Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Energy: A new Hawai'i initiative

Hardly anyone will argue that Hawai'i is in a tenuous, vulnerable situation with energy.

Just one example: There is limited fuel storage capacity in the Islands. A couple of weeks without oil tankers, and planes don't fly, cars don't drive and darkness prevails.

Even if you set aside the important environmental considerations of reliance on imported oil, there are significant statewide security risks from that reliance.

The state Legislature yesterday got an earful on how to move Hawai'i more quickly away from its fragile energy situation.

The Blue Planet Foundation (http://www.blueplanetsummit.org/) put on its Clean Energy Policy Forum for the Legislature Monday (January 12, 2009).

One proposal: it's a serious enough issue that the state ought to transfer the state energy office, now in the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, into a stand-alone State Energy Security Office attached directly to the Governor's office. And give it funding and clout.

Blue Planet's extensive report on its energy policy proposals is at http://www.blueplanetsummit.org/userfiles/file/policy_package_09.pdf.

For a detailed review, check out Doug Carlson's Hawai'i Energy Options post at http://hawaiienergyoptions.blogspot.com/2009/01/blue-planet-sets-preferred-course-for.html.

Blue Planet founder Henk Rogers, director Jeff Mikulina and a group of experts proposed an extensive list of ideas for crowbarring Hawai'i into moving more aggressively. RaisingIslands wasn't there, but from reading the reports, several ideas seemed workable and intriguing. Here are some of them.

One would establish an aggressive program to promote energy efficiency. The Blue Planet proposal would establish a carrot-and-stick provision to encourage movement in that direction. Incentives for moving faster than the goal; penalties if not.

Let consumers pay for their energy efficiency purchase and installation costs through their power bills.

Establish penalties if utilities fail to achieve renewable portfolio standards, which are deadlines to move to higher percentages of non-fossil fuel power.

“Clarify current renewable portfolio standard language to ensure that only clean, indigenous resources are counted.” On its face, this seems to say that ethanol made from Hawai'i cane and biodiesel from locally grown kukui or jatropha counts, but palm oil imported from Asia doesn't.

Just say no to any new generators that burn fossil fuels. If you're running short of generating capacity, one assumes this means, use efficiency, shift loads or spend your money on renewable power sources.

Establish state standards to promote energy efficient vehicles, like California's.

Require that if you sell gasoline, you also have air available to folks can fill up their tires and improve their fuel efficiency. (I thought this was standard, but ran into a gas station without air the other day, to my and my low tires' dismay. I don't much care whether it's free, as Blue Planet would prefer, but air ought to be available.)

Building a new road? Include a real bike lane. If you build it, they will come.

Get serious about energy storage, providing a mechanism to store some of that upcoming wind, wave, solar, ocean thermal and other energy for times when the wind's not blowing, the sun's not shining, et cetera.

There's lots more, not all of it as obviously workable as other parts.

For instance, A potential problem proposal is a $5 per barrel fee on oil, with the money to fund clean energy programs. New fees are a tough sell in miserable economic times, in spite of Blue Planet's probably spot-on assurance that “investing now would pay future dividends to every resident and business in the state.”

Blue Planet's list of experts include: Kyle Datta, founder and president, New Energy Partners; Jon Hurwitch, head of Sentech, Inc., Martin Kushler, director of the utilities program at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE); and Natalie Mims consultant, Rocky Mountain Institute Energy & Resources Team.

Having started this post talking about statewide security, we concede Blue Planet's point that it's not all about security. What do you get if you get serious about moving off oil? Says Blue Planet Foundation”

“• Recession-busting tools. Need to plug the $6 billion+ annual fossil fuel leak;

“• Create jobs. Massive job creation potential in highpaying, rewarding jobs;

“• Protect our environment. Decrease Hawaii’s annual contribution of 22 million tons of greenhouse


“• Spur high-tech economy. Make Hawaii a hub for clean energy research & development;

“• Global model. Hawaii can lead the globe in indigenous energy solutions.”

©2009 Jan TenBruggencate

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