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by Pearl Hahn

Several proposals have been launched by the state Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT) in an ambitious push to have 70 percent or more of Hawaii’s energy needs supplied by ‘renewable resources’ by 2030. This goal sprang out of a partnership made in January 2008 with the U.S. Department of Energy called the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.

Hawaii is the only state in the nation to have signed this type of partnership. Governor Lingle has proclaimed that Hawaii is to set an example for other states and nations to serve as a test bed of technology and a place where private companies can launch new ventures.

Yet, her stated goal of having 70 percent of Hawaii’s energy supplied by renewables seems lofty, if not out of reach. Using the highest estimates, projections indicate that current plans and development activities could result in a maximum of 20 percent of electric energy supply generated from renewable resources by 2020. Even having achieved this, Hawaii would still be heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels.

The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative doesn’t come cheaply. A chunk of the funding will come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), or the stimulus bill, which was signed into law by the president back in February. The components of ARRA for Hawaii include formula funding, competitive grants, tax credits, and bond and loan guarantees.

Nearly $26 million of ARRA money will go to the State Energy Program, whose stated purpose is to promote energy conservation and reduce energy demand. These plans include decoupling utility revenue from utility sales, expanding existing programs, and a $6 million undersea cable. Another $4.04 million is to go to energy efficiency in low-income housing by providing solar water heaters.

These are small potatoes compared to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants, which will be funded with $3.2 billion overall for the state and counties. Since 2008, funding for “smart appliances” has increased ten-fold, from $30 million to $300 million.

Other projects include alternative fuel vehicles, school modernization and renovation, transportation electrification, job training, and more.

Visit DBEDT’s site to check out the rest.