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Dollars and Sense

A new energy model will benefit Maui’s economy.

July 14, 2009
Chris Mintzel, CEO of Clean Energy Maui LLC
Every day, $1 million goes up in smoke to make electricity for Maui. That’s what Maui Electric Company (MECO) spends to purchase diesel and oil. It takes many, many tourists to bring that amount of money to our island.


If we had more wind farms and solar installations, we could keep this money on the island and create a better life for everyone.


In Germany, the wunderkind of clean energy, a whole new middle class of energy entrepreneurs has sprung up. Herr Schmid is a great example. In 1995, he heard about the law that enables people to earn a profit from selling electricity over the grid. He went to his bank and got a loan to buy a million-dollar windmill. After a year of planning and permitting, the 330-foot tower was erected and started to make him money. He was able to buy a new house for his son.


Schmid built the house and made some money to buy a new Volkswagen. They also paid some more taxes, which was used to improve school buildings and to hire a new teacher for computer science.


Then Schmid wanted to build another windmill and hired Frau Langenberg, who had been out of work before entering the wind energy industry. So she made some money, too.


Schmid bought the windmill from a German manufacturer that grew 50 percent last year. When the energy payments came in, he used the money to increase his retirement savings.


Meanwhile, on Maui, the money we were paying for our electricity bills went to China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and Libya. In addition, during the last year, we saw a sudden doubling in oil prices that created serious problems for energy users.


Ask your politicians to follow the German model and ask the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to install a strong version of a similar law in Hawai‘i. It’s called the F.I.T. (feed-in tariff) and it will open doors for entrepreneurs. It will also help save us from the effects of global warming.


Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy Maui LLC, consults with county and state governments in Hawai‘i to secure a quick transition to a clean energy future. He is also the chairman of South Maui Sustainability’s renewable energy committee. His goal is to end oil use on Maui by 2020. He can be reached through www.CleanEnergyMaui.com or at 214-7678.

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