Our Islands, Our Future

The fourth annual Maui Energy Conference, held in March, broadened its focus this year to become a timely and innovative forum as Hawaii continues its transition to a 100-percent clean-energy economy by 2045. Presented by Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) and the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, the conference explored the theme, All Things Energy: Pursuing Opportunities for Electricity and Beyond.

“Energy experts and stakeholders, both national and international, examined groundbreaking strategies, and analyzed how concepts such as resilience and sustainability apply beyond the traditional grid,” said Frank De Rego Jr., Director of Business Development at MEDB and member of the conference Program Committee. Resilience, this year’s conference buzz word, suggests toughness and the ability to bounce back from catastrophic circumstances. Since the last energy conference, Hawaii has seen a failed merger of electric utilities and several near misses from hurricanes. That is why all sectors of the economy need to work together for energy resilience and sustainability.

Pacific Biodiesel Technologies, an Energy Conference participant and Hawaii’s largest biofuel company, is now farming sunflowers and other biofuel crops on 115 acres previously used for sugar cane production on Maui.“These crops can be harvested in 100 days or less, provide acres of energy storage and carbon sequestration, and can be used to produce the highest-quality biodiesel in the USA,” said Kelly King, Maui County Council member and Vice President and Co-Founder of Pacific Biodiesel. “We’re focusing on several different crops in various crop rotations and experimenting with different soil amendments such as compost and others made from by-products of the production of our biodiesel, like glycerin and potassium sulfate. There are 36,000 acres of fertile lands on Maui that ceased sugar cane operation at the end of 2016. It is important for the community and the state to keep this land in agriculture to benefit our economy and environment, to help the state increase its energy security, reduce reliance on fossil fuel, and achieve its 100-percent renewable-energy mandate by 2045.”

Our first sunflower crop has been a harbinger of hope bringing folks together in support of local sustainable agriculture for food and fuel.

Kelly King, Maui County Council member and Vice President and Co-Founder, Pacific Biodiesel