RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary Alexander Karsner listened yesterday as Gov. Linda Lingle spoke at a press conference announcing the establishment of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.
Governor pushes clean energy initiative
Federal officials joined Gov. Linda Lingle along with other leaders from the state, county and private sectors yesterday to announce an unprecedented and ambitious partnership that aims to position Hawaii as a model for others to follow as economies shift from fossil fuels toward cleaner-burning, renewable energy sources such as wind, wave, solar and thermal power.
A look at efforts that to be pursued under the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, a partnership between the state and the U.S. Department of Energy:
» Design cost-effective approaches for 100 percent use of renewable energy on smaller islands.
» Design systems to improve stability of electrical grids operating with variable generating sources, such as wind power plants on the Big Island and Maui.
» Integrate renewable energy, including solar, wind, energy storage and advanced vehicle technologies, into existing systems to meet the islands' energy needs.
» Minimize energy use while maximizing energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies at new large military housing developments.
» Expand Hawaii's capability to use locally grown crops as byproducts for producing fuel and electricity.
» Develop comprehensive energy regulatory and policy frameworks to promote clean energy technology use.
Source: Office of the Governor
However, it still could be two to three years before the state starts to see sizable investments from the U.S. government in such energy technology.
Under the partnership, known as the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, the state seeks to have at least 70 percent of its energy needs supplied by renewable sources by 2030.
By government estimates, Hawaii relies on imported fossil fuels, such as crude oil and coal, for more than 90 percent of its energy needs.
While technological advances in solar, wind and other power sources have helped increase the amount of energy derived from renewables -- today estimated at 8 percent -- Lingle said the partnership with the U.S. Energy Department aims to bring about a holistic shift in legislation, planning and regulatory policy.
"We simply can't continue on as a bunch of individual entities trying our best," Lingle said. "We have to become integrated. This (partnership) is going to give us that opportunity."
The initial phase of the program involves setting up working groups to study the areas of energy efficiency, generation of power, delivery of the product and transportation. Each group will study the barriers that exist to developing renewable energy in that particular area and come up with recommendations, she said.
Lingle announced the partnership at a news conference in her office, joined by Alexander Karsner, the U.S. Energy Department's assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Karsner said the planning stage for a policy shift of this nature typically takes two or three years, noting the Hawaii agreement has specific benchmarks and milestones that need to be reached.
"The early collaboration will be methodically and systematically planning and addressing the economics of how that kind of transformation comes about," Karsner said.
Once the policies are in place to encourage development of renewable energy resources, the money is expected to follow, officials said.
Karsner said President Bush has requested $38.5 billion in guaranteed federal loans dedicated to any technology, product or manufacturing facility project that aims to "commercialize any technology that avoids, sequesters or reduces greenhouse gas emissions."
While not all of that money would be targeted in the islands, "That's the technology pool we want to direct towards Hawaii," Karsner said.
"What are the right policies we need to allow connectivity for the technology to flow and the capital to flow and for you to access the federal funding available."
Majority Democrats in the Legislature, who have criticized Lingle in the past for announcing ambitious plans without a means of achieving the goal, are on board with the partnership and were invited to speak at the governor's news conference.
"I believe it's going to take an active and meaningful partnership between the federal, state and county governments for us to be able to achieve our energy goals and objectives," said Senate Energy Chairman Ron Menor (D, Mililani).
Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter, applauded policymakers for bringing attention to the issue but noted that previous working groups have been formed to study energy security.
"I'm just curious what exactly this means," Mikulina said. "Are we really talking an Apollo-like project where there's going to be billions of dollars invested in really transitioning Hawaii, or is it just going to be study groups and more of the same?"