Energy experts urge flexibility in charting a course for the future
Any strategy for securing Hawaii's energy future has to be flexible enough to adapt to technological advances, or failures, and rapidly changing global commodity markets, experts say.
"We're going to be inclusive in our thinking in terms of the different technological options that might apply to Hawaii and then come up with a robust set of choices for the state," said Kyle Datta, senior director for research and consulting at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Snowmass, Colo.-based nonprofit energy policy analysis group.
"It's not a deterministic approach," he added. "It's not like taking a rail line, but it's more like sailing, where we're going to chart a course and also be ready for changes in the wind and be adaptive."
The Rocky Mountain Institute was selected to be the main consultant as the state embarks on implementing a broad package of energy initiatives passed by the Legislature this year.
Proposals are aimed at lessening the state's dependence on imported fossil fuels through conservation and development of alternative energy technology.
Yesterday marked the first of four scheduled public hearings on the energy initiatives.
About 100 people from various public and private-sector organizations, all related to energy fields, attended yesterday's hearing.
"I'm delighted by the strong support to move more aggressively to a renewable (energy) future," Datta said. "I think that the study will clearly be looking at that and how to accelerate, to the max extent practical, that future."
The energy proposals aim to take advantage of Hawaii's unique geography to develop renewable energy sources such as wind, wave and solar power.
"We have been very negatively affected by major fluctuations in fuel prices," said Chris Steele, environmental compliance officer for Grace Pacific Corp. "It's time that Hawaii became less dependent on foreign oil."
Some concerns were raised over whether the process would be open. Oil companies, which control a major share of Hawaii's energy resources, have been criticized for keeping pricing data confidential for competitive reasons.
Henry Curtis, executive director of environmental group Life of the Land, questioned whether the energy policy group's policy development would be "transparent or proprietary."
"It's important to us that the process remain as transparent as possible," Datta said.
Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kaneohe-Kailua) said she was hoping the meeting would focus more strongly on developing renewable energy sources, notably wave power, which is already available on a commercial scale.
Datta said all technologies will be assessed, noting that after fully studying the different energy sources, one might emerge as the best fit for Hawaii.
"We want to be objective across all of them," he said.
The consulting group has three more public meetings scheduled before the end of the year and aims to begin developing more specific policy language in time for the 2007 legislative session.