While many Republicans share the Sarah Palin mantra “Drill, baby, drill,” James “Duke” Aiona‘s mantra on energy might be “Clean, baby, clean.”

Painfully aware that Hawaii imports nearly all of its energy and food, the lieutenant governor wants to see a Hawaii that draws on its abundance of renewable energy sources and rich agricultural background to sustain itself.

In short, when it comes to energy and sustainability, the lieutenant governor is far more blue than red. In fact, he’s pretty green.

Through the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, Aiona was part of an administration that launched what his campaign calls the state’s “transformation from the nation’s most fossil fuel-dependent state into a worldwide energy leader.”

Aiona has stated that the initiative will generate 70 percent of Hawaii’s energy from clean and renewable resources by the year 2030 so many times its practically tattoed on his forehead.

Whether the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative will meet its goal of weaning the state off of fossil fuel in favor of clean energy won’t be known for years.

But the Lingle Administration said in January 2010, on the two-year anniversary of the initiative, that much has been accomplished. Those accomplishments, according to the administration, include the following:

• “From 2006 through the 2009 legislative session 19 landmark clean energy bills have been enacted into law, including a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) and an Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS), both the most progressive in the nation.”

• “To date 34 dockets related to clean energy development are active before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), including historic and ‘game-changing’ dockets establishing feed-in tariffs and decoupling for the Hawaiian Electric Companies.”

• “The Lingle-Aiona administration and the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) entered into a historic Energy Agreement on October 20, 2008, pursuant to which HECO committed to integrating 1,122 megawatts (MW) of utility-scale renewables by 2030, along with approximately 660 MW of customer-sited photovoltaics and other distributed generation into its power grid.”

• “Hawai’i now leads the nation in solar water heating, which accounted for more than a third of all systems installed in 2008…Hawai’i now ranks third in the nation in per-capita photovoltaic generation.”

• “In 2008, Hawai’i residents used 8 percent less energy per-capita in 2008 than 2007, marking the sharpest decline in recent years. As per-capita energy use drops steadily, Hawai’i is spending less on energy per dollar of gross state product (GSP)…”

• “As a result of the Lingle-Aiona administration’s Lead by Example initiative, electricity consumption in the executive branch of state government decreased by nearly 6 percent from 2008 to 2009, saving an estimated $10 million a year in general funds.”

• “The state’s first public EV charging station opened on January 23, 2010, and new legislation encourages electric vehicles by requiring designated parking stalls and charging stations in parking lots with at least 100 public stalls.”

• “Dozens of energy companies are pursuing clean energy projects statewide in wind, solar, geothermal, wave and ocean energy and biomass…A landmark agreement between HECO, Castle & Cooke, and First Wind in March 2009 initiated wind energy projects on the islands of Lāna’i and Moloka’i, where wind resources are the most abundant…”

• “Ancillary to the development of the renewable generation facilities is the development of an undersea cable between Maui County and O’ahu that would transport renewable energy from where it is more abundant to where it’s needed most.”

Problems With Funding

To be sure, the administrations clean-energy accomplishments include a lot of outside collaboration. The initiative also has its critics, and it should be noted that the local Sierra Club supports Aiona’s Democratic opponent, former Congressman Neil Abercrombie.

Jeff Mikulina, executive director of Blue Planet Foundation, whose mission is ending the use of fossil fuels, says the Lingle-Aiona administration does deserve credit for elevating the issue of clean, renewable energy.

Pointing to examples like the allocation of some $40 million in federal stimulus money for clean energy plans in Hawaii, Mikulina says the state is “really making some progress.”

But he also pointed to Lingle’s veto of a 2009 bill that would have directed 100 percent of the state’s barrel tax to clean energy initiatives and agriculture. (The veto was not overridden.)

A year later, Lingle vetoed a bill that would have directed 40 percent of the barrel tax to energy and agricultural programs. This time the veto was overridden.

Asked about the vote in June, Aiona at first told members of the Blue Planet Foundation and the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum that he stood by the governor’s veto.

“Things then got a little heated,” said Mikulina. “More recently he has now come out and said he supports 100 percent of the barrel tax for energy, now that it is the law of the land. So I am not sure if what he is saying is really a change of heart, but that belies the last two years by the administration.”

Mikulina also notes, as has Aiona’s general election opponent, that the state’s clean energy initiatives are supported entirely by federal dollars — dollars that are set to expire soon.

“You need to have the resources to do this,” says Mikulina. “That’s the one piece that’s missing: How do you fund this?”

Still, it’s clear that Hawaii is looking a lot more like California than Texas.

As a candidate for governor, Aiona has said he wants new initiatives that will allow Hawaii to “capture half its energy from local sources” by 2018.

From Farm to Fork

Aiona sees energy self-sufficieny as a “twin” to food self-sufficiency and believes policies on both must be developed hand in hand.

As the Aiona-Finnegan platform on agriculture states, Hawaii imports an estimated 85 percent of its food supply, “sending nearly $2 billion out of state every year. If we replaced just 10 percent of the food we import with locally grown food, the shift would generate an estimated $188 million in annual sales and create 2,300 local jobs.”

Aiona wants the state to grow more food “as Native Hawaiians did in pre-contact times” to “improve our health and well-being, encouraging us to eat fresh fish, produce, fruits, nuts, milk and locally raised meats that go straight ‘from farm to fork.’

The Republican team’s environmental platform would commit the state “to meeting its public trust obligations by vigorously protecting Hawai’i’s unique ecosystem,” adopting and implementing “responsible development practices that protect, complement, and enhance our natural and cultural resources — not cutting of the tops of mountains.”

Duke Aiona could never run for governor of West Virgina or Kentucky.

Learn about Abercrombie’s Shades of Red, on topics such as the military, the estate tax and same-sex marriage and also about how he stood alone on a controversial vote on aid for the Palestinian government.

Learn about Aiona’s Shades of Blue, on topics such as the Akaka Bill, the homeless, and healthy lifestyles.

About the Author