An innovative plan to cool our schools

Posted on Feb 29, 2016 in Main

In your State of the State address, you set an ambitious goal of cooling 1,000 public school classrooms — using energy-efficient means and a “green energy” fund — by the end of this year.  How did that plan come about?

For the sake of our children and teachers, I felt strongly that we needed to ramp up our efforts to cool hot classrooms across the state. At the same time, we knew whatever we did had to save energy and use funds wisely. In a meeting with our state directors and others, we found a creative answer and a good fit in the Green Energy Market Securitization (GEMS) program to implement heat abatement measures and install air conditioning units in classrooms where they’re most needed.

Why is this approach important and how do you see it working?

GEMS funds are an existing source of money that can be deployed quickly and appropriately to provide relief for our schools. The Department of Education has already launched energy efficiency and heat abatement programs and is exploring many types of cooling strategies to reduce temperatures in the classrooms.  With an infusion of the $100 million GEMS fund loan, the DOE can install heat abatement measures in conjunction with LED lighting and other energy efficiency strategies to lower energy consumption, avoid overloading a school’s electrical capacity and save money on the electric bill. Achieving savings can be as simple as making the windows fully operable to take advantage of cooler days, even in rooms with air conditioning.

Q. What key steps are involved in reaching the 1,000 classroom goal?

It’s taking many people working together to help us meet our goal — from the Department of Education and other state departments to legislators, the Public Utilities Commission, and the many engineering teams who are assessing the individual needs of the hottest schools. We want to make sure we do things the right way while also being aware time is of the essence. (For more  details, see the articles on Page 3 of this newsletter.) 

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Read more in our March issue: http://governor.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/MARCH-FINAL-Capitol-Connection.pdf