Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Energy in Hawaii

Living in Hawaii, we unknowingly pay more for our energy use than the mainland. Coupled with the fact that our primary resource to create power is gas, we put ourselves in a situation where Hawaii is at the mercy of Gas. I know this firsthand because recently I just started to drive to school, rather than catch the bus. However as Hawaii tries to shift towards a clean energy solution, I think of all the pros and cons of this effort.

What was interesting to me was the fact that Hawaii pays around 30 cents per kWh while the mainland only pays 10 cents. This is a prime example of the 'paradise tax' we pay for living in Hawaii. Since we do not have a 'super grid' like the mainland, we rely heavily on electric plants that consume gas as a means to make energy. Keeping in mind that Hawaii is in a prime spot for other renewable energy alternatives, such as wind, solar, and geothermal. 

Energy in Hawaii is difficult to describe, but I would summarize it in one word, complacency. Most of the residents here are either unaware or don't care for the clean energy movement, and most likely they'll grumble and whine when it is too late. Hawaii clean energy initiative is a great idea but it requires a collective effort from the community. For example a small group of energy enthusiasts won't make a dent when hundreds of thousands of energy users don't preemptively change their energy usage.

I like to use the analogy of a person that thinks their actions doesn't make an impact on this situation as an example of the problem we face. If people in Hawaii don't begin to try become more energy efficient, I would ultimately be paying the price by a higher electricity bill, and paying an arm and a leg for gas. This bystander effect will be the biggest challenge that the HCEI would face in my opinion. However a lot of people are making efforts to promote clean energy in Hawaii.

For instance Jay from HNEI has received a grant from the US Department of Energy to do work using neat energy meters. These energy meters are a great tool to provide real empirical data on energy costs. For example if I installed an energy meter and suddenly realized that my energy usage has jumped twofolds just by watching tv, I would reconsider my habits to try reduce my energy usage. Hopefully this issue does find a solution to itself in the future, as Hawaii is in dire need for a clean energy solution.


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