Our Islands, Our Future

More than 30 percent of Maui’s energy needs, on average, are being met by renewable energy sources such as wind and rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems, and the trend continues to rise, making Maui a national and global leader in the adoption of renewable energy. This was just one of the positive observations to emerge from the 2015 Maui Energy Conference + Exhibition that spanned two days at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center last month. More than 300 energy industry leaders from Hawaii, the Mainland and Japan attended and shared ideas on how to better serve customers in today’s rapidly changing power generation and delivery environment.

At the conference, Program Committee member Holly Benz of Schneider Corporation said: “All eyes are on Hawaii.” Benz said outsiders are continuing to closely watch the state and its work on energy issues. “There is a tremendous opportunity for Hawaii to lead, to test and to learn.” Keynote speakers Alan Oshiro, President of Hawaiian Electric Company and Eric Gleason, President of NextEra Energy Hawaii shared perspectives on the acquisition of Maui Electric’s parent company, HEI by NextEra and outlined the benefits that it can bring to customers and Hawaii. NextEra, the largest generator of wind and solar energy in North America, has announced its commitment to lower Hawaii’s high electricity costs.

One of the nine thought-provoking panels, “Focus on the Customer—Maui Style,” discussed proposed changes in Maui’s energy landscape, concluding that these must be transparent to residents and engaging for young people. “In my business,” Cathy Nobriga Kim, vice president of Maui Soda and Ice Works said, “energy is crucial.” When asked how businesses could be involved in renewable energy solutions for Maui, Kim observed that business involvement in pilot projects to develop renewable energy solutions are beneficial. Other panelists said that government and community leaders must step up to explain the changing energy landscape. Information provided to residents must be true and trustworthy; “There needs to be transparency,” one panelist said. The conference was hosted by the Maui Economic Development Board and the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development.