Even as the people of Hawaii react to the recent eruption of the Kilauea volcano, they also face the coming threat of hurricane season, which can turn beautiful weather into a deadly storm in a matter of hours. Just as the timing of volcanic eruptions are unpredictable, the incidence of major hurricanes is as well: Hawaii has not been hit by one since Iniki struck Kauai in 1992. In June, the next hurricane season will start, and it will last through November.
Preparedness is key, but is Hawaii prepared for the next big one? One resource we all rely on heavily is energy, and Hawaii’s current energy system is not designed for the threat of climate change-supercharged hurricanes. Further, what we cannot afford is a Hurricane Maria, with winds and rain that knocked out power for an entire month to 90 percent of Puerto Rico’s residents. These outages continue, many months later.
In light of these ongoing grid failures, USGBC recently submitted comments to the Puerto Rico Energy Commission on the island’s proposed microgrid development. In addition, Gov. David Ige recently signed a bill requiring the Public Utilities Commission to create performance-based utility regulation by 2020.
Energy resilience through microgrids
Preparing for the worst can have direct benefits, making now the right time for energy resilience initiatives such as microgrids. Microgrids could strengthen the system and reduce costs by generating renewable energy and storing energy, while remaining connected to the larger electrical grid.
USGBC Hawaii has supported HB2110, a bill that passed the legislature, that would direct the Public Utilities Commission to establish a microgrid services tariff to encourage and facilitate the development and use of energy-resilient microgrids. These microgrids can be used to power refrigerators, medical equipment and communications, as well as potentially to power electric vehicles.
Supporting the Honolulu office for sustainability
Committed to transforming the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, USGBC Hawaii offered strong support for Bill 15 (2018), which passed the council committee on April 11 with 250 people and organizations testifying in support. USGBC added a letter of support to the docket. If adopted, the budget will appropriate more than $1 million for the Honolulu Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency.
Our community believes the proposed budget is a necessary investment for this voter-mandated office. Supporting the office at its full budget request will allow the city to have seven full-time employees, further its mission, take advantage of private grant funds like the 100 Resilient Cities partnership and maintain Honolulu as a leader in the sustainability movement. Learn more about the work of the Honolulu office.
Adopting electric vehicles
USGBC Hawaii also supports the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) statewide, recognizing the impact of transportation on sustainability in Hawaii. Today, it is inspiring to see EV charging stations across the state. EV charging stations in use provide a demand for the renewable energy generated during the day and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
However, most workplaces lack charging infrastructure, and most condo residents are unable to find a place to plug in. We supported HB2274, which failed to advance this legislative session. The bill would expand the state's existing EV charging requirements to include public parking lots, multi-unit buildings and workplaces.
Hawaiian Electric Company recently released the Electrification of Transportation Strategic Roadmap, predicting that half the vehicles in Hawaii will be electric by 2045. Public charging stations would remain in the toolbox for charging station deployment.