Big Goals for Small Islands: Hawaiian Legislation Promotes Renewable Energy in Transportation

by Siena Hacker

For such a small chain of islands, the state of Hawaii has the biggest renewable energy target in the United States. Hawaii introduced legislation that would fine utilities that are not completely powered by renewable energy by 2045. Now, as reported in a January 2017 New York Times piece by the Associated Press, the state is going a step farther by introducing legislation promoting a complete reliance on renewables for the transportation sector. [] With Hawaiians already owning an estimated one million cars – not to mention all of the cars for sale in dealerships – it would be imprudent for the state to mandate a shift to renewable fuels for the transportation sector. Hawaii is instead attempting to encourage the transition by increasing the number of required charging stations. The reasoning holds that as electric cars become cheaper and the infrastructure supporting them increases, investing in an electric car will become the practical choice. Having spent the summer with family in Kauai, I was confronted with gas prices that were consistently a dollar higher than in California because of the cost to ship fuel. Those who currently own electric cars definitely see large savings, especially if they have their own solar panels and can charge their car during the day. Though there are only about 5,000 electric cars on the road in the state, Hawaii still ranked second in the nation in 2015 for the greatest number of electric cars relative to their population. There is abundant potential for renewable energy on the island to power transportation in the future, and the State has created a new position within their Department of Transportation to tackle this challenge. According to a December 2016 Biz Journals article by Duane Shimogawa reporting on the Hawaii Energy Resources Coordinator’s Annual Report, Hawaii already gets 25%of its total energy from renewables. The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative alone saw an increase of 9.8% in its renewable energy, consistent with an upward trend in renewable energy production across the state. However, fossil fuels usage for commercial aviation remains a problem. Given the distance between Hawaii and the continental United States and the limitations of today’s technology, airplanes cannot currently depend on batteries or other renewable energy sources. Advances in aviation technology will certainly be necessary for the state to its goal of complete dependence on renewables. However, a first step might be transitioning to renewables fuels for airplanes flying inter-island trips. []



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