, biodiesel supports growing crops for food and energy. They fit hand to hand. We use sunflowers as converters of solar energy to oil to liquid fuel. The challenge is to make sure it supports food production as well. It is vital to give farming an income they can survive with and grow food for us. Do not bypass biodiesel. It is a key piece of energy transition for Hawaii and the world.”

PANEL:  Hydrogen Talk

Facilitated by: Joshua W. Porter, Founder & Co-host, Solar Coaster

Chuck Collins, Board Member, Hawaii Hydrogen Alliance (HHA)
Michelle Detwiler, Executive Director, Renewable Hydrogen Alliance

Chuck Collins said, “HHA is a Hawaii-based nonprofit advancing hydrogen production from local renewable energy resources. We assist with education, policy, and projects that help move green hydrogen forward in Hawaii and throughout the Pacific region.

“Hydrogen is a versatile fuel or energy resource to be used for transportation, buildings, and for the grid to provide electricity. One of the nicest things about fuel cells, which are part of the whole hydrogen game, is that they omit the electricity and heat; allowing the opportunity to offset things like propane and other fossil fuel resources to make hot water. Presently, there are many opportunities for hydrogen across different sectors.

“Hydrogen and oxygen are bonded together by energy. To split the water into hydrogen you have to shock the water molecule and then capture the hydrogen, store it in canisters and truck it to different sites. I want to mention that hydrogen can also be created from other resources besides water, like agricultural waste and those kind of things. Electrolysis, the process of using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, is a promising option for hydrogen production from renewable resources. This process takes place in a unit called an electrolyzer, the system that creates the hydrogen gas.

“Water-splitting is the chemical reaction in which water is broken down into oxygen and hydrogen. Efficient and economical water splitting would be a technological breakthrough that could underpin a hydrogen economy, based on green hydrogen.  Hydrogen is becoming an essential part of the energy mix.”

Michelle Detwiler said, “Renewable Hydrogen Alliance is a 501(c)(6) membership organization based in Portland, Oregon. We advocate for renewable electricity to produce climate-neutral hydrogen to supplant fossil fuel consumption across multiple economic sectors. We are a trade association with more than 70 members in North America and around the world, including utilities, advocacy groups, manufacturers, providers within manufacturing supply chains, consultants, developers, and others dedicated to the mission of using renewable electricity to create clean fuels. Hydrogen has been talked about for decades. However, recently things have appeared to be accelerating as investments and government support are growing and the hydrogen technology is ready to further scale-up.

“Hydrogen production uses renewable electricity to create a non-polluting fuel for vehicles, vessels, industry and even homes. It can provide a significant piece of the clean-energy mix for the Northwest and beyond, and its production can generate jobs and economic value for the region. Renewable hydrogen is a critical fuel for the electricity, transportation, and industrial sectors. This molecule, derived from renewable electricity, is truly the only scalable zero-carbon fuel that can help advance our electrification and decarbonization goals. Presently, we are working on managing large micro-grids that might include an electrolyzer in their multi- megawatt solar-plus-storage system.

“We are delving deeper to uncover and discuss the role of hydrogen in the energy transition, to hear the latest advancements in its production, distribution and storage. Hydrogen will play a crucial role in meeting the net-zero target by the year 2045, and could help de-carbonization efforts in a number of sectors, particularly in sectors that are hard to electrify, and where greenhouse gas emissions are difficult to abate. Nevertheless, a number of regulatory issues will need to be addressed before hydrogen can play a larger role in the domestic industries.

“The Pacific Northwest is looking at a policy landscape where the energy actors and transportation actors have to make changes and look at every option on the table for how they are going to de-carbonize. We need a financial policy landscape as well, such as tax credits to help initiate projects. Partnerships are needed to scale-up renewable hydrogen in the region to benefit both the economy and the environment.

“There are different types of hydrogen. Green hydrogen is produced using renewable energy and electrolysis to split water. It is distinct from grey hydrogen, which is produced from methane and releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and blue hydrogen, which captures those emissions and stores them underground to prevent them from causing climate change. Lastly, there is pink hydrogen, which is generated through electrolysis powered by nuclear energy. We want to put a spotlight on what is already being done to advance the hydrogen sector and recommend a pathway for success into the future.”

PANEL: Carbon Pricing

Moderated by: Maria Tome, Managing Director, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Hawaii State Energy Office

Makena Coffman, Director, Institute for Sustainability and Resilience, University of Hawaii Mānoa
Neil Dobson, Executive Director, CleanBC Implementation
Representative Nicole Lowen, Chair, House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, State of Hawaii

Maria Tome introduced the panel adding, “We need to address the findings of Hawaii’s carbon pricing study, carbon tax experiences in British Columbia, and the economic effects and effectiveness of carbon-based dividends.”

Nicole Lowen said, “I represent the policy-maker perspective on the carbon pricing issue in Hawaii. The discussion began in 2019 in strong support of carbon pricing as a way to mitigate climate change. At that time, there was an increase in public awareness of carbon tax as part of climate action and a carbon-tax trend. In Hawaii and nationally, groups have been fixing on this idea as a solution for reducing carbon emission.

“As policymakers, we have to  be concerned with real world decisions as well as the impacts they will have. Also important are the political realities of what we can do, such as how high does the carbon tax have to be to be effective, and is it viable to jump into that kind of price point? In 2019, we passed a bill to fund a study to look at what the impacts of carbon pricing would be in Hawaii, which Professor Coffman led. We continue to have conversations about the study at the state legislature. This past session there were a lot of uncertainties in the state budget, which is why we are still in the midst of having the carbon tax discussions.”

Makena Coffman said, “Some of the major highlights from our study, requested by the legislature and commissioned by the Hawaii State Energy Office, are what are greenhouse gas emissions and what are we talking about in terms of reductions to meet the state’s 2045 net-negative goal. The most recent set of inventories done by the ICF (the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health) is on the State Department of Health’s website. Our emissions have stayed relatively flat. We are not yet in the downward trajectory that would need to happen in terms of meeting a net-negative target by 2045. The question is what are the economic and greenhouse gas impacts of a carbon price and how could a carbon price help us meet the greenhouse gas reduction goals?

“Our study used an economy-wide model and we looked at different scenarios of carbon prices and how they might be used. We chose price pathways from the Obama administration, a good starting place to understand global impacts. Secondly, a higher price pathway to access how high the price would have to be in order for carbon pricing to be a meaningful player within the greenhouse gas reduction goals that have been set. We looked at different revenue recycling schemes, such as revenues going back to government spending dollars, and then as a dividend to households, so whatever revenues come in from the carbon tax are given to households in equal shares.

“In the greenhouse gas summary we found that a social cost of a carbon-level carbon tax would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Hawaii from their baseline levels about 10 percent. We saw the greenhouse gas reductions take an extremely high carbon price to get us heading towards that negative goal more meaningfully.

“In terms of economic impacts, we saw that it is a contractionary effect on the economy but it is relatively small, particularly in the social cost of the carbon scenario. Lastly, we were able to do the most important metric in different income groups with a lot of data. The main takeaway is what makes households better off is the social cost of carbon, with a dividend backed up and proportionately benefiting low-income households more. Another take away of the study is the sweet spot between greenhouse gas emission reductions and policy design that can help households positively in this transition.”

Neil Dobson said, “The CleanBC Plan puts our province on the path to a cleaner, better future with a low-carbon economy that creates opportunities for all residents. CleanBC is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to reaching BC’s 2030 climate targets, setting a pathway to a sustainable, resilient and competitive economy.

“Our CleanBC communities fund infrastructure projects such as energy efficient buildings, clean transportation, and the generation of renewable energy in all sectors. Our roadmap to 2030, being released by the end of 2021, will explore what action is needed in various pathways that require market transformation to achieve our targets.

“BC has had the carbon tax, North America’s first broad-based carbon tax, since 2008 across all  combustion emissions. It provided a signal across the economy to reduce emissions while encouraging sustainable economic activity and investment in low-carbon innovation. The carbon tax applies to the purchase and use of fossil fuels and covers approximately 78 percent of provincial greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions decreased by 5-15 percent from what it would have been in the absence of the tax between 2008 and 2012. The Climate Action Tax Credit of $193.50 per adult and $56.50 per child was effective as of July 2021. Approximately 1.3 million British Columbians benefit from this credit.”

INTERVIEW: Dawn Lippert, Elemental Excelerator CEO

Dawn Lippert was interviewed by Leslie Wilkins, President and CEO of MEDB, explaining Elemental’s investing philosophy with examples from their portfolio of clean energy companies.

Leslie Wilkins said, “In addition to financial capital, the energy transition investment in Hawaii includes our cultural, social, and human capital. These are at the core of Elemental’s investment mission where they use impact first and then return, which are well correlated. Their new Five-Year Strategy is a roadmap to scale climate and social equity solutions. This plan outlines how their team is evolving to both deepen and expand their impact, and further unlock entrepreneurs as a powerful force to address climate change and social inequity.

“Working with the community is absolutely imperative for a sustainable success and moving us towards our clean-energy goals. It is vital for Elemental to be integrated into their respective communities and build capacity there with an exclusive workforce in technology and energy. Moreover, as the founder of WIRE (Women in Renewable Energy), Lippert has advocated for more women and underrepresented organizations to be involved in technology, entrepreneurship, and leadership to advance our energy goals and address climate change.”

Dawn Lippert said, “Elemental Excelerator is working to invest in technologies, communities, and solutions to get at the root of the systems behind climate change. We are a nonprofit that believes in forces for change. We think of the community investment that goes alongside the economic and capital investment. So, our solutions to climate change and to pressing environmental challenges are seen through the lens of entrepreneurs who are building companies that will grow industries leading to a clean environment.

“We have invested in over 100 companies so far and they are across key sectors, energy, water, food and agriculture, transportation and mobility, everything related to the circular economy, and carbon reduction. We believe in investing in communities at the intersection of social equity and climate-change technologies.

“An example of a local company that has made an impact is Farm Link Hawaii. When they lost their outlets due to the pandemic, they had to pivot and sell directly to consumers. Now they connect local growers and buyers via their innovative online marketplace and supply-chain infrastructure. They make it easy for household and commercial buyers to discover and purchase local food for delivery or pickup. They have built a thriving, equitable food system in Hawaii by empowering local farmers and improving access to local foods. Farm Link is a good example of investing for impact first, for farmers, local food, health, and families.

“Climate change is a key issue for us in communities. The way you think of engaging a community has to be different from the way of scaling any kind of technology. At Elemental, we do not just invest in technology, we actually fund the projects. We have learned that when technology starts to interface with community, the best strategy is to establish deep local partnerships to execute the projects.

“An example of community input is a current cesspool challenge across Hawaii, which comes from untreated sewage. This affects our ecosystems, our yards, communities, and nearshore oceans, creating serious problems for human and ocean health. We found a company last year that might work on this issue, along with a local community group run by Stuart Coleman, to bring a solution to Hawaii. Before making any investment, we brought the company’s ideas to the community to see what they think of how it might be implemented. Designing a plan with community input from the beginning matches the investment on the technology side.

“Many factors have come together in 2020-21 with incredible alignment. We have invested in executive coaching for women in technology, who work to bring about a sustainable Hawaii powered by clean energy, as well as for young people to contribute their gifts in whatever way possible. We believe in work-based learning to continue to build future success. We have learned a lot along the way about commercializing technologies and about the intersection of technology in community, about interns, workforce, and bringing everyone into the fold. Now, we want to help the whole sector meet this moment. We want to open all possibilities, accelerate important projects, and work towards meeting our climate goals.”

PANEL:  Energy Burden and Equity, Designing Energy Efficiency Programs Post-Covid

Moderated by: Caroline Carl, Deputy Director, Hawaii Energy

Ariel Drehobl, Local Policy Manager, Energy Equity, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE)
Rebecca Foster, President, VEIC
Laurien (Lala) NussClimate Resilience and Equity Manager, Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, City and County of Honolulu

Clockwise from top left: Caroline Carl, Hawaii Energy; Ariel Driehohl, ACEEE; Rebecca Foster, VEIC; Lala Nuss, Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, City and County of Honolulu

Caroline Carl said, “Energy efficiency programs throughout the country are digging deeper into equity challenges and solutions, and how energy burden is measured. With the highest electricity rates in the country, many families and businesses in Hawaii struggle to afford high energy bills every month. This has only been exacerbated by the high cost of living and the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. These high energy burdens disproportionately impact those already struggling to make ends meet. Cities must play a role in establishing an equity-centered practice because this year people literally cannot pay their electric bill.

“At Hawaii Energy, we educate island families and businesses about the many lasting benefits of clean energy. We encourage and reward practical energy-saving decisions, help save money, grow our economy, and reduce the demand for electricity imports. Our mission is to empower island families and businesses to make smarter energy choices to reduce energy consumption, reduce bills, and pursue a 100-percent clean-energy future.

“One of the core tenants of our work is on the focus for accessibility and affordability for clean energy technology so that everyone can move forward together. The past 12 years, the Hawaii Energy programs have provided over 2 billion dollars in electric-bill savings, bringing immediate relief to those families and communities who need it the most, especially over the last year. The ladies on this panel all work to embody the critical responsibilities we have to reduce energy insecurity and improve well-being as we move towards our clean energy future. Energy burden has become an important guidepost for efficiency programs and cities.”

Ariel Drehobl said, “ACEEE is a nonprofit research-based organization committed to advancing policy that moves us towards a more equitable energy system. We think of equity in terms of procedural, distributional, structural, and transgenerational lines. We really need a system that institutionalizes accountability and embeds inclusive, accessible, and authentic engagement. It is important to recognize and address inequitable structures, ensure representation and influence for community members, consider intergenerational impacts, and achieve a fair distribution of benefits and earnings across communities.

“For nearly 15 years, ACEEE has released scorecards and progress reports with the aim of benchmarking and driving clean-energy actions along the state, city, and utility lines. We make hundreds of these metrics available to the public on our online data bases. This year’s initiatives will guide our additional metrics visibility across all of our score cards. We will have two advisory groups. One will be community organizations and advocates. The other will be made up of utilities and public administrators. Both groups will help generate proposed metrics and changes to scorecards moving forward. The goal is that the metrics on the scorecards reflect the interests of the marginalized communities and represent the system. We also want to ensure that all the leaders in our scorecard are leading on equity in order to be scored at the top. Results of the equity-focused metrics initiative in our scorecards will be published at the end of the year.”

“Our most recent energy burden report was published in September 2020. Takeaways are that energy burdens across the country show that low income families experience high energy burdens which means that they are paying more of their income on energy bills. It was shown that these disproportionately high burdens were a universal issue, so work needs to be done with utilities across the local, state and federal government to address these disparities. It is a great metric to measure equity in the energy sector, but it only tells part of the story. We should think about equity across everything offered by the utility, in all different types of programs.”

Rebecca Foster said, “In Vermont, VEIC, a nonprofit organization, has always had a strong commitment to bringing the benefits of clean energy to low-income people and communities. Over the years, commitment has expanded from low-income customers and communities to looking at energy justice in a stronger way. We are trying to support communities that have had negative impacts on our society’s historical energy choices, and are committed to looking at what it will take to fix the immediate climate emergence. We need to enlist everyone in the clean-energy transition and ensure that everyone can access, and then realize the benefits that clean energy brings.

“The need for a cleaner, more equitable and just energy system is why VEIC works with organizations across the energy landscape to create immediate and lasting change. Since 1986, we have served as an objective partner for our clients as they navigate complex energy challenges. With expertise in energy efficiency, building and transportation electrification, and new approaches for a clean and flexible grid, we are bringing more solutions to the market to meet energy goals. Today, I am excited to enlist all of you in this difficult but absolutely necessary work. We must shift our energy system forward and bring existing crucial benefits from clean-energy programs and projects to the people who really need them.”

Laurien Nuss said,The Honolulu City Council unanimously passed the first Climate Action Plan (CAP) on June 2, 2021. The Plan established nine strategies and 47 actions, many related to energy efficiency and renewable energy with equity practices as it relates to resiliency efforts. It commits to a path that will cut carbon pollution on Oahu by an estimated 45 percent by 2025 and 60 percent by 2035. The main areas of action include electrifying ground transportation and increasing walking and biking, encouraging more density and mixed land use, increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy, and reducing the amount of solid waste on Oahu.

“The CAP is a science-based, community-driven strategy for Oahu to combat climate change and eliminate fossil fuel emissions, the root cause of global warming. The CAP lays out a detailed list of programs, policies, and actions that our island can take, alongside state and federal actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next five years and put us on the path to 100-percent carbon-neutrality by 2045. With overwhelming approval, the CAP ensures that government tackles the issue of climate change, increases city sustainability, and works with communities to build a more resilient Oahu.

“The recent creation of the equitable community engagement guide is another example of the adoption of the city’s first ever CAP. We are working with city agencies to build capacity and centering equity through utilizing data like energy burden, metrics like community led goals,  and socio-economic and community engagement practices. The guide is a resource to assist in designing community engagement procedures that align with the city’s goals, and are meant to be representative of, and in service to, the socially and functionally diverse communities that we have on Oahu. Equity will require intentional investment in relationship and trust building, and undoing certain past harm. Engagement through community relationships and social investment needs to be the same as just investing in the technological side of things.”

PANEL: Deploying Utility-Scale Renewable Energy Projects Across the Hawaiian Islands: Highlights and Comparisons from Individual Islands.

As one of the most remote land masses in the world, the Hawaiian Islands are a unique place to deploy utility-scale renewable energy projects. This panel highlighted the opportunities and challenges of deploying various types of technologies and various approaches to renewable energy project implementation across a diverse range of communities throughout the islands.

Moderated by: Alex DeRoode, Energy Commissioner, Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resilience, County of Maui

David Bissell, President and CEO, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC)
Mike Kaleikini, Senior Director for Hawaiian Affairs, Ormat
Matthew ShieldsOffshore Wind Engineer, National Wind Technology Center, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
Todd Yamashita, President, Hoʻāhu Energy Cooperative Molokai

Alex DeRoode said, “Some of the islands are taking various nuances as they approach clean energy in our different communities. There is great acceleration in Hawaii and especially on Maui where we have over 177 megawatts of planned renewable and utility-scale projects over the next three to four years, including 200 megawatts of battery storage. Working towards Hawaii’s 100-percent clean-energy goal, we are seeing the retirement of the Kahului Power Plant in 2024. Mayor Victorino and the HEC are incredibly supportive of our renewable energy efforts. The County has been a long-time supporter of this conference because of the really important information it brings to all of our local stakeholders as well as beyond our state.”

David Bissell said, “KIUC, a Kauai co-op started in 2002, is approaching its transition to 100-percent clean energy differently than other parts of the state. One of our big differences is that we have an elected board of directors who almost, from the start, were pushing to transition to renewables. We started with small utility-scale projects and then with batteries and battery storage to further our renewable expansion. The end of last year we hit 67 percent renewable. The big thing for us has been battery and storage technologies. We were pioneers. It has been a long steady movement for our island as we keep pushing for grid stability and renewables by 2030.

“As a co-op, we worked together to convert our biggest fossil fuel plant. Using renewable generation by pulling renewable energy from our grid, and having significant grid support from the batteries, we continually work hard towards our 100-percent-renewable goals. It has taken all the technologies brought together to achieve that. The next frontier for us is bulk storage because more storage is vital when the sun is going to be the predominant resource.

“Kauai has hydroelectric, the generation of electricity using flowing water to drive a turbine that powers a generator. We have seven hydro units that run about 10 percent of our energy. It is a stable energy source. It gives us diversity when the sun is not shining. If there is rain, we can get more hydroelectric generation to help diversify from just solar-based energy. It also helps grid stability.”

Mike Kaleikini said, “Ormat produces utility-scale geothermal projects in Hawaii that can be developed in a way that addresses cultural sensitivities over the projects. Recently, for a Big Island geothermal project we engaged with cultural practitioners in each area to develop the proper protocols. The major points of these protocols are about appreciation, honor, and recognizing and respecting the elemental nature of geothermal from the cultural aspect. We do blessings, offerings and gifts that share respect for the developing project.

“Reciprocity is a key component of the cultural sensitivities. Although, geothermal technology in itself is a form of reciprocity. It relates to or is produced by the internal heat of the earth. The heat that comes up generates electricity, which is then rerouted back into the earth, giving back the fluids. With this in mind, we appreciate the heat energy we are able to use to generate electricity. The aspect of reciprocity is replacing something in an area if it is disturbed in any way. It is really about honoring and recognizing respect for the natural elements of the geothermal resource in the community.”

Matthew Shields said, “NREL has pioneered many of the components and systems that have taken wind energy technologies to new heights. We have provided global leadership in fundamental wind- energy science research, development, validation activities, and the offshore wind-energy industry. Our lab is one of 17 national labs operated by the Department of Energy. We focus exclusively on all forms of renewable energy, of which offshore wind is one subset of that. Currently, our focus is on applied research, bridging the gap of fundamental science and the industrial part, the people who are actually building and installing the projects. We ourselves do not build projects, but we look at how these projects could be developed at lower costs, lower risks and lower impact to stakeholders.

“My role is to lead the work that we do for offshore wind technology analysis and market trends. I am presently leading a study looking at what offshore wind could look like around the island of Oahu. The study was conceptualized by the Hawaiian State Energy Office and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to understand how and if offshore wind can play a role in energy targets set by Hawaii. Our goal is to convey what likely technology, logistic or supply chain, might be used for offshore wind in Hawaii, and comparing what cost and feasibility would look like. We are reaching out with many island stakeholders to provide information about our future in the State. Benefits to offshore wind will be included in our report.

“Demonstration projects worldwide show that it is feasible to put a wind turbine on a floating platform and anchor it to the sea floor using a mooring line and an anchor. It is realistic to build these floating wind projects, but a lot of questions exist about supply chains. Nevertheless, there are numerous logistics involved for building these different components, such as impacts to the environment, to the stakeholders, as well as the view from shore.

“We must also take into consideration the impact to wildlife, fishing, and other competing usages. In addition, the Hawaiian voice must be present at the table for the conversation. We need to incorporate the local Hawaiian communities to understand what the cultural and environmental impacts would be to offshore wind projects. This would be a good technology to balance out solar, which provides power in the middle of the day, where offshore wind could produce nighttime power. They would complement each other nicely.”

Todd Yamashita is the President of Ho’āhu Energy Cooperative on Molokai, a new local entity formed to support community-owned energy projects. Due to technical difficulties with the internet connection, Yamashita was not able to participate in the panel discussion. The cooperative is seeking interest from individuals and companies based on Molokai with qualifications relevant to energy development. Ho’āhu Energy hopes to produce locally owned, affordable, and renewable energy for the benefit of their members, the community, and the environment. Their vision is for resilient, sustainable, equitable, and culturally conscious energy for all. Yamashita leads a consumer cooperative model, not a utility like KIUC. He seeks to aggregate consumers and find solutions that can serve the members of the cooperative.


The conference closed with a special presentation to outgoing Program Committee Chair Doug McLeod who had served on the committee since the conference inception in 2014.