Other than the site visits/mobile workshops planned for today, the 2016 Maui Energy Conference entitled: 100% Renewable Energy In Hawaii: It's No Longer A Matter of When, ended yesterday. It is unfortunately that the Star Advertiser and Civil Beat reporters choose to focus on a non-story, the absence of anyone affiliated with NextEra, detracting from the substance of important discussions occurring throughout the two days. Whether the merger is approved or not the electric utility must function. The audience heard from the Hawaiian Electric Company executives and managers leading its transformation teams and working in the trenches to transition the electric utility's business model and operations to achieve the state's policy objectives. Many of those who choose to comment negatively on NextEra's absence are also the same guys harping on issues like local control. Ironically, that's what the conference offered, locally based HECO executives and managers, along with other State and national provocative thinkers, delving into the challenges of getting to 100% renewable energy fairly and affordably.
However, other than the Maui Mayor's opening speech opening the conference, two groups were indeed conspicuously absent from attendance, politicians and the non-rooftop solar electricity customer whose pocketbook will be the most deeply impacted under the current trajectory of 100% renewables. I know the legislature is in session but this conference provided a chance to learn and ask questions about the technical, economic and social impacts to achieve 100% renewables to ensure Hawaii's clean energy policies are just, equitable and affordable. With a certain politician making pronouncements without sound data and analysis (he really should let his state agencies do their jobs) and another one just seeking publicity and soundbite opportunities (it is an election year), their politically expedient statements are typically on the backs of those who can least afford it.
Kudos to the Maui County Office of Economic Development and the Maui Economic Development Board. Each year, through this conference, the organizers strive to dive deeper into complex issues regarding our electricity system. It is not an easy task to inform and educate but a necessary one to make the paradigm shifts for the transformation of Hawaii's energy system. In the next couple of days I hope to write about some of the most noteworthy presentations and discussions.
Jonathan Koehn, the Regional Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Boulder mentioned that the nation's energy situation can either be an evolution or a revolution. I prefer a thoughtful and methodical evolution to support what we value in Hawaii rather than a revolution which may result in a continuous divide of winners and losers battling in an energy failed state. Hawai's 100% renewable portfolio standard cannot be done at any cost or we will be in a failed state.