Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth is asking Gov. David Ige to declare an energy emergency given the soaring price of fuel.

In a letter to Ige sent this week, Roth said an emergency declaration is needed to fast-track renewable energy projects currently under review by the Public Utilities Commission.

big island locator badgeSome of that fuel comes from Russia, Roth said. Given that, the Big Island mayor said the impact of the U.S. boycott of Russian fuel imports “will have a disproportionately negative impact on Hawaii communities than most other states.”

Roth said renewable energy projects that would stabilize energy costs and provide greater resilience and reliability have been sitting before the PUC awaiting decisions and next steps.

Mitch Roth Submitted

In Roth’s view, the PUC should be required to review renewable energy projects within 60 days. If they meet certain criteria, the commission should approve them, Roth said.

If the projects were authorized to proceed, Hawaii island could be producing 100% renewable electric energy, according to Roth.

“This could save millions of hard-earned dollars and prevent hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil being burned to produce electricity on Hawaii island alone,” the letter states.

Roth said he’s concerned about how Hawaii island residents will manage the higher energy costs and that some may have to decide between putting food on the table or keeping the lights on.

Well over half of Big Island residents fall into the category of Asset Limited Income Constrained and Employed, Roth said. That essentially means they are the working poor. People who fall into the ALICE category earn enough income to be above the poverty line but their wages are insufficient to cover basic expenses for housing, child care, food, health care and other household budget items.

A spokesperson for Ige said late Friday that expediting decisions from the PUC would not address the immediate challenges, as each of the projects would have additional steps needed to be taken after the PUC acts.

“A more immediate solution would be to tackle Hawaii County’s backlog of solar and battery storage permit applications,” said Cindy McMillan, the governor’s communications director.

The current situation underscores the importance of Hawaii’s first-in-the-nation commitment to renewable energy and when more of the grid is powered by renewables it will better insulate the state from oil market prices, she said.

“Gov. Ige and Mayor Roth share a vision for a renewable energy future in Hawaii and are working together with many others to ensure that becomes a reality,” McMillan said.


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