Hawaiians Not Loving to Look at Their Energy Bill

Johnny Wentzel
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Courtesy of Giphy

Visitors to the Hawaiian Islands will be familiar with the white sand beaches, laid-back lifestyle, and absolute bank account implosion upon the return home. It’s pricey to visit, unless you plan to eat nothing but pineapple (challenge accepted, btw), but it’s even more expensive for the people that live there.

Start with the price of energy: Hawaii has the highest energy costs of any state in the US at about $0.47 per kilowatt-hour, or about 3 times the national average. Considering the island’s main source of energy is from oil imported from the mainland, it’s not surprising to see higher-than-average prices across the state due to shipping costs and the general volatility of oil prices.

That said, the local utility, Hawaiian Electric, basically has a monopoly on energy in the area, and provides electricity to about 95 percent of the state. Not exactly a competitive market.

A new hope emerges

On the island of Molokai though, residents are pushing back on Hawaiian Electric by funding their own renewable infrastructure. Recent proposals from locally operated installers would see 20 percent of Molokai’s energy needs coming from community-lead solar projects.

  • Although Molokai makes up less than a percent of Hawaii’s total population, one fifth of its inhabitants live at or below the poverty line, making it an interesting case study on why low cost, locally managed energy might be the best option for access to electricity in some regions.

Zoom out: In 2014, Hawaii was the first US state to commit to a goal of using 100 percent renewable energy for electricity by 2045. Since then, each of the five major islands of Hawaii have developed renewable projects — mostly solar and wind — to account for nearly 30 percent of the state’s electricity generation.

On top of providing lower cost energy options for locals, we hope the transition to renewables will also make Hawaii an attractive place to host a first-ever ENERGYminute summit (smiles aloha-ingly at boss).