Why Aren’t Our Candidates For Governor Discussing Energy? - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Richard Ha

Big Island resident Richard Ha is president of Sustainable Energy Hawaii and author of “What Would Our Kupuna Do?”


As I read through Civil Beat’s account of a recent forum with the three leading Democratic candidates for governor, I was struck by what was missing.

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And it’s not only the gubernatorial candidates. I never hear any politicians discussing this.

No one is talking about our most critical problem, the high cost of energy, which will only continue to rise. It’s impacting how we live and work, and driving people out of Hawaii.

Energy costs will be even more dire when our children and grandchildren become adults and have to make economic decisions about where to live and work — unless we do something about it now. That’s why it seems crazy to me that not one of the leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates even mentioned it.

In 2011, at a peak oil conference in New York City, speakers talked about how Hawaii is the most oil-dependent state with the highest electricity rates. Eleven years later, absolutely nothing has changed.

Hawaiian Electric power plant in Pearl City. 22 aug 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Hawaii continues to burn fossil fuels to provide energy, yet geothermal remains a largely untapped resource. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2015

There is a smart, obvious, and steady answer to this problem: Geothermal energy. We are so incredibly fortunate to have a geothermal resource right beneath us. Many of us Hawaiians consider it a gift and one that can provide for us for a very long time. Geologists tell us Hawaii Island will sit over the “hot spot” that creates our geothermal resource for one to two million years.

Using geothermal will protect us, forever, from electricity, water, and other bills that just keep getting higher. It’s also stable, generates revenue for the state, creates community benefits, and would make us more competitive with the rest of the world as their fossil fuel-oriented costs continue to rise.

Off-Peak Resource

Geothermal is also, by far, the cheapest base power source. Base power is the amount of power the electric utility needs to meet minimum demands, and it’s what has the most impact on your monthly electric bill. In addition to using geothermal for our base power on Hawaii Island, we could also run a cable to Oahu (it’s doable) and supply them with base power so they don’t remain dependent on oil forever.

And we can use unused geothermal energy produced in off-peak times to produce hydrogen, one of the fastest-growing clean energy technologies, which we could use as transportation fuel for gas and diesel engines.

Geothermal gives off no carbon dioxide, so it’s green energy, and everything it produces, like hydrogen, would also be green and available to us as long as there is geothermal energy (one to two million years).

There are geothermal resources below Hawaiian Home Lands properties, and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands owns those resources. One idea is that the DHHL could map those sites and contract out energy production to the highest bidder, returning some of the rents and royalties to the native Hawaiian people upon whose land it sits.

Why is geothermal energy not a topic of discussion?

This could be set up like the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, which pays Alaska citizens yearly dividends based on earnings from the state’s oil revenues. Those checks are getting smaller as oil prices go higher. Here, native Hawaiians could receive more royalties as we use more geothermal energy.

Why is geothermal energy not a topic of discussion? Because no one is advocating for it, as other types of renewable energy companies advocate for projects that don’t provide nearly the value.

It’s our political leaders that should be having these discussions. They are not seeing the big picture, the forest, but only discussing the trees.

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About the Author

Richard Ha

Big Island resident Richard Ha is president of Sustainable Energy Hawaii and author of “What Would Our Kupuna Do?”


Latest Comments (0)

So glad to see you bringing up green hydrogen. Storing hydrogen in the form of ammonia seems like a logical addition to your strategizing. The US Dept of Energy offers many grants to fund feasibility and other types of studies for the implementation of alternative energy strategies, including geothermal, green hydrogen and ammonia. Those grants are available to community groups like yours.. Over here on Oahu, Hui o Hau’ula was a recent recipient of one of those grants. Your group might want to consider consider applying for some of that money so you can present irrefutable evidence to the media and our politicians. If you build a strong enough case, there might be some Federal/Dept of Defense funding to make an inter-island extension cord a reality. The Dept of Defense is an eager adopter of alternative energy. The price of energy feeds into everything else and reducing the its cost would make Hawaii more resilient. Thank-you for beating the drum on this and thank-you to Civil Beat for providing a place to garner attention to this critical issue. Schatz/Hirono/Case/Kahele/state Leg., are you listening?

Thrasybulus_of_Athens · 4 months ago

Let's look at Iceland or Finland. They know how to do geothermal on a national level. We can learn from them and adapt strategies to fit our islands' needs.

MW · 4 months ago

You can't make the essential components for solar panels, tree incinerators, or geothermal power plants without fossil fuels. It just so happens there's this really big country called Russia that has vast amounts of oil and gas which they are exporting super cheap to any nation that's not actively trying to put ballistic missiles in their back yard. Seeing as how we are a group of islands in the middle of the ocean with extremely limited resources maybe it would be beneficial to maintain good terms with them, especially now that the unipolar hegemony of the United States is clearly over and done.

RedStateHawaii · 4 months ago

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