ADDRESSING CLEAN ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Hawaii is already facing eroding beaches, a diminishing fresh water supply, and growing hurricane frequency as result of our changing climate. As a first step, in 2015 Chris passed a groundbreaking law making Hawaii the first state to mandate 100% renewable electricity by 2045, and progress switching to cheaper renewables has already saved Hawaii over a half a billion dollars and reduced electric rates in Honolulu by 20%. Chris was honored to be named a national “Solar Champion” for this work. 

 

Later, Chris wrote and passed another law which made Hawaii the first state to commit to economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2045, and passed a law directing the state to eliminate fossil fuels for all ground transportation and reduce fuel costs for local drivers. He also authored legislation that established Hawaii’s Commitment to the Aloha+ Challenge, which brings Hawaii together with other Pacific Island nations to collaborate and jointly tackle climate and sustainability issues in our respective island communities.

When utilities began blocking consumers from installing solar panels, Chris convened public hearings and passed a law that directed the utility to let more consumers take advantage of solar energy. He was also named national “Best Policymaker” by the US Green Building Council Center for Green Schools for two laws he passed making Hawaii the first state to direct all public schools and universities to produce 100% of their own power from renewables by 2035. In 2020 the first UH campus on Oahu achieved this goal. Leeward Community College in Pearl City announced that it has achieved our net-zero target and has already generated 97% of its energy from solar systems. It is one of the first net-zero campuses in the United States. Leeward Community College's efforts will save the UH system $269,000 in energy and operational costs this year and $8.4million in operating costs over the next 20 years.

 

Chris also passed a law directing the creation of “microgrids” across the islands to make our electric grid more resilient to storms and lower costs compared to traditional centralized powerplants powering a giant electric grid.

 

Chris funded an analysis to look at converting Hawaii’s investor-owned utilities into locally owned cooperatives, similar to the Kauai Island Utility Coop to ensure our community local control of our energy. In the meantime, he also authored a first-of-its-kind bill to ensure utilities better serve the interests of consumers and achieve carbon reduction goals. Known as the Hawaii Ratepayer Protection Act, it directly tied electric utility earnings to a utility's achievement on performance metrics such as customer satisfaction, lowering electric rates, progress on renewable energy, and interconnection of customers’ home solar. The Hawaii Ratepayer Protection Act passed in 2018 as Senate Bill 2939 and was signed into law as Act 5. 

 

Sea level rise and impacts of global warming are already impacting Hawaii and our economy. Action must be taken not only because it will help boost the local economy, but more importantly because it is the morally right thing to do for our next generation. Chris authored the Hawaii Climate Adaptation Initiative directing all levels of government to work together to address sea level rise and prepare for these coming changes, which resulted in the highest-resolution study of sea level rise of any place on the planet, which found over $19 billion in coastal roads and homes across the state are at risk of inundation. Chris then passed a law requiring all environmental impact statements for shoreline projects to consider sea level rise to ensure future projects are built to withstand higher waves and storm surges and protect families and taxpayer-funded infrastructure along the coast.

 

He also passed a law establishing a process to allow local farmers to receive carbon credits and be paid for sequestering carbon to reduce Hawaii’s greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Chris has been working with leaders around the country and passed a resolution calling on other states to follow Hawaii’s efforts to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy which have saved consumers millions, created thousands of jobs, and benefited our economy.

NEXT ISSUE: Diversifying our Economy and Creating New Jobs

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