How Can Energy Help Hawaii’s Economy Recover? - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Caroline Carl

Caroline Carl is deputy director of Hawaii Energy, where she oversees the planning and execution of a range of residential and commercial energy efficiency programs. She holds a B.A in environment and development from McGill University and a M.S. in geographic information science and technology from the University of Southern California.

Have you looked at your electricity bill lately? If you’re like me – spending more time at home in order to be safe and minimize any exposure or community spread – you and your family members are using more devices, doing more laundry, cooking and baking, and now as the days are getting hotter, trying to stay as cool as possible with fans and AC.

When the pandemic started, we at Hawaiʻi Energy anticipated residential electricity bills would go up as more people stayed, worked and played at home. We immediately launched messages offering energy conservation tips via the media, our Home Energy Reports and our website.

These tips ranged from simple behavioral changes – activating the power-saving mode on your computer or opening your blinds to let in more daylight – to energy-efficient lighting and appliance rebates, all of which can be found on our website, HawaiiEnergy.com.

It’s been especially important to support our neighbors facing financial hardships, particularly those who were already in tight situations before COVID-19. Our team worked with community partners on Oahu, Maui, Molokai and Hawaii Island to hand out free Home Energy Efficiency Kits at meal distribution sites.

The kits included energy-efficient light bulbs, a smart plug and a smart power strip. In total, we gave out 2,100 kits, which we hope will translate to lower electricity bills for those families.

Big Leaps For Businesses

While our residential efforts focused on empowering people to take charge of their own electricity use at home, our work on the commercial side is targeting ways that efficiency can help Hawaii’s businesses stay afloat or get back on their feet.

When COVID-19 hit our islands, the state and counties deemed the energy sector an “essential business.” In April, we surveyed our Clean Energy Allies – a Hawaii Energy network of contractors, equipment vendors, architects, engineers, distributors, manufacturers and retailers that provide energy-efficient products and services.

While the majority were able to remain operational, 93% faced project delays, 87% saw a decrease in sales, and half of the respondents said they were forced to downsize. Under guidance from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, we at Hawaii Energy have designed our new Program Year to elevate our support for our CEAs.

Investing in energy efficiency will not only help businesses control utility costs, which can be a major expense, but our incentives will make it more affordable.

Along with providing our standard commercial rebates for lighting, HVAC, and other efficiency controls, our commercial team is focusing on pipeline development for CEAs and others. We are increasing and enhancing our activities, such as incentives, energy audits, marketing support and grants, to help promote energy-efficient measures in all commercial areas.

The pandemic has magnified just how vulnerable we are.

We have also designed programs to address COVID-related issues that facility/property managers are facing. This includes how to properly reopen a building or facility in ways that are healthy and safe for tenants, guests and employees.

Our most recent guidance covers building sanitation and ventilation, including an HVAC checklist and best practices. Along with being available on our website, we are sharing this information via free online webinars featuring subject matter experts.

Seeking Collaboration

The pandemic has magnified just how vulnerable we are, especially with the collapse of our economy and number one industry. As the state explores ways to diversify beyond tourism, we hope our leaders will engage with the clean energy industry for both economic and environmental resiliency.

Within energy, efficiency has proven to be a key player over the years and we look forward to doing our part to move the industry forward through innovative solutions and workforce development.

Efficiency can also have a positive impact beyond the energy sector. We know we’re not alone in trying to think “outside of the box” to thrive in this “new normal.”

We are open to new partnership opportunities throughout the communities we serve and invite organizations looking to enhance their offerings for their constituents to contact us.

Whether you’re able to do small things at home or have the power to integrate efficiency on a larger scale, Hawaii Energy is here to help.

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About the Author

Caroline Carl

Caroline Carl is deputy director of Hawaii Energy, where she oversees the planning and execution of a range of residential and commercial energy efficiency programs. She holds a B.A in environment and development from McGill University and a M.S. in geographic information science and technology from the University of Southern California.


Latest Comments (0)

Hawaii already has the highest electric rates in the nation along with the highest usage of "renewable".  The real question is how to bring down the retail price of electricity?

Sally · 1 year ago

A shrinking economy uses less energy. If we're going to turn this into some kind of "recovery via job creation" then we need to start upgrading our sources from oil and coal to solar, wind, and geothermal. These upgrades have to be paid for, somehow. The local economy doesn't have the capital, and I doubt anyone will want to invest in a shrinking economy. Assuming there's any money to be had, there's a long fight against the NIMBY and "sacred lands" contingents -- capital will simply find easier (more receptive) markets.TL;DR: "diversify the economy beyond tourism" is a fairy tale that we tell our children in hopes they won't move away after college.

shorttimer · 1 year ago

What ever happened with developing energy from ocean water temperature differential? I recall claims that it  could run the AC for whole office buildings, for example. And since it didn't rely on sun or wind, was good for 24 hrs a day.

taueva · 1 year ago

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