VERGE 2017

Posted on Jul 17, 2017 in Main

Remarks of Governor David Ige 

June 20, 2017 – VERGE at the Hilton Hawaiian Village

I’m really thrilled to be back this year for VERGE. It was exciting to see the microgrid. When I graduated from electrical engineering years ago, back in the 70’s, I started doing renewable energy.  One of the analysis that I had done was ice storage as the means to store energy to shift the load for one of the clients. It is fascinating and I am certain they are a lot more sophisticated about how to use novel air conditioning to save energy. It is amazing that forty years later, the same ideas are still relevant as we find ways for a more sustainable future.

The timing of this VERGE conference couldn’t be any better.  This past weekend, we celebrated the return home of Hōkūle’a and their Malama Honua voyage—one island, one earth. An island community here in the middle of the Pacific made an impact on making people around the world care about sustainability and the future of our one planet that we all share. It is terrific timing for you to be here to launch this conference.

We definitely have been focused on how our island communities are more greatly impacted by global warming and climate change. Our island communities are on the front lines, we see our sea level rise, we see our highways eroding, we see our shorelines changing, we see our coral dying, and we see more severe weather events. The last three summers have seen the most storms and hurricanes in the history of Hawai‘i.

Clearly in our island community, we are much more aware of the effects of climate change, global warming, and sea level rise.  That really has resulted in Hawai‘i being very aware that what happens in the planet, in the energy space, clearly affects us here in Hawai‘i more greatly than other communities around the world. Yes, we are still the only state that is committed to 100 percent renewable energy for electricity.  Although there are others talking about it, I am still proud that we are still the only state.

As Eric mentioned, we did become the first state to align with the Paris Accord.  We are really committed to reducing greenhouse gases, committed to capturing more carbon and thinking more about how what we do impacts our environment because we know that leadership can start at home.  And that’s what Hōkūle’a taught us—that we here in Hawai‘i can make a statement and can lead the world if it’s important enough to us.

And clearly, we believe that energy sufficiency, sustainability is a very, very important issue and we are stepping forward to lead. We know, besides the 100 percent renewable energy for electricity, that we are on track and ahead of schedule. We went from 9 percent of our electricity being generated by clean renewable energy to 26 percent by the end of 2015. And we are ahead of schedule to hit 30 percent by 2020.

We know what an impact this is and I am proud of our counties. I know that Mayor Arakawa is here from the county of Maui and our counties are doing better than O‘ahu is. Hawai‘i island is at 54 percent renewable today, Kaua‘i is at 42 percent renewable and Maui is at 37 percent.

We are making significant progress to get off fossil fuel and get into clean energy more aggressively than any other community in the United States. We know that reducing our reliance on imported fossil fuels really does have a significant impact.  Since our commitment to clean energy a number of years ago, we reduced the oil burnt for electricity by 23 percent overall. That has been replaced by solar, wind, biomass and other clean energies. But it doesn’t end there because we do know that there is much more work to be done.

The imported fossil fuel that we bring here is about 5-6 million dollars a year, a third is for electricity generation and two thirds is for transportation–a third for autos and trucks and a third for air fuel for airlines. We started working on transportation, we know that transportation has a significant impact on our fossil fuel use.  If we just focused on electricity, we could at best get to one third of the fossil fuel impact that we have.

I asked Ford Fuchigami, Director of Transportation, to lead our efforts on using clean energy in the transportation sector. We’ve had a number of summits and forums to begin our conversations as to what we need to do to move off fossil fuel and into clean energy. Ford definitely knows how to lead by example.  The Department of Transportation has been doing its part to reduce energy, reduce fossil fuel use, and more importantly to use clean energy.

At the end of this year, we’ll be using 43 percent less fossil fuels for our highway systems on Maui and O‘ahu. And that is by installing LED lighting and other more energy efficient systems, but we know that we can continue to do more. We are also looking at being close to 50 percent energy reduction for Hawai‘i, Maui, O‘ahu, and Kaua‘i airports through the installation of high efficiency lighting and clean energy systems.

Our airports are also working on the reduction of oil consumption on the island of Maui, where the airport is the biggest public works project in the history of Maui. We are putting an electric trans system at the airport so that we can reduce the circulation of buses and other transportation to get visitors from the rental car to the terminal and vice versa. We are also installing PV systems at our Daniel K. Inouye International airport in Honolulu and other clean renewable energy projects within the Department of Transportation.

We all know that we need to continue to do both—work on the reduction of energy consumption and at the same time, move forward to clean sustainable energy systems. That’s the best way to make the biggest impact on our environment.

We have also been moving in the general community on a number of initiatives.  The Hawai‘i Energy Organization, which is funded by our utilities to reduce and introduce energy efficiency conservation and renewable energy projects for consumers, has been aggressively promoting rebates for installation of energy efficiency systems that will deliver 1.2 million kilowatt hours of energy savings over the lifetime of the equipment and just two cents per kilowatt hour which is significantly below the current cost–that’s equivalent to a 64-acre solar farm, enough to power 195,000 homes for a year.

We know that these energy efficiency programs, especially as the state is one of the biggest energy consumers, have just as much impact as putting in a generation system. Investing in energy efficiency will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 1 million tons, so we know these energy efficiency as well as clean energy projects are vital to our success to moving to a new clean energy future. We believe that we need to work in parallel to have the biggest impact in our communities.

In March, we are moving to assisting our community to make more energy efficient buildings as we move forward. I signed a new building energy efficiency code, which covers the construction of new buildings and renovation of residential commercial and state buildings. Energy savings in the first year of the new building code is expected to produce 12,000 megawatt hours which is equal to a total energy savings of 1,900 Hawai‘i homes in just the first year of application. Making these systems is important as we attack and make progress on reducing our fossil fuel use.

We are proud that Hawai‘i is leading the nation in the use of energy performance contracts to implement energy and water efficiency projects using the energy savings to pay for the projects. Projects comprised over 120 million square feet and 295 buildings all around the state. Energy savings from these projects are estimated at 1.1 billion dollars over the life of the contracts. We know and understand that these public partnerships can get us real savings and reduce greenhouse gases at the same time. We definitely are committed to these performance contracts as a way to accelerate our progress to reduce our carbon footprint.

We continue to invest in our public schools. I’m a graduate of Pearl City High School and I’m proud of it.  And yes, two years ago, we had the hottest summer on record and our children could not think and concentrate in the hot classrooms. We had, although it is hard to believe, classrooms that had topped out at 110 degrees with several days where it was unbearably hot and really unacceptable so we started our initiative to cool the schools and cool the classrooms. Although most didn’t really pay attention to the details, it really was a combination of air conditioning, energy efficiency systems, and photovoltaic systems—a comprehensive way to cool schools and reduce energy consumption at the same time.

I’m glad to say that we are in the final stretch run and we are installing more than 100 air conditioning probably per week during this time period. By the end of this summer, we will exceed our goal of cooling 1,000 classrooms by a few and in time for the start of the next school year when our students will benefit from cooler classrooms.  At the same time, we probably will be using less energy so that’s a great win-win situation for our children.

Getting back to the purpose of this conference, it’s really to bring great minds and business acumen, universities and others in the energy space to get together and talk story and find ways to help each other, help us as we drive to a clean energy future. Yesterday, I signed a couple of bills that are really important to moving our innovation economy forward, we all know that at the heart of most innovative communities is a thriving university.

I’m a proud graduate of the University of Hawai‘i. Yesterday, I signed a couple of bills that really advances innovation in the university space. The first dealt with our state ethics code and how it calls for a more modern and updated method for our faculty and staff at the university to be able to participate in any innovation or invention they create that drives our innovation economy forward. The second bill created a mechanism for the university to participate in business startups and startup companies so they become not only an intellectual property partner but an equity partner in any inventions which are created.  This allows the university to drive innovation in new business startups. We continue to build this innovation entrepreneurship partnership because we know it’s so important to move our innovation economy.

I wanted to thank you for being here to join the VERGE conference. I’m excited for the opportunity and the conversations that will occur in the next few days.  I am proud that Hawai‘i has chosen to be a clean renewable energy space and proud of our commitment to the Paris agreement and our commitment to reducing greenhouse gases, our commitment to clean energy production, and our commitment to cleaning up transportation because we all know that we have choices to make and we can choose to sit on the side or choose to lead and be counted. In Hawai‘i, we believe in leading.

Thank you very much for being here. Thank you for deciding to join us. I welcome you and look forward to the conversation and the synergy that will occur at this conference. Mahalo!

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Additional photos:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/govhawaii/albums/72157685344994305