Our Islands, Our Future
Hawaiian Electric & Hawaii Gas Talk Story

Hawaiian Electric & Hawaii Gas Talk Story

In a featured talk, “Sharing Our Visions, Opportunities and Challenges in the Energy Industry”, at the 2023 Hawaii Energy Conference (HEC), Shelee Kimura, President and CEO of Hawaiian Electric, and Alicia Moy, President and CEO of Hawaii Gas, discussed Hawaii’s energy future from the perspective of their companies. Moderated by Jacqui Hoover, Chair, Conference Program Committee; Executive Director and COO, Hawaii Island Economic Development Board; and President, Hawaii Leeward Planning, the conversation was both informative and encouraging.

Hoover asked, “What message do you both want to send to the energy sector and to our communities?  What goals can be filled and how do your two companies complement each other?”

Kimura said, “Hawaiian Electric’s economy-wide decarbonization plan includes every sector. We hope to adopt the 2030 aspirational goal to reduce our carbon emission by 50% in the state’s economy and then by 70% in the electricity sector. Hawaii Gas just filed their long-term plan which is intended to help Hawaii reach our 100% renewable energy goals by 2045. Our individual paths are very 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. They are exploring carbon-free fuel for the long-term. Our challenge is to act and execute while we continue to innovate. We need to make these things happen at the same time. It is not easy.”

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. Hawaii Gas is focused on how Hawaii will meet its climate goals and the role we will play. If the state needs a recovery from any crisis, Hawaii Gas will be part of the solution. By increasing the amount of hydrogen blending in the pipeline plus other new technologies and innovations, there are new opportunities opening for all of us.”

It is achievable to reduce carbon emissions by more than two-thirds over this decade if everyone pitches in. Both of our companies want to create a cost-effective, sustainable, and resilient energy system for future generations. Shelee Kimura, President & CEO, Hawaiian Electric, Alicia Moy, President & CEO, Hawaii Gas

HEC Points To Hawaii’s Future

HEC Points To Hawaii’s Future

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the 2023 Hawaii Energy Conference (HEC), recently held at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, was presented by the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) with the support of the County of Maui Office of Economic Development. Experts and stakeholders from Hawaii, Canada, the continental U.S., Asia-Pacific and elsewhere exchanged ideas on how to better serve our communities in today’s rapidly-changing, energy-conscious environment. Including a diverse range of speakers and topics, attendees gained new insights about what it will take for Hawaii to reach its mandate of producing 100% clean energy by 2045.

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

According to Hawaiian Electric, 32% of electricity generated on Oahu, Hawaii Island, and Maui County was from renewable resources last year. Hawaii Island generated 48%, Maui County generated 36%, and Oahu generated 28%. Kauai County led the state, achieving more than 60% last year through its own cooperative that also has a planned pumped storage hydroelectric project in West Kauai. Brad Rockwell, COO, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, explained, “One hundred percent of Kauai’s daytime demand for electricity is met by renewables. Long-term storage will be the water reservoir, which runs a 4MW hydroelectric generator and a 20MW. This long-term storage can bring Kauai to 100% renewable.”

Additionally, hydrogen proposals and on-going projects on how to make, store, and use it in Hawaii were discussed. Mitch Ewan, Hydrogen Systems Program Manager at HNEI, shared, “On the Big Island, hydrogen-fueled vehicles are already operating. HNEI buses and trucks have an infrastructure for public transportation, they fuel rapidly and provide long-endurance energy storage. Hydrogen offers energy security for Hawaii.” 

Keynote speaker Daphne Frias, a youth climate justice activist from New York, emphasized, “We need to include more youth and those with disabilities in the climate conversation. At the end of the day, we all live on this one planet.”

The community can be involved in the Hawaii Legislature, not only by testifying, but also by engaging specific legislators who stalled bills on issues of concern. We need to solve problems together. Senator Lynn DeCoite, Chair; Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development and Tourism; State of Hawaii

Hawaii Energy Conference returns to the MACC

Hawaii Energy Conference returns to the MACC

The annual Hawaii Energy Conference returns to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, May 24 – 25. 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.

Panels will explore:

  • 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

Please visit for more information.

There is so much to talk about at the Hawaii Energy Conference, both the formal panel discussions and all the informal ‘talk story’ conversations that occur away from the stage and during the breaks. Doug McLeod, DKK Energy Services, member HEC Program Committee

Conquer Change and Cultivate Results!

Conquer Change and Cultivate Results!

In March, MEDB’s Women in Business Seminar Series celebrated Women’s History Month with guest speaker Angela Garmon, an award-winning business owner and philanthropist. The founder and CEO of ARG Coaching & Consulting Group LLC, a strategic change management consulting firm that supports diverse teams nationwide, spoke about how not only to handle change but to embrace it. The Women in Business Seminar Series is presented by Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) in partnership with the Women’s Business Enterprise Council (WBEC) and supported by the SBA Community Navigator Pilot Program and the County of Maui.

“WBEC is one of the official certifiers for SBA Women Owned Small Business certifications,” said Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President and CEO. “Businesses can get certified as being a 51% owned and operated (Minority, Women, Veteran) in order to qualify for special consideration in government and private contracts and to participate in a sponsor company’s Supplier Diversity programs.”

Garmon described how to use SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) Analysis when you are setting new goals, rolling out new products, services, and identifying your next move. “To stand out in your field, explore ways to leverage your strengths to drive competitive advantages and opportunities,” she explained. “Understand the weaknesses that may leave you vulnerable to the competition, and identify ways to expand the share of the marketplace by minimizing the threats. In addition, use SWOT to create a solid plan of action. It will help you prep for opportunities and potential barriers, serve as a pulse check, as well as indicate that more work is required.”

Kat Tracy, Akakū Director of Education, said, “Today’s seminar inspired us to take action and consider what we need to start, stop, or change, no matter the size or the challenges in our businesses and lives.”

Brandy from Cajudoy Construction, LLC shared,” My WBEC certification and the MEDB Women in Business Seminar Series have both provided me with an abundance of opportunities. Today’s discussion offered help in how to use SWOT to evaluate my business going forward.”

President and CEO of WBEC-West Dr. Pamela Williamson added, “MEDB provided yet another conversation with great information and lots of food for thought.”

You can view the replay at

Our journeys should be measured not only by the number of years that we spend on earth but also by our abilities to persevere through the battles and conquer what seems to be insurmountable. Angela Garmon, ARG Coaching & Consulting Group LLC, Founder and CEO

Restoring Sandalwood Mountain

Restoring Sandalwood Mountain

Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Maui and the Kwock Hing Society in Kula, the annual effort to re-establish the fragrant sandalwood trees in Kula has become an earnest community project for this team. Their tree-planting project was a huge success this year. During the early 1800s, the royal sandalwood ‘ilahi’ became a valuable trade commodity and was quickly over-harvested. In later years, the trade in sandalwood had collapsed and the forests were exhausted. Thanks to conservation efforts over time, the remarkable sandalwood trees have made a comeback. 

“It is important to honor our ancestors by gathering the community to re-plant the sandalwood, teach its history, and educate the younger generation about its importance,” said Sarah Shim, president of the Kwock Hing Society and board member of the Maui Chinese Club. “One of our goals at Kwock Hing is to restore Sandalwood Mountain. We are thankful that the Rotary Club of Maui offered to help. They are the primary people that started this project with us. They have been a joy to us and also helped us make needed repairs in our very old building. Built in 1907 in Keokea, the Kwock Hing Temple has been a place for traditional celebrations and community educational programs. The building was placed on the Hawaii State Register of Historic Places in 1982, and the National Register of Historic Places later that year.”

Rev. Heather Mueller, president of the Rotary Club of Maui, noted, “We had approximately 60 people helping to plant trees at the temple cemetery and in the surrounding Kula area. Unjust demands in the 1800s caused so much hardship that the Hawaiian sandalwood trade had come to a halt. Therefore, we feel the need to restore our mountain again with sandalwood trees. Besides beautifying our island, trees absorb carbon and release oxygen, reducing the effects of climate change. They also bind the soil, which will help if we have extreme upcountry weather events. To see so many volunteers come out to plant, and be part of something to help mitigate the harmful effects of climate change, is wonderful!”

Our purpose is to create and maintain a balanced environment, preserving the natural wealth of our ‘āina. Rev. Heather Mueller, President, Rotary Club of Maui

AG Internship Showcase

AG Internship Showcase

Through the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) STEMworks™ Ag Business & Technology Internship program, students in grades 9-12 and college undergraduates have the opportunity to gain experience in multiple industries within the agriculture sector of the economy to find their interests, build their resume, and become career ready.

“During this time, our STEMworks interns are busy using industry-standard technologies to develop a service-learning project to improve their community,” said Britney James, STEMworks Agriculture Program Specialist. “The program is designed to prepare students with real-world, hands-on career exposure, college and employability skill-building opportunities, and industry networking experiences. Along the way, interns worked tirelessly on creative and critical thinking as well as their professional and software skills.”

James added, “The students who participated in the recent Internship Program gained many workforce readiness skills, including time management, having to balance full-time school and the internship. Some of them even had a second job! They are all exceptional individuals and I am excited to say that many of them now plan to pursue careers in agriculture after participating in this internship.”

“The showcase featured 11 interns from seven host companies with eight mentors,” explained Aileen Kim, Baldwin High School 9th grader. “I interned at WaiPono Farm at the University of Hawaii Maui College Sustainable Living Institute where I learned aquaponics and hydroponics greenhouse. During this time, I was able to raise tilapia fish and grow community resources, while also learning about the systems which help create a healthy life for both our fish and plants. Our greenhouse grows community resources such as bok choy, lettuce, tomatoes and zucchini, and shares these resources with others.” 

Lei’ohu Turley, Seabury Hall 11th grader, reflected on her experience, “My internship was at Noho’ana Farm, an energy self-sufficient, family-run farm situated on two acres of kuleana (privileged responsibility) land. Along with kalo, other important Hawaiian crops are cultivated at the farm using traditional, sustainable, and organic farming practices. I learned about irrigation and water resource management, using farm equipment, and planting and harvesting crops. Now, I also have a deeper appreciation for cultural values and environmental issues.”

I hope to continue my internship. Mahalo to STEMworks and Noho’ana Farm for this opportunity! Lei’ohu Turley, Seabury Hall student

Go Slow, Whales Below

Go Slow, Whales Below

November marked Ho‘i Koholā, ‘welcome back whales month’, and the traditional start of the 2022-2023 whale season in Hawaii. Humpback whales are generally seen in Maui waters from November into May each year, with the peak season running from January through March. This November was also the 30th anniversary for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (HIHWNMS). Designated in November of 1992, HIHWNMS is one of the world’s most important whale habitats, and the only place in the United States where humpback whales mate, calve, and nurse their young. 

“HIHWNMS works to protect humpback whales and their habitat through research, education, conservation, stewardship, and entanglement response,” said Kim Hum, HIHWNMS sanctuary superintendent. “We are excited to join the community in welcoming nā koholā, the whales, back to the islands. A few early sightings of humpbacks have been reported in recent weeks, with more whales anticipated to return soon.”

HIHWNMS hosted a virtual pre-whale-season webinar about their current research and how to care for our magnificent visitors. Presenters Dr. March Lammers, research ecologist, Eden Zang, research specialist, and Ed Lyman, natural resource specialist, each gave a briefing on the sanctuary’s activities. “Acoustic monitoring is very important because sound transmits well  underwater,” Dr. Lammers explained. “Many male humpback whales sing during the breeding season, and the volume of song chorusing measured on moored recorders is correlated with whale abundance. Additionally, many whale behaviors are not observable from the surface or at night, leaving much still to be learned. A promising approach is to use instrumented tags to study behavior.” Zang added, “We also focus on entanglements and whale-vessel contacts. Based on community monitoring efforts, the sanctuary uses historical known outcomes from threats like entanglement and collision to quantify the impact of present cases and serious injury determinations.” 

Lyman concluded, “This season had the largest use of drones to help staff respond to and record entanglement reports. Our goals include releasing large whales from life-threatening entanglements, increasing awareness, and gathering information to better understand the threat. Plus, HIHWNMS continues to develop many partnerships with the on-water community to protect the humpback whales and their habitat.”

Our motto, ‘Go Slow—Whales Below’ is for boating vessel speeds necessary to keep the whales safe. For more information, visit Dr. March Lammers, Research Ecologist, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

Celestial Navigation @ Emer-gen

Celestial Navigation @ Emer-gen

A distinguished line-up of speakers and mentors joined the 5th annual EMER-GEN Program presented by Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) at the 2022 Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS) Conference. A joint initiative of AMOS and the Space Generation Advisory Council, over twenty leaders in the space industry supported the emerging generation of young professionals enthusiastic about careers in space. Forty-eight delegates met for EMER-GEN, with nearly half of these based in Hawaii, to help develop aerospace careers locally.

Maui resident Kalā Baybayan Tanaka offered the Celestial Navigation presentation. She is responsible for Education Direction and Program Implementation at Hui O Wa`a Kaulua, a sea-voyaging non-profit organization on Maui dedicated to the practice and perpetuation of Hawaiian canoe building, wayfinding and voyaging arts. She is also a UH Manoa STEMS^2 Masters student in Curriculum Studies. Tanaka introduced the EMER-GEN cohort to the Hawaiian Star Compass and other aspects of Hawaiian culture which pertain to leadership and communication. She inherited her love for the ocean and passion for sailing from her father, Pwo (master) Chad Kalepa Baybayan, who served  as one of the lead captains and navigators of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage—Hōkūle`a.

“I shared Hawaiian lore, explored traditional navigational techniques and provided an intimate look at the relationship between the celestial bodies and history,” Tanaka explained. “Each of my own voyages taught me to be more in sync with my environment. I shared my passion for wayfinding and told the cohort stories of the stars that have led my way forward, and always guided my way home.”

Cohort member Rishin Aggarwal, Indian Space Research Organization, said, “Tanaka has a way of breaking down navigation so we could all understand it and also feel empowered by it. She said you do not have to be Hawaiian to be wayfinders and learn voyaging. You simply need a deep desire to learn. She also stressed the importance of teamwork, skills much needed by our EMER-GEN cohort, in our space industry careers, and daily life.”

Frances Zhu, UH Assistant Professor, Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory, added, “Tanaka shows the spiritual side of astronomy, wayfaring and voyaging. I am so inspired by her.”

In 2016, as captain and co-navigator alongside my father on the Hikianalia, I learned so much while sailing from Hawaii to Tahiti, thousands of miles, without modern instruments. Kalā Baybayan Tanaka, Hui O Wa`a Kaulua

Feeding Hope One Meal at a Time

Feeding Hope One Meal at a Time

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, we are reminded of the grassroots community project started to reduce hunger during Covid-19 and beyond. Co-founded by Brad Kukral and Steven Calkins, the Hungry Homeless Heroes Hawaii (HHHH) uses quality excess food to fill the stomachs and hearts of Maui’s hungry rather than the landfills. Kukral and Calkins set up a food redistribution organization that receives food from community members and farms with surplus, besides growing their own food at Anuhea Chapel in Pukalani. Additionally, they have put together an all-volunteer team who garden, prepare nourishing meals and personally deliver them to the unsheltered on Maui.

In the midst of the pandemic, Kukral witnessed a homeless man get into trouble while trying to obtain food from a local grocery store. “This incident was the impetus of the project,” he explained. “The man was hungry and just wanted to eat, and was begging for help. So, the next day my friend Steven and I decided to cook and distribute meals. The operation increased literally overnight.”

Kukral continued, “The pandemic impacted the unsheltered community in its own unique way in terms of limited restroom facilities, the inability to comply with stay-at-home orders, and difficulties obtaining food. Through a Facebook network on Maui, we were able to collect donations and supplies. As the program grew, so did the area of response. Volunteers and donations rolled in from a variety of area businesses, organizations, and private citizens.” 

Currently, the program can produce as many as 200 meals a day. However, a main ingredient that the homeless need is the feeling of not being abandoned. Kindness is as appreciated as food. “HHHH works with compassion to bring hope to the hopeless,” Calkins said. “Our future vision would be to take another step toward a permanent solution by galvanizing the community around this most dire issue. Ideally, we would like to find a self-sustaining property where families could come on a work-trade basis.” 

In the meantime, the HHHH purpose is to feed the hungry with hope, one meal at a time. The staff have been mindful of sustainability and work to create an environment that recognizes, validates and enhances the dignity of everyone experiencing homelessness.

MEDB applauds all those in the community who serve to make sure no one goes hungry. We wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Leslie Wilkins, MEDB, President and CEO