Hawaii Leads in Energy Savings & Renewable Energy Innovations

Hawaii Leads in Energy Savings & Renewable Energy Innovations

Given its isolated location, Hawaii is in a particularly precarious position, importing 90% of its energy and with the highest energy prices in the country. But it is also ranked No. 1 in the US for investment in energy savings for public buildings per capita and thanks to its renewed commitment, it is also becoming something of a test bed for renewable energy technologies, including geothermal and algae-based biofuel technologies to smart grid experiments.

By Sonia Isotov for Maui Now (28 December 2011):

Hawaii is ranked No. 1 in the United States for investment in energy savings performance contracting (ESPC) for public buildings per capita, according to a ranking published by the Energy Services Coalition.

Hawaii’s overall conservation investment exceeds $150 million. “We are growing a sustainable economy and transforming government through performance contracting and by mobilizing and leveraging investment in high-impact energy efficiency projects for public and private buildings,” said Mark Glick, administrator, DBEDT’s State Energy Office.

“This is exactly the type of investment that will propel the State of Hawai‘i toward our goal of 70% clean energy by 2030,” said Governor Neil Abercrombie, in a written statement today.

“Energy savings performance contracting projects combined with other ambitious clean energy programs – such as the aggressive expansion of photovoltaic use at public school facilities – will further our state’s energy independence and provide a strong catalyst for job growth.”

The Energy Services Coalition is a national nonprofit network working at the state and local level to increase energy efficiency through building upgrades.

ESPC uses guaranteed future energy and water utility bill savings to pay for the up-front capital costs of facility improvements. In Hawai‘i, the State Energy Office has been providing technical assistance on performance contracting to state agencies and the counties, upon request, since 1996.

From 1996 to 2008, ESPC projects by the State of Hawai‘i Executive Branch, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, state Judiciary, local hospitals, City and County of Honolulu, and the counties of Hawai‘i and Kaua‘i totaled $68,218,183.

In 2009, an additional investment exceeding $33,900,000 for Phase I of a state Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS) ESPC project brought the total for Hawai‘i to over $100 million.

This year, the state Department of Public Safety (PSD), with DAGS as overall manager, and the University of Hawai‘i Community Colleges (UHCC) initiated projects of $25,511,264 and $32,802,833, respectively, bringing the total investment to more than $159 million (or $117 per capita).

The PSD project covers more than 569,000 square feet at the high and medium security sections at the Halawa Correctional Facility (HCF) and the Laumaka Work Furlough Center at the O‘ahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC). Work includes energy and water efficiency retrofits and improvements to operations and maintenance with annual savings of $2.3 million over the 20-year term of the project.

The UHCC project covers four campuses on O‘ahu with upgrades in lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment and is expected to generate savings of $4.5 million annually over the 20-year term of the project.

The state is moving forward on other Energy Savings Performance Contracting projects to further increase energy efficiency and reduce costs at state government buildings and facilities. DAGS issued an invitation for proposal (IFP) for a Phase II ESPC for 28 buildings; the Hawai‘i Public Housing Authority is finalizing agreements for a 789-building project; and the state Department of Transportation, with the Airports Division taking the lead, issued an IFP for ESPC for 15 airports, five harbors, and highways facilities throughout the state.

Source: www.mauinow.com

Amy Westervelt for  Forbes GREEN TECH (29 December 2011):

Hawaii: Our Very Own Island Nation, Battling Climate Change Via Innovation

Amid the abstract arguments that often dominate discussions of climate change (let’s face it, for the average person climate models and debates over half a degree here or there don’t hold much relevance), the pleas of island nations have helped to put a human face on things. Representatives from the small island nation of Tuvalu, concerned that their country might disappear in the coming decades, became the poster children of the Copenhagen climate summit last year. Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed has captured hearts and minds all over the world with his commitment to keeping his people and country above water.

Of course, Americans don’t actually have to go all the way to the Indian Ocean to see the effects of climate change. The people of Kivalina, Alaska are losing the ice their village is built on at an alarming rate, requiring urgent and expensive relocation. Many have attributed the storms and floods that have battered Louisiana over the past several years to climate change. But nowhere in the United States is the immediate need to tackle resource efficiency more evident than in the island state of Hawaii.

While people continue to argue over whether human activity is affecting global temperatures, no one disputes the fact that many of our most fundamental resources–water, energy, clean air–are increasingly constrained as the planet’s population grows. Given its isolated location, Hawaii is in a particularly precarious position. Currently the state imports 90 percent of its energy and has the highest energy prices in the country.

We are at great risk of a severe crisis in the future if we don’t become self-sufficient,” says Mark Glick, administrator of the State Energy Office of the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT). “Our longeterm vitality is totally dependent on our ability to become more self-sufficient and, in turn, to retain businesses.”

Glick notes that the state’s current high energy prices are a deal-breaker for many businesses, making it difficult to grow the economy beyond the state’s traditional economic engine–tourism. In an effort to reduce its dependence on imported energy, Hawaii has set an aggressive goal of meeting 40 percent of its energy needs through renewable sources and employing conservation measures to reduce energy demand by 30 percent by 2030. Unfortunately, according to a recent study conducted by the Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Lab it’s doubtful that the state will be able to meet this goal without connecting its disparate island energy sources into a single, statewide grid.

To that end, the state is moving forward with an innovative and ambitious plan to connect the islands via undersea cable, starting with Oahu, Maui, Molokai and Lanai. “Oahu has about 85 percent of the population in the Islands,” explains William Kucharski, director of renewable energy (Pacific) at AECOM Technical Services, Inc, which is producing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the state’s new renewable energy project. “It also has the least amount of developable land. So when you’re looking at renewables, it appears they’ll have to get power from some other source. If renewable energy can be produced on the other islands, then it can be transmitted through undersea cable,  and hook the Islands together to have a statewide grid rather than a separate grid for each island.”

It sounds simple enough, but given the fact that much of Hawaii is surrounded by marine sanctuaries–some of which are under federal jurisdiction while others are overseen by the state–and that a few of the renewable energy projects proposed to meet the state’s goals, particularly wind farms proposed for Lanai and Molokai, have come under fire, it’s not likely to be easy for the state to move forward. It’s also not a hugely common technology. Underwater cables have been installed in Long Island, in a few test projects in Canada, and in a handful of European locations, but the Hawaii project will be one of the largest and most complicated.

As a first step, rather than tying the development of the undersea cable to any particular renewable energy project (or type of renewable energy), the EIS is taking a programmatic approach, which would enable the cable to move forward irrespective of any particular energy project receiving approval. The EIS is scheduled for completion within 18 months, and the local utility–Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc.–has a request for proposals out for cable developers, one of which is likely to be selected in 2012.

In the meantime, the state is working to study and better understand other aspects of the project as well. “The World Bank has done considerable studies on the Caribbean nations in terms of different ways their grids could be connected to transform the economies of island nations,” Glick says. “We find that work directly applicable to our situation, and we’re looking into those cases much more deeply. We’ve had to do considerable study on our particular context as well, in terms of distances traveled and the depths of the ocean, as well as how the energy could be introduced to various markets in Hawaii.”

The state’s renewable energy strategy is now fairly dependent on the cabling project moving forward.

We really are focused on making this successful,” Glick says. “If it doesn’t work out it makes it extremely difficult to meet our self-sufficiency goals and our renewable energy goals. So we are totally consumed with making this work, under the premise that now is the time to act and if we do act now we can achieve our renewable energy portfolio goals in an economically viable way.”

At stake is not only the state’s ability to wean itself off of imported oil, but also residents’ ability to pay increasingly pricey electrical bills. “Molokai has the highest rates in the country,” Kucharski says.  ”Hooking it into a statewide grid would allow the utility to normalize rates, which might increase Oahu’s rates slightly, but would bring Molokai’s rates down, possibly by a lot.”

Thanks to its commitment to renewable energy, Hawaii is now also becoming something of a test bed for renewable energy technologies, from the study of various geothermal and algae-based biofuel technologies happening at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority on the Big Island to smart grid experiments the state is conducting along with representatives from Japan and China.

We have more in common with Japan and Okinawa, for example, than we do with any other part of the U.S.,” Glick explains. “They look to us as a place to test technology – we’re isolated and so the tests can be very true.  We provide an excellent statistical case to test new technology.”

Those relationships also keep the state’s energy industry up-to-date on the latest technologies, which Glick hopes could push Hawaii’s renewable energy goals past the current 40 percent.

There’s a real opportunity for us to have and even higher degree of self-sufficiency and retain all of this wealth that we currently send outside the state,” Glick says. “Increasing our energy production could really help to improve our balance of trade payments.

Source: www.forbes.com

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