In a three-way race for the recognition of national clean-energy king, Hawaii is making a strong case for the gold medal. California and New York held a commanding lead until Democratic Hawaiian Gov. David Ige signed into law an initiative that guarantees the state will get 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2045.
We've been following this ambitious law to the governor's desk because it is the first of its kind in the United States. The law outlines a stepping-stone transition to get the island state all the way from its current 90 percent reliance on imported oil to 100 percent renewables, such as wind, solar and geothermal power.
By Dec. 31, 2020, Hawaii will source 30 percent of its electricity from renewables, closing in on California’s nation-leading 33 percent by 2020, state officials said. Ten years later, by Dec. 31, 2030, Hawaii said it will get 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources. Another 10 years later, on New Year’s Eve of 2040, Hawaii will get 70 percent of its energy from renewables. And just five years after that, the transition will be complete before the half-way mark of the century in 2045.
By 2030, Hawaii will become the No. 1 state in clean energy -- quite the feat for a state that was in last place before this initiative. Hawaii is the most fossil fuel dependent state in the nation, largely because its economy is so reliant on tourism and the military. Hawaii.gov says that the state’s dependence on fossil fuels is dangerous to the future of Hawaii because of the “finite nature of fossil fuels” and the fact that the state’s remoteness often leads to expensive oil prices or little oil availability.
Ige wasn’t only satisfied with the nation’s most progressive piece of environmental legislation in years, so he signed a few more initiatives. Hawaii will enable community installations of solar arrays, wind turbines and other forms of shared renewable energy, make the University of Hawaii a net-zero energy user by 2035, and promote pollution-free hydrogen vehicles throughout the state.
The state consisting of eight small islands has simple access to two of the greatest sources of renewable energy: the ocean and the sun. The volcanic vents underwater that created the island chain can provide geothermal power, and the ocean's waves can be harnessed for wave energy.
Amazingly, Hawaii’s trailblazing efforts may not secure a first-place finish for long. Ten states, plus Washington, D.C., have already made pacts to minimize non-renewable energy usage. California is right in Hawaii’s rear-view mirror, with talks between Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and state Senate President Kevin de Leon ensuring a 50 percent by 2030 renewable standard may be coming very soon. With New York state’s Energy Plan due to be released in a few weeks, it could introduce a 50 percent by 2025 standard in the state with the largest city in the United States.
Hawaii will also lend a helping hand to those who are unable to install solar units on their property. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory said that could mean the state will have to provide assistance to half of all households and businesses. But Hawaii doesn’t want anyone to feel left out of the movement to have clean, renewable energy.
Image credit: Official U.S. Navy Page/Flickr
Based in Washington, DC, Grant works as a program assistant at SEEP Network, an international development nonprofit. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, Grant spent four months post-grad living in Armenia where he worked for Habitat for Humanity and the World Food Programme. Grant is passionate about humanitarianism and finding sustainable approaches to international development. He enjoys playing trivia with friends but is still seeking his first victory - he ceaselessly blames his friends lack of preparation.