As Mayor Charmaine Tavares said, “the stars are aligned” for the future of clean energy on Maui. We have a mayor who wants to make Maui 95 percent energy independent by 2020, a governor who is setting a 70 percent goal for 2030 (made into law by the Legislature recently) and politicians who, in general, include renewable energy on their platforms.
But that begs the questions, “Why are we not further along? Where are the new wind projects, the solar farms and other clean energy projects? Why is the state still powered by 85 percent fossil energy, as it was 10, 20 and 30 years ago?”
On the surface, there are planning, financing and contract delays and serious technical concerns about intermittent energy. But the major obstacle is the lack of decisiveness and urgency.
We cannot wait. Scientists are warning that mankind needs to make serious progress in reducing carbon emissions in the next 10 years, otherwise we will be unable to stop the cycle of dramatic climate change. Once Siberia begins to thaw and release its methane, it will have the same effect as 80 years of industrial emissions. Ten years seems like an awfully short time.
Here is Maui’s chance to serve as an example to the world. Many of us are convinced of this, even in the highest ranks of politics and industry. Let us set an example for the world that it is possible to work together to solve the Herculean task of fighting climate change and achieving energy independence.
It’s only possible through the practice of aloha, leading us to true cooperation. Project builders, investors, planners, environmentalists and Maui Electric need to come together with our kupuna and create the future of Maui. The FIT law (feed-in tariff) currently being developed by the PUC can set the framework. A new organization is needed to coordinate the effort, put all the pieces together and guide new clean energy projects to success.
Maui is the ideal place to showcase the future of clean energy. We have the best wind, as well as sun, other natural energy, high visibility and the chance to reduce energy costs.
More importantly, we have the people and the aloha to bring us all together.
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.