Remarks of Governor David Ige as prepared
June 21, 2016 – VERGE at the Hilton Hawaiian Village
Aloha and welcome to the Hawaiian islands. We are glad you are here to work with us as we move to make better use of our natural resources and become better stewards of our environment.
One year ago, Hawai‘i became the first state in the nation to commit to 100% renewable energy for our electricity sector. For those of you who are on your first trip to Hawai‘i, if you travel around, it’s easy to see why Hawai‘i is leading the way.
This is the perfect setting for energy transformation. We are isolated island grids. We do import fossil fuel and have among the highest energy cost in the United States. But I think most importantly, we have the policies in place like the 100% commitment to renewable energy that the public and our community has embraced. That commitment to clean energy and reducing our carbon footprint has survived three governors’ administrations and Hawai‘i is the perfect connection across the ocean. We are in the perfect spot to be the experiment and the center for renewable clean energy around the world.
Working with our partners, and I consider all of you partners, we fully expect to be 100% renewable by 2045 in electricity generation. I know that there is no challenge that we will not be able to make.
So where are we today? We added more than 500 megawatts of generated capacity from wind, solar and biomass since the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative was established in 2008. We have exceeded the interim target of 15% by 2015 so we are ahead of schedule. Today, the state obtains about 24% of its generation from electricity from renewable energy sources. We are ahead of the timeline for reaching the goal of 40% by 2030. And today, solar is the leading renewable energy resource in Hawai‘i providing 35% of the state’s renewable energy generation.
Hawai‘i generates 312 watts of solar power per person, more than any other state in the country. Hawai‘i is first in the nation in rooftop solar per capita. On O‘ahu, 17% of the homes have a PV system and many more desire to get one. The high penetration of rooftop solar in some areas has been making it difficult to add more.
We all know the challenges of intermittent power. Large amounts of intermittent power spread across our grid has been an extremely challenging situation for our utilities and some of that has been slowed by the drop in oil prices, but Hawai‘i’s adoption is clearly ahead of the rest of the country.
And we are also focused on energy efficiency improvement, mainly in government buildings. I truly believe in leading by example and that our performance contracts have reduced the carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 62,000 tons a year or the equivalent of taking 10,000 cars off the road.
For the fourth consecutive year, the State of Hawai‘i has earned the Energy Services Coalition Race to the Top Award for leading the nation in per capita energy performance contracting for state and county buildings. The growth in renewable energy and energy efficiency installations has had a profound impact on our economy.
The spending on solar TV installations has averaged $507 million per year over the past five years. That amounts to about 19% of the total construction in Hawai‘i over the last five years. Nearly 1 in 5 of the construction dollars are spent on PV panels or renewable energy, but we are not slowing down or resting on our laurels.
Even with the rapid growth of renewable energy, we still import about 80% of Hawai‘i’s energy for electricity, which still comes from petroleum and imported oil. Hawai‘i continues to be the most oil dependent state in the nation. We still spend roughly $5 billion a year on importing fossil fuels from around the world and this dependence is a threat to our energy, and economic and environmental security, and that is what’s driving our commitment, the State’s commitment, to clean energy transformation.
So where do we go from here? This Verge Conference is part of that. It really is about leveraging our position here in the middle of the Pacific to access partners from around the world, proving emerging technologies and strategies before going to market.
We do know that it will happen in Hawai‘i first before it happens anywhere else. We do know the challenges about storage. We have no problems in taking and generating energy from clean renewable resources because we have an abundance here in the State of Hawai‘i.
The challenges about storage are getting storage to be economical, consistent, and being able to deliver and store the energy when it’s available and then more importantly, deliver it in a consistent, reliable way so that we can all conduct the businesses that we need.
We do know that long-term energy contracts will encourage higher levels of investment and capital spending among businesses and more importantly, we believe that long-term agreements allow us to share the risk with the developers, both the technology risk as well as the price risk. We do believe that encourages investment in our communities to help us attain the clean energy goal.
We intend to learn from our partners from around the world. As I traveled to Japan, Korea and China to talk about 100% clean energy commitment, they want to be here. They know that we have the highest renewable energy penetration in an isolated island grid. They want to be able to make investments and learn with us.
One of those partnerships is like the ocean thermal energy conversion plan on the Big Island that we have partnered with Okinawa and the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawai‘i. We believe that OTEC provides a clean, renewable, firm source that will generate electricity from the largest solar collector on the panel— the ocean. We believe that joint investments allow both of us here in Hawai‘i and Japan to get better with our own skills. We believe that this next phase, which is a demonstration plan of 1 to 5 megawatts, will truly allow us to prove the cost effectiveness of OTEC technology and really be positioned to export this technology around the world.
We’ve also had partnerships, like JUMPSmartMaui with Hitachi where we collaborate, give a demonstration project between Japan, Hawai‘i and Maui; and truly focus on what would happen if we could incorporate battery storage of electric vehicles into the utility grid and really use it in a way that’s most effective to our community rather than the individual owners.
We’ve been active partners with our military. This afternoon, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Navy to advance clean energy opportunities. If you think Hawai‘i’s commitment to 100% clean energy is aggressive, the Department of Defense is even more aggressive committing to 50% clean energy by 2020 and we believe that this partnership allows us to leverage the assets of the State with the assets of the federal government.
We also have a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy. Working together allows us to look at the challenges together, share information and assets, and most importantly, to deliver synergistic working relationships that allows us to do more with less.
The military is the largest single customer of Hawai‘i’s utilities. We believe that this collaboration will accelerate our case for 100% renewable, and this Memorandum of Understanding allows us to formalize the relationship so that it will extend beyond the personal individuals involved and really can be a long-term benefit to our communities.
Here in Hawai‘i we are committed to building an energy portfolio that’s diversified and distributed. We believe in modernizing the energy infrastructure, protecting our unique ecosystem, letting the market work, and exploring offshore wind.
We are committed to reducing fossil fuels in our transportation sector. My director of transportation has formulated a task force looking at how we can reduce our use of fossil fuels for transportation, and we are focused on sustainability throughout everything that we do. We are looking at converting the Wiki Wiki buses to clean energy and encouraging investments in hydrogen fuel zero efficient vehicles because we truly believe that will get us off of fossil fuel and into clean renewable energies.
In closing, we have an energy vision for Hawai‘i that remains very clear. We are committed to 100% renewable energy. No more fossil fuels, including LNG, and especially no more big fossil fuel plans. A transformation to a customer center utility focusing on smart meters, smart grid, distributed local solutions, and as much consumer choice as possible. Our move to a 21st century utility is right for us as a people, right for our precious environment, and an important part of our economy for job creation in the years to come.
I just wanted to thank you all for choosing to be part of this Verge Conference. We believe that this partnership will allow all of us to move toward a 21st century clean energy future. Mahalo and aloha.