Our Islands, Our Future

The first community forum on 100% Renewable Energy: What Will Maui Look Like? took place recently at the Cameron Center in Kahului. Coming on the heels of the 2019 Hawaii Energy Conference and Exhibition, the standing-room only event, presented by Maui Electric Company (MECO) in partnership with Maui Tomorrow and the Sierra Club, outlined the challenges and some solutions for Maui’s renewable future.

“We’ll have different ideas on how to achieve our clean energy future,” said Sharon Suzuki, president of Maui County and Hawai’i Island Utilities. “Achieving the goal of 100 percent renewables by 2045 requires all of us working together. As Maui Electric starts to put more bids out to procure more renewable energy projects for the island, it will require informed energy developers, available land resources, and ongoing dialogue with our communities, regulators and government leaders.”

Moderator Mahina Martin, Manager, Government and Community Relations at Maui Electric, led the forum featuring the following panelists: Kumu Kapono’ai Molitau, Kumu Hula; Albert Perez, Executive Director, Maui Tomorrow Foundation; Chris Reynolds, System Operations Director, Maui Electric Company; Alex De Roode, Energy Commissioner, County of Maui; Dana Sato, Asset Management Director, Kamehameha Schools; and Rob Weltman, Chairperson, Sierra Club Maui Group.

Weltman said, “Maui can and must be powered by carbon-neutral, local, environmentally friendly technologies, including solar and wind. Contributing to sea level rise and extreme weather events through continued dependence on fossil fuels is not an option for our vulnerable island community.”

Perez described a community solar program. “The project provides solar energy to residential and commercial customers without access to privately-owned rooftop solar, including many renters and apartment dwellers.”

De Roode, on electrification of transportation, said, “Ground transportation today accounts for one quarter of Hawaii’s fossil fuels consumption and over one quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. MECO is focused on initiatives to advance the switch from gasoline to electric vehicles, helping to reduce Hawaii’s dependence on imported oil.”

Molitau and Sato agreed, “It is our malama ‘aina to care for the land− physically and spiritually. Together, we must understand the need to preserve and protect our natural resources for our future generations.”

As of 2019, private rooftop and utility-scale solar, biofuel and wind resources boosted the amount of renewable energy used to generate electricity in Maui County to 38 percent. We’ve exceeded the state’s goal of 30 percent renewables by 2020, lowered greenhouse gas emissions from our generators, and reduced the amount of oil we used.

Sharon Suzuki, President of Maui County and Hawai’i Island Utilities