Our Islands, Our 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