Archive for the ‘climate change’ Category

IUCN Spotlight: Jeff Mikulina

September 3rd, 2016

Solar panels at Kapiolani Medical Center. Courtesy

Solar panels at Kapiolani Medical Center, Honolulu. Credit:

Island nations, most vulnerable to climate change, are also innovators in adopting renewable energy.

The Blue Planet Foundation and IUCN Caribbean host a workshop, Windows to the Future: Islands as Innovators for a Renewable Energy Transition, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 4 at the Hawai‘i Convention Center (Room 319A) as part of the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016.

Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, joins Franklin Hoevertsz, managing director, Utilities Aruba, Dutch West Indies, Utu Abe Malae, executive director, American Samoa Power Authority, Spencer Thomas, energy economist, government of Grenada, Ngedikes Olai Uludong, Ambassador to EU for Climate Change from the Republic of Palau,  and others for a discussion on strategies leading to 100-percent energy. Race car driver, Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima, electric vehicle advocate, will also be on the panel.

Following the workshop, at 1:15 p.m., leaders from Tonga, American Samoa and other island nations join Blue Planet Foundation founder Henk Rogers for an announcement regarding their shared vision for a 100-percent renewable energy future at the center's main lobby fronting Atkinson Avenue. (Rogers also speaks on an Oceana panel from 5-6 p.m.).

Island nations around the world have made substantive plans and commitments toward 100-percent renewable energy, many by 2030, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, by a power plant in downtown Honolulu. Star-Advertiser ARchives/ Cindy Ellen Russell.

Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, by a power plant in downtown Honolulu. Star-Advertiser Archives/ Cindy Ellen Russell.

The Green Leaf sat down for a Q&A with Jeff Mikulina.

GL: Why is it significant for the IUCN WCC to be held here in Hawaii? How can Hawaii contribute to the conversation this year?

JM: It is a remarkable privilege for Hawaii to be hosting the 2016 World Conservation Congress...It is also very timely and appropriate. The title of this year's Congress, "Planet at the Crossroads," reflects the urgent need for climate and conservation leadership. Here, Hawaii has the clear opportunity to demonstrate solutions.

Hawaii island has long been at the forefront on climate science, hosting the longest-running carbon dioxide sampling experiment on Earth. Hawaii is also a global leader in aggressive clean energy policy, enacting a law in 2015 that requires 100-percent renewable energy. Blue Planet Foundation believes that islands are serving a key role in accelerating clean energy innovation, policy and progress. The World Conservation Congress gathering in Honolulu will be our opportunity to help illuminate a sustainable path forward.

GLDo you think Hawaii is at an energy crossroads, given the Public Utilities Commission's recent decision not to go through with the NextEra merger and our need to meet our 100 percent renewable energy goals?

JMHawaii is certainly at a crossroads for how we produce and use energy. The decisions we make today about our energy system cast a long shadow on the future. Our existing electricity system is aging and outdated. It was built for a different era — an era when oil was cheap and the climate wasn't changing. In fact, the largest power plant on Oahu today was running before Zippy's existed. This old system is being pushed to its limits with the addition of new clean energy sources, like the almost 80,000 rooftop solar systems helping to power our state today. We need to re-envision our energy systems to accommodate our clean, renewable sources of power.

Our 21st-century system will likely be more flexible, more distributed, more reliable — and more affordable. But we need to make those choices today. The utility is currently going through its long-term planning process. The energy landscape is changing more rapidly today than any other time in Hawaiian Electric's 125-year history. The plans must accommodate the quickly evolving technologies, disruptive ideas, and new business models to accelerate our 100-percent renewable energy future.

Similarly for transportation, which is increasingly intertwined with our electricity system. How do we enable new transportation options, such as electric and hydrogen vehicles, bicycles, and shared transit, that don't rely on fossil fuels? To solve our increasingly urgent climate crisis, these are questions we need to answer today.

So we are at a turning point technologically, socially, and politically. Ten years ago we were almost 100-percent dependent on fossil fuel for electricity. Today it is down to about 75-percent dependent, and we've passed a law bringing it down to zero within a generation.

GL: Do you think there are any lessons we can learn from other island nations? What’s a good example?

There are many lessons that we can learn from and share with other island nations. Since islands are not connected to a larger energy grid, they must "go it alone" and develop ways to match energy supply and demand on the small island system. This makes islands the perfect testbeds for new technologies, policies, and programs to demonstrate 100-percent renewable energy.

Examples can be found around the globe. Iceland put its abundant geothermal and hydroelectric resources to work decades ago to rid itself of fossil fuel. Today they produce more renewable energy than they use on the island, enabling new, energy-intensive industries, such as aluminum production for export.

The island of Tokelau off of New Zealand was one of the first to go 100% renewable using solar with battery storage. In overcast weather, they use backup generators that run on local coconut oil, providing power while recharging the battery bank.

El Hierro in the Canary Islands uses an innovative wind and energy storage system that began operations last year. Their energy storage system works by pumping water uphill when they have excess wind power. That water is then used to run a hydroelectric generator when they lack enough wind power. Lessons like these can be found on islands everywhere — it's up to us to develop the right set of clean energy solutions for our home.

NW: Do you see great potential for community solar projects in Hawaii?

JM: Community solar has the potential to make our clean energy revolution accessible to all families and businesses. Over the past decade, a new solar system was installed every hour in Hawaii. But most of those systems were installed on single-family homes. Most renters, businesses, nonprofits, and residents who live in condos or multi-unit dwellings simply don't have the option today of going solar. Community solar, or community renewables, changes that. Anyone –regardless of where they live on the island — will be able to participate in and benefit from solar and other renewable systems, even if those systems weren't directly on their property.

Community solar — which has been too long in coming — brings some equality to our clean energy policy. Everyone should be able to participate in Hawaii's clean energy future, not just those fortunate enough to have a big roof over their heads.

Community solar also allows residents to "hui up" to find energy solutions. For example, several condo owners in different buildings may collectively install solar panels in another location with spare rooftop capacity. Even larger communities can join together to install renewable energy in ways that are most effective and efficient for their particular community. Or public agencies, such as schools, colleges, universities, and local governments will have more flexibility to access renewable energy across their systems.

Getting to 100-percent renewable energy is important. But it's equally important how we get there. Community solar lets everyone participate in the power of our shared energy future.

Wind and solar power are both present in Hawaii. Associated Press.

Related Video: Monster Tajima's Run for the Record, Pikes Peak (2014)

Posted in Blue Planet Foundation, climate change, IUCN, IUCN World Conservation Congress, solar | Comments Off on IUCN Spotlight: Jeff Mikulina

Year 2015 in review

December 15th, 2015


It's time again for the 2015 year in eco-review.

>> 1. Obama rejects Keystone XL Pipeline.

When President Barack Obama came to Hawaii for his annual holiday vacation last year, a handful of protestors showed up on the outer sidewalk corner of the cul-de-sac where he was staying on New Year's Eve. They didn't get much press attention.

Among them was Frostpaw, the polar bear, a mascot from the Center for Biological Diversity who donned an Aloha shirt and held a sign that said, "Stop Keystone XL." They had been following the president around Oahu during his vacation and apparently, as AP reported, even got the president to pause and say, "Hey, polar bear!" while playing a round of golf. The president had the power to veto the project altogether, but no one knew when he would make a definitive decision.

On Nov. 6, President Obama rejected TransCanda's application for a permit to complete the Keystone XL project.

"Today, the United States of America is leading on climate change," he said. "Ultimately, if we're going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we're going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky."

>> 2Climate Change and Hurricanes.

In a 180-page report published in November, dozens of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and across the world concluded there was a link between climate change and the substantial increase in active Hawaiian tropical cyclone seasons. We were lucky this season. We had an unprecedented number of hurricanes heading our way, even three simultaneously. We experienced high humidity, thunder, lightning and rain — but fortunately, averted any major disasters. Our recent Big Q poll found that most of readers think the issue of global warming is critical, and that we must take action now.

Perhaps we are finally waking up. On Saturday, Dec. 12, at the climate change conference, known as COP21, in Paris, nearly 200 countries unanimously agreed to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2-degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. For highlights, click here.

>> 3. A sweltering summer.

Hawaii set numerous record highs in temperatures this summer, due to El Nino and global warming which resulted in rising ocean temperatures. The sweltering summer resulted in a public school crisis for the Hawaii Department of Education, with students sweating in classrooms that reached between 90 to 100 degrees when school commenced July 29, during the height of summer. Parents complained, and the state responded by installing several hundred portable air-conditioners in classrooms, but that is a temporary solution, at best.

Campbell High School students took it upon themselves to launch a crowdfunding campaign, Fahrenheit73, to install a solar powered air conditioning unit.

Due to lack of state foresight, Hawaii's aging public school infrastructure not only does not have the electrical upgrades in place necessary for air-conditioning, but did not jump on the solar PV bandwagon fast enough. The Ka Hei initiative, launched last year, is attempting to reduce its electricity costs by installing more solar PV and implementing other conservation measures while incorporating STEM lessons into the curriculum.

>> 4. Plastic bag ban for Oahu.

The plastic bag ban for the island of Oahu finally went into effect on July 1, three years after the Hawaii legislature passed the measure. Oahu was the caboose behind neighbor isles, including Maui, Kauai and Hawaii counties, which already had a ban in place. But it's kind of a lame ban, in that it still allows retailers to offer a thicker plastic bag. Vendors who sell prepared foods are not covered by the ban.

>> 5. Sun sets on Hawaii's solar industry.

Sadly, the outlook for the solar industry in Hawaii has dimmed considerably. The future for solar in Hawaii is bleak.

The sun set on solar options for most homeowners when the state Public Utilities Commission announced it would cap new residential and commercial solar projects at 25 megawatts, or about 4,500 new systems, on Oahu. That cap will probable be reached within the first few months of the new year. That translates into a standstill for most of the industry, and layoffs.

Prior to that, the PUC also ended the net energy metering system, which allows homeowners to sell back the energy they produce, but don't use. Although solar is often portrayed as a luxury, Hawaii's middle-class homeowners who saved their hard-earned money or sacrificed other expenses to install solar PV will suffer the most. Only Hawaii's wealthy will be able to afford the  battery storage systems to go off the grid, though those prices will eventually come down.

All this is based on HECO's claim that the grid is at full capacity (which many of our readers doubt is sincerely the case), and due to HECO's own failure to prepare the grid for solar demand over the past decade. Hawaii, despite its claims of having the most solar installed per capita, is not at all a leader in sustainability. On the contrary, it looks as if we're a backwards state sliding even further backwards.

>> 6. Looming NextEra deal.

We love NextEra, we love NextEra not.

The future of Hawaii's electric utility remains up in the air as we wait to see whether the Public Utilities Commission decides to approve Florida-based NextEra Energy's $4.3 billion acquisition of the Hawaiian Electric Cos. Hawaii Gov. David Ige, the state consumer advocate,  DBEDT, Maui County Council, Sierra Club Hawaii, the Alliance for Solar Choice, Life of the Land and numerous other parties have all publicly opposed the deal as currently proposed.

Fair Energy for Hawaii, an initiative paid for by the Ulupono Initiative (an intervenor in the Nextera/HECO merger), says in its current state, the "scales of this deal are vastly tipped in favor of Hawaiian Electric shareholders, not consumers." Furthermore, NextEra has not made any actual guarantees of lowering energy costs for the people of Hawaii. Meanwhile, the state has committed to achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

Most recently, HECO CEO Alan Oshima admitted during a hearing on the pending sale that NextEra's claim it will save customers $60 million only translates to $1 per month per customer.

>> 7. King St. Bike Track.

Love it or hate it, the two-mile King Street Bike Track is now part of the King Street experience. The protected bike lane on the left-hand side of King Street officially opened in Dec. 2014 as part of a pilot project. Bicyclist commuters are using the track. Some drivers are griping about it. As both a biker and driver, I don't think it may have been the best choice of a street for the protected bike lane. But I don't have a problem driving down King Street (when making a left turn, make sure you look over your blind spot to the left to see if bikers are coming). I envy folks who live close enough to commute by bike. I think the parking spaces alongside the bike track should go – it's bizarre to have them on the left side of the road.

>> 8. Hope and peril for monk seal pups.

‘Ama‘ama and Puka at Ke Kai Ola. NOAA Permit 18786,

Ama‘ama and Puka at Ke Kai Ola. NOAA Permit 18786,

The good news is that the Hawaiian monk seal pup population in the Northwestern Hawaiian islands went up this year, according to data from NOAA's Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Team. There were 148 pups born in Papahanaumokuakea this year, 22 percent more than in 2014. Ke Kai Ola, the new monk seal hospital in Kona, also took in a few pups this year, which were successfully returned to their homes in the Northwestern Hawaiian islands after gaining weight.

At the same time, a growing issue of concern for Hawaii's critically endangered monk seals — toxoplasmosis — emerged towards the end of the year. In November, RN36, a two-year-old female monk seal died as a result of toxoplasmosis, which come from infected cats. Stray cats shed the eggs for toxoplasmosis into the environment, including the watersheds that lead to the ocean. At least eight seal deaths since 2001 are attributed to toxoplasmosis.

Currently, Ke Kai Ola is home to seven monk seal patients — Mahina, Mo‘o, ‘ena‘ena, Neva, Puka, Ama‘ama and Kilo. Six were rescued from Papahanaumokuakea. Kilo was rescued from Niihau.

>> 9. Turtle Bay conservation deal.

The state of Hawaii reached an agreement on the future of Turtle Bay conservation lands in October of this year. It goes down in the books as part of land conservation history. Four miles of coastline and eight miles of trails will be protected in perpetuity, while 665 acres from Kawela Bay to Kahuku Point are to be conserved with a total of $45 million shared by the state, the city and the U.S. Army in partnership with Trust for Public Land. Turtle Bay Resort, meanwhile, will limit its development plan to 725 resort units, including two small hotels and up to 100 resort residential homes.

>> 10. IUCN World Conservation Congress.

It's coming. Following on the heels of COP21, or United National Conference on Climate Change in Paris in early December, Hawaii is set to become the first U.S. site to host the IUCN World Conservation Congress Sept. 1 to 10 at Hawai‘i Convention Center. Held only once every four years, the Congress is expected to bring up to 10,000 attendees from around the globe, including high-profile attendees such as Prince William and possibly, President Barack Obama. The theme is "planet at the crossroads."

Posted in climate change | Comments Off on Year 2015 in review


December 5th, 2015

Sunrise photo from veteran surf photographer Ted Grambeau's exhibit SEALEVEL — Silence of Change at Pipeline Gallery. Courtesy Ted Grambeau.

Sunrise photo from veteran surf photographer Ted Grambeau's exhibit SEALEVEL — Silence of Change at Pipeline Gallery. Courtesy Ted Grambeau.

World renowned surf and adventure photographer Ted Grambeau debuts SEALEVEL — Silence of Change, the first of a series of exhibitions across the globe, at Pipeline Gallery in Haleiwa.

SEALEVEL is a photographic series: "Exploring the elements and interplay of the ocean before sunrise. Distilling the elements to a bare minimum to express a body of work that is purely abstract. Captured moments from nature's rich pallet of colors, its subtle tones and myriad of hues reflecting the mood of each new day."

"I want to bring awareness to one of the major environmental issues of our time through the medium of fine art photography," said Grambeau in an artist's statement. "Telling the shocking story about climate change by choosing to use beauty without words — the silence of change — the rising sea level."

Grambeau, who has explored surf from Iceland to Madagascar, made a personal commitment two years — or 730 sunrises — ago to creatively document sea level rise resulting from climate change.

The result is an array of powerful tableaus, each one unique and stunningly beautiful in its own way, capturing the beauty of nature and instilling a love for the ocean.

Climate change is often seen as someone else's responsibility, according to Grambeau. Unless an individual understands how it will impact them personally, it is unlikely they will feel empowered or motivated enough to take action. Through the awareness of art, he hopes to inspire "the choice of change."

The exhibit is up until Monday, Dec. 7 at Pipeline Gallery, 66-165 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, on Oahu's North Shore. Follow Grambeau @tedgrambeau on Instagram.

Posted in climate change | Comments Off on SEALEVEL

Cooling our classrooms

September 21st, 2015

The ads on the radio play over and over again. There's the kid touting Hawaii Common Core Standards, and how they align with college and workforce expectations. Another ad goes on about the "smarter balanced assessments" in math and English language arts to reach our "55 by 25" goal. We just found out how we did on that. But all I can think of, as most parents with kids in public school are probably thinking right now, is, what about the heat?

The heat.

The 90-to 100-degree Fahrenheit heat and humidity brought on by El Nino has set record-setting temperatures in the Hawaiian isles this year. Students, teachers and staff are sweltering in stifling, hot classrooms as they're attempting to teach and learn. There's no relief in sight until the end of the year.

It didn't help that the first day of school was July 29, the height of summer.

Blame it on climate change.

The state DOE actually does. See the letter below.

Factors in building out air conditioning across the public school system


As the state's cooling tradewinds continue to decline and the heat index continues to rise due to climate change, HIDOE is challenged by the need to install air conditioning at all public schools. This involves more than installing AC units — there are budget and infrastructure hurdles to overcome. And we must approach it with an eye to sustainability so we aren't adding to the problem of escalating energy use.

The Hawaii Department of Education began deploying portable air-conditioners this week, but that's only a temporary solution, at best. The overall solution isn't so simple. The department says it will take $1.7 billion to cool the schools. The estimated figure, which seems quite high, includes the cost of upgrading infrastructure and installing central air conditioning in 256 schools in the state.

Portable air-conditioners are definitely not part of a long-term solution (and some say they aren't effective for a large classroom). With the hurdles of higher electricity costs that come with air-conditioning and issues of sustainability, a multi-pronged approach is necessary. Reflective roof coating, increased insulation and better building designs are contributing solutions. But solar technology should have been part of the solution, already.

The state DOE's fact sheet for cooling schools also blames old buildings and infrastructure as part of the challenge, but cites solar technology as part of the solution. Solar-powered ventilators make sense. So does solar photovoltaic air conditioning, which is being tested at a portable at Waianae High School. Kudos to students at Campbell High, who took the matter into their own hands and raised $19,000 for photovoltaic air-conditioning through a crowdfunding campaign called Fahrenheit 73. Another donated system is planned for Kalaheo High School. The department, however, is evaluating whether the high costs of the systems are justified.

In addition to the electrical upgrades needed to install air-conditioning, there are the costs of operating air-conditioning. The power bill at Pohakea Elementary School, for instance, more than doubled when AC was installed, according to the DOE, which currently spends more than $62 million a year on electricity, gas, water and sewage fees a year.

Utilities Overview FY16-17

While Hawaii recently boasted of being one of the states with the highest concentrations of rooftop solar per capita, those solar panels, unfortunately, did not land fast enough on its public school rooftops. To date, approximately 46 schools, or roughly 18 percent of Hawaii's schools, have installed solar PV as a result of Act 96 in 2006. To its credit, the department's Ka Hei program launched in 2004 has a laudable goal — it aims to reduce energy costs through energy efficiency measures while bringing STEM lessons to the classroom. McKinley High School is the latest recipient of a 100 kw solar PV system financed through power purchase agreements.

But this all comes more than a decade too late. Hawaii lags behind other states in this no-brainer decision despite having the best potential out of all the states in the U.S. in terms of sunshine. There was this extensive study conducted by MK Think that cited "solar gain" as "the single most important contributor to interior temperature" in schools. Solar technology could also be the single most important solution to cooling our schools.

>> Hawaii ranks No. 1 in states where schools that could save money by going solar, according to a study by the Solar Energy Industries Association. Yet Hawaii ranks No. 20 in school solar PV capacity, behind Texas, Arizona, New Jersey and California. And we only have one school district, while other states have multiple districts to contend with.


>> While we've set a goal of 100 percent renewables by 2045, why haven't schools been a higher priority? Board of Education Policy 6710 sets a visionary goal of reducing the Department's reliance on fossil fuel-based energy by 90 percent by 2040. Long-term visions and goals are nice, but the reality is our students are suffering TODAY.

>> Schools most in need of air-conditioning should have been chosen for the solar PV projects first. Likewise, schools with solar PV systems should have been among the top candidates for air-conditioning as well as the ones with the hottest temperatures.

>> HECO should fast-track connections for public school solar PV systems.

>> Solar companies can step up and donate systems to schools. I've seen systems donated to non-profits, but let's make our public schools, which have been neglected far too long, a priority.

>> HECO's Sunpower for Schools program (in place since 1996) ended in July of this year, just when public schools were getting started. Under the program, schools received free, photovoltaic solar electric or solar lighting systems. They were small systems, like the 2 kw solar electric system installed at Waianae Intermediate school in December 2006, made possible through a three-way partnership between HECO, the DOE and community (HECO solicited donations to fund the systems). HECO replaced that program with Smart Power for Schools, which installs and demonstrates emerging technologies, such as battery banks for energy storage and management systems for energy monitoring and management tools. That's all well and good, except for the fact that the majority of our schools aren't outfitted with solar PV yet.

>> So far, I haven't heard NextEra, the  $4.3 billion suitor from Florida seeking to acquire HECO, offer any promises or offers of contributions to Hawaii's public schools, specifically, in any way.

Here are some ideas of how schools across the U.S. have been able to integrate solar into their schools, whether to heat or cool their schools, with significant cost savings and a long-term hedge against rising electricity prices. Many were able to enter power purchase agreements with no upfront costs. The Berkeley Unified School District drew up a district-wide solar master plan and with a U.S. Department of Energy grant, even created a template for other school districts. So it's been done before. With the cost savings, some schools are even able to bring back arts and music programs that had been cut from the budget.

>> Solar parking arrays at Analy High School in Sebastopol, CA (Photo: SunPower).


>> Check out this 5,750 KW solar project in Plympton, Mass. that powers Plymouth Public Schools (Photo: Greg M. Cooper/ Borrego Solar).


>> The Scottsdale Unified School District in Scottsdale, Ariz. installed more than 2 MW of solar across four schools sites to lock in years of future energy. (Photo courtesy SolarCity). Wow, now that's a commitment to solar!


Posted in climate change, solar | Comments Off on Cooling our classrooms

Q&A Chipper Wichman

September 18th, 2015


Chipper Wichman. Courtesy photo.

Chipper Wichman. Courtesy photo.

Charles "Chipper" Wichman, president and Chief Executive Officer of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, believed that the IUCN World Conservation Congress could be hosted by the U.S. and more specifically, in Honolulu. Wichman played a leadership role in bringing the Congress here, an effort that started as early as 2009. Wichman currently serves as vice chair of the WCC Hawaii Host Committee's executive committee and vice chair of its program committee.

The Green Leaf had a conversation with Wichman about the upcoming Congress, which marks a milestone because it's the first time it will be held in the U.S. The summit is expected to bring 8,000 to 10,000 leaders (from government, businesses, academia, NGOs and unique indigenous communities) representing 160 nations around the globe to the Hawai‘i Convention Center from Sept. 1 to 10, with possible attendance by President Barack Obama, Prince William and the Prince of Monaco.

Held only once every four years, the Congress, which helps shape the direction of global sustainable development, also presents plenty of opportunities for Hawaii residents to get involved.

The Congress is expected to address topics ranging from climate change (on the heels of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, November to December) to watershed management, conservation of marine resources, renewable energy and endangered species. The theme is "Planet at the Crossroads."

The United States has 84 IUCN Member Organizations, eight of which are in Hawaii (including the NTBG). The U.S. Department of State will need to process quite a lot of visas, and the state of Hawaii's host committee needs to raise $13 million to support the event. Visit for updates.

Green Leaf: Where did the inspiration for bringing the Congress to Hawaii come from?

Wichman: We started talking about it right after the World Congress in Barcelona in 2008. It was actually a couple of colleagues of mine — Chris Dunn, director of Lyon Arboretum at the time, Penny Levin, who is involved in protecting indigenous crops...We thought, the world could learn a lot from visiting Hawaii. It would really put the fantastic work that's going on here on the world stage. Hawaii is a microcosm of all the issues the planet is facing in a very condensed and focused way because we live on islands. And the islands are engines of evolution...We're recognized as one of the world's unique regions. We're also recognized as an endangered species capital of the world...

GL: So this Congress is often described as the Olympics of conservation. Why?

W: The World Congress is an unbelievable event. To call it the Olympics of the conservation world is true. It's the only event that brings together delegates and participants at the cutting edge of conservation — thought leaders from 160 countries around the world...APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which took place in Honolulu in 2011) is made up of 20 leading economies. This is 160 countries, not 20. So it's much bigger and much more diverse...

GL: So you feel Honolulu has a lot to offer the world in possible conservation solutions?

W: We have a lot of challenges here, and those are challenges everyone else in the world is facing. What's compelling is it's brought together indigenous knowledge, practices and pride, and combined with cutting-edge, western science, to create conservation programs that are community-based, which are much more powerful and effective than programs that don't involve indigenous communities. We're really at the cutting edge of those bio-conservation programs that are engaging cultural knowledge and practices and wisdom...

GL: What does Honolulu have to gain from the conference?

W: On the reciprocal side, we will be infused with ideas from people who are at the cutting edge in their part of the world. It's amazing to participate in one of these events — the exchange of ideas, practice, knowledge and connections made. The value of these personal interactions can't be replaced by online webinars. There's nothing that can replace the face to face personal meetings and relationships that take place in a venue like the World Conservation Congress...

One of my dreams (I refer to it as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is that the president of the U.S. and governor of Hawaii will stand up at the stage of the World Congress in front of all these people from around the world, and say, we recognize the importance of the biodiversity that exists in Hawaii. We recognize the importance of Hawaii and our Hawaii culture, and we are committed to creating a biosecurity plan that will protect Hawaii, that's as strong as any other biosecurity plan in the world.

In hosting it, all these people come to Hawaii and have a wonderful Congress, but if we haven't left a legacy behind us, then I feel we've missed the boat. I've been spending a lot of time focused on engaging our community to think about how to use this as an opportunity to create a legacy...I would never have undertaken this opportunity if I did not believe hosting this would not lead to a transformation in Hawaii.

GL: What kind of transformation?

W: I think that the majority of people in Hawaii, although they know the term 'conservation' and may know Hawaii has unique flora, most people in Hawaii don't truly understand the issues that we face. And this is a way of raising the profile of these issues so that the public can really understand it. Ultimately, if the public doesn't understand it, then we will never elect political leaders that have the will to make the right choices, and to put in place the kinds of regulations and laws we need to affect our environment. I see it as transformational in raising public awareness, in terms of engaging the hearts and minds of our students in Hawaii. I would love to see every student in Hawaii, kindergarten to 12th grade, and maybe even at the university level, be aware of this and be touched by it in some way...We're hoping we'll be able to find a philanthropist to say, 'I'm willing to sponsor all the school kids in Hawaii because I think this is so potentially transformative and inspiring'...If you can plant that seed of conservation, that's our future. Our children are our future. So I see the Congress as being potentially transformational, inspiring the next generation of leaders of our state...


Posted in climate change, Conservation, Endangered species, IUCN, IUCN World Conservation Congress | Comments Off on Q&A Chipper Wichman

World Conservation Congress Hawaii

August 25th, 2015


Several thousand leaders and decision-makers from government, business, academia and indigenous communities are gathering for the IUCN World Conservation Congress at the Hawai‘i Convention Center from Sept. 1 to 10, 2016. The theme of this year's conference, to be held for the first time in Hawaii (and the U.S.), is "Planet at the crossroads."

The Congress is divided into two parts – the Forum, which is open to the wider public, and the Members' Assembly, a global environmental parliament where member organizations discuss and vote on a wide range of issues that guide the IUCN work program and partnership initiatives. A call for contributions went out in June for any interested groups that want to host an event during the conference's Forum.

The Forum is where IUCN Members and partners can discuss cutting edge ideas with people from all over the world. The Congress is seeking hosts for 560 available slots — 135 workshops, 200 Knowledge cafe sessions, 200 poster sessions and 25 training courses. You have until Oct. 15 to submit your proposal. The Congress is only considering hosts that partner with at least one or two IUCN constituents, rather than a single organization, and is looking for events that engage the audience, rather than simply offer a series of "old school" PowerPoint presentations.

There are several options:

>> A Workshop, or 120-minute session that is participant-oriented with a professional facilitator.

>>  A Knowledge Cafe, or hosted roundtable discussion involving up to 12 people.

>> A Poster, which will be displayed during the entire Congress.

>> A Conservation Campus training session, which should be interactive and can involve up to 50 people.

Proposals must meet a number of criteria and be relevant to the theme and draft IUCN Programme for 2017-2020. Here's an outline with most of the information you need. Keep in mind that you'll be competing with organizations from around the globe for one of the slots, so it's pretty competitive. You can apply online.

There's also a link to other entries already submitted, which include a poster on "Protecting and Managing the Magnificent Marianas Trench Marine National Monument" and a workshop on "How to sell a conservation project."

Hawaii, as host for this conference, says Randall Tanaka, executive director of the WCC National Host Committee, has so much to offer in terms of knowledge in the world of conservation, whether it be watershed management issues, species survival or the challenges of sustainable development.

"I think the opportunity for Hawaii is we can provide some very unique solutions to the problems," he said. "It is truly amazing, some of the work that's been done in this state. What we learn from this conference, and what we have to share can become an intellectual export."

Also, if you are interested in hosting an excursion to support the mission of the Hawai‘i Host and Program Committees, visit this Google Docs link.

Posted in climate change, Conservation | Comments Off on World Conservation Congress Hawaii

Q&A with Naomi Klein

February 26th, 2015


Photo credit: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times/Redux.

Canadian author and award-winning journalist Naomi Klein will speak this evening about her latest book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate,” at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Klein, a Dai Ho Chun Distinguished Chair, speaks from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the campus center ballroom. The event is free and open to the public.

When published in September 2014,  "This Changes Everything" debuted at No. 5 on the New York Times bestseller list.

In the book, Klein argues that climate change is a wake-up call delivered in the language of fires, floods and droughts, requiring heavy-duty interventions — much more than just people changing their light bulbs.

Klein also points out that our economic system and planetary system are at war.

“Or more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life,” she writes. “What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources: what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.”

At the same time, she documents some inspiring movements and examples of change that give us hope. An accompanying feature documentary by husband Avi Lewis is expected this fall.

Klein, 44, is also a contributing editor for Harper’s, a reporter for Rolling Stone and a syndicated columnist for The Nation and The Guardian. Her earlier books include “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies” and “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.” She sits on the board of directors of, a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis.

No tickets are required for the event, which is first come, first serve. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Visit for more information.

The Green Leaf sat down on Tuesday, Feb. 24, for a conversation with Klein about Keystone, climate change in Hawaii and motherhood.

Nina Wu: What's your reaction to the news that President Obama vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline bill?

Naomi Klein: Big day. It's a true victory for the climate movement, and, you know, victories are few and far between, so you have to pause and savor them. It's not a full victory because now we need to actually get it rejected.  But I think it's really significant this is the first time he's used the presidential veto, and he used it for a pipeline project that when it was first introduced, was considered such a shoo-in that TransCanada went ahead and bought the pipe. This was not supposed to be a fight, and we turned it into a fight...I was arrested.

NW: You were amongst the protestors in D.C.? So the protests against Keystone were not futile?

NK: It was the only time I was ever arrested for civil disobedience. I was arrested during the first wave of arrests outside the White House... I think when it comes to an issue this big, that's the thing we're up against more than anything else, is the people's feeling that they can't make a difference. And I think that's another reason why the Keystone fight has been important. Climate change is so big, it's so global, that people don't know where to start. So I think, for awhile, it was, okay, I'll just start really small, like change my light bulbs. And I will bring my own cup. And it's like, okay this isn't working.

The thing about the Keystone campaign is that it was a way to start small in the scheme of things, but a lot bigger than just changing your light bulb. I mean, taking on a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure project that is linked to the largest climate crime scene on the planet, which is the Alberta tar sands, and now people are seeing that it can have a real impact. But the impact, honestly, is much, much bigger than the fact that Obama vetoed it or even that it looks like we're going to win this fight. The impact is that it inspired so many other campaigns based on the same principle.

A friend of mine on the board of directors, KC Golden wrote this piece called the Keystone principle. And the principle is, "When you're in a hole, stop digging."...If we're going to be spending money on new infrastructure projects, it should be the infrastructure of the future, not the past.


NW:  You admitted in the book that at first, you were in denial about climate change for quite some time. I think a lot of people are still in that state of denial or "ecological amnesia," as you call it, including here in Hawaii. You said it was this conversation with [Bolivia's ambassador to the World Trade Organization Angelica Navarro Llanos] that got you started. What was it about that conversation that brought you out of denial?

NK: It was hearing a vision articulated by someone which showed a response to climate change which was inspiring as opposed to just — often the way we talk about climate change is all the things we will have to give up. She was talking about how, if we look at this crisis honestly, it can be a catalyst for long-delayed justice and it can be the framework in which we build a much fairer and more exciting world. The reason why we have this sort of amnesia where we're in the state of  knowing, not knowing about climate change, is just that we don't see a way out...

A lot of what we hear about climate change is scary and apocalyptic...For me, it was hearing that vision from someone that made me decide to stop looking away. And I'm hoping that the book can serve that purpose for other people...I think we are at a point now where there are some exciting things we can look to, like what's happening in Germany, for instance...

NW: They seem to be at the forefront of alternative energy. (More than 25 percent of Germany's energy comes from renewables)

NK: And it happened fast. When you have this really powerful combination of strong social movements, which they had in Germany (strong anti-nuclear, strong environmental movement), and leadership willing to listen, things can start moving at lightning speed. They've gotten to 25 percent renewable energy within, basically, a decade. But more than that, it's created 400,000 jobs.

They've developed a model where a lot of the ownership of the new, renewable energy is happening at the community level, through coops, through municipalities. They're keeping resources in their community, using it to pay for social services. What I hear from people in Germany is it's a pro-democracy movement...They're empowered and it's happening at a time when people feel very disempowered in Europe...


NW: Maybe Germany could be an inspiration for what could happen in Hawaii. There's a culture of complacency here. Why should people in Hawaii stop living in denial or be concerned about climate change?

NK: Hawaii is really on the front lines of climate change. I think people have a lot of first-hand experience with how their natural environment is already changing, they're seeing coastal erosion, they understand that whole parts of their city important to the economy could be under water at the rate we're going.

NW. Waikiki. The major resorts...

NK. It's kind of amazing, you just see this architecture of denial, in a sense. To be honest with you, everywhere I've gone, I've been told, in this place, people don't care. Everyone thinks they're particularly complacent. I think part of it is there are a lot of people who are newcomers to Hawaii and don't have the knowledge of the land, know what's new and not new.

On the other hand, Hawaii also has such a vibrant, indigenous rights community and so many indigenous people who have kept alive a worldview that has a deep understanding of human responsibility to not just take from nature, but to take care for future generations. That we're not talking about something we're apart from, we're talking about our community...There are people here, still, who are very connected to the land...

You have unique challenges. I think one of the challenges is always, whenever there's a small population, there's a feeling of does it really matter what we do? There's also an opportunity to be a model, to have the possibility of building a genuinely regenerative economy. If Germany can do it with very little sunlight, you have such extraordinary potential to be a renewable-based system...


NW: You write that the annual United Nations climate summit has started to seem less like a forum for serious negotiation than "a very costly, high-carbon group therapy session." Do you think there's still any potential for the UN climate summits to accomplish anything, or would a divestment movement be more effective? Should we give up hope with summits?

NK: I don't think we should give up hope, but I think what we're seeing with the Keystone decision is that when you have strong social movements with very clear demands, you can affect policy. I think it's going to take a very strong, global climate movement making demands on political leaders to get the kind of commitment level that we want. I think in Copenhagen in 2009 which was the last critical juncture for UN climate negotiations — the next one's in Paris in December — there was this posture of begging political leaders to please lead. I think where we are, five years later, people understand that the leadership's coming from below.

It's not just Keystone. New York State banned fracking because of this huge movement. France has banned fracking. So there are a lot of victories you can point to. We are at a pretty exciting time ahead of the Paris negotiations. I don't think there's going to be a breakthrough deal, but I think the movement is going to sharpen its demands ahead of Paris. There are two key factors – the movement is growing, we saw 400,000 people on the streets of NYC in September, four times the size of the largest climate march previously.

NW: People are emerging out of apathy and denial.

NK: It's also a different kind of climate movement. It's not just slick, green NGOs - it's this quilt of all of these local communities that are fighting extraction or refineries in their backyard, and know that investments in renewable energy and public transit are a key to creating jobs and opportunities for their communities. So it's not's not like we just care about parts per million or carbon in the atmosphere. It's really connected to health and education and jobs.

NW: Things tangible to people's everyday lives.

NK: That's how climate has lost. If you have to choose between jobs and climate, you're going to choose jobs. So we need solutions that don't force those choices on people...Two key factors, the fact this movement is gaining strength, has tasted success, and, the fact that oil prices are in the toilet right now — that's actually a real opportunity to demand a transformation of energy sources.


NW: You see it as an opportunity?

NK: I do. Right now, I was just reading a piece in The Guardian yesterday. Oil and gas companies are losing so much money that they're now demanding all kinds of new subsidies and tax breaks. If governments are going to do that, they may as well invest in the energy systems that will prevent climate change as opposed to the ones that will lock us in. So I think there's a huge opportunity on several fronts to take advantage of the price drop. For starters, it gives us a little bit of breathing room. For instance, the Alberta tar sands only started to boom when oil hit $100 a barrel because it's so expensive to do this mining process... You burn three times more carbon in order to get the carbon out. It's very expensive to do that. So it only makes economic sense if the price oil is high.

Just yesterday, Shell announced it was suspending a massive, new expansion project in the tar sands. This is the second big project they've put on ice. The French company, Total, has canceled a project in the tar sands...This is not happening because of activism, this is happening because of the market. It's a window - what goes down will go up, but I think there is an opportunity now, when you're up against an industry that is basically in a profit frenzy, which is what the oil and gas industry has been in, it's really hard to fight a machine like that. Those levels of profit are really addictive. Exxon earned $46 billion in profits in a single year, and this happened twice within the past decade. It's not by coincidence...It's a big opportunity for the divestment movement.

In general, banking on a volatile commodity is a very risky thing to do...This is a moment when we can win some big victories. The tar sands is contracting on its own. This is a moment to say, what are we doing? I see the Keystone veto as part of that. In addition, it's possible to talk about a good carbon tax in a moment when the price of oil is down...When people are paying astronomical amounts at the pump, it's hard for government to introduce a tax on gas because people are already suffering. When the prices are dipping and they're thinking about buying another SUV, that's a good time to introduce a carbon tax...None of this can happen on its own. You have to fight for it, but the chances of winning are much improved...


NW: On a personal level, has climate change made you decide to do some of these small things, like bring your own jar for water everywhere you speak?

NK: The truth is, I've  been pretty focused on consumption for a long time. First book I wrote was "No Logo" and how the culture of endless shopping had colonized my generation. I've been thinking for much of my adult life about why we feel we need to shop as much as we do...Even though I wasn't thinking about it through a climate lens...I think about a lot of it through my son, who's 2...I really wanted to buy as little as I could.

As a new parent, it's particularly clear how much we are displacing our anxieties through shopping. When you're having your first kid, you're so anxious, and this whole culture steps in and says, buy this, buy that...and you're supposed to spend your whole pregnancy shopping. I cut my flying to a tenth of what it was. I, by no means, would hold myself up as an example.

I do think it's almost important to say I'm far from perfect. I think we have this idea if you use fossil fuels, then you don't have a right to have an opinion or criticize them because then you're a hypocrite and you got caught. I think that's a recipe for having a really small movement. We all use fossil fuels, we live in a culture that was built on fossil fuels. We're in it. So if in order to be part of a movement to get off fossil fuels, you have to already be off fossil fuels, then you'll have a movement of 10 people.

ON MOTHERHOOD ("This Changes Everything" is dedicated to Klein's son, Toma, 2)

NW: Speaking of, in the last chapter (Chapter 13: The Right to Regenerate), you share your personal struggle in getting pregnant before your son was born. What made you decide to include that chapter, and how does it tie in with the battle against climate change?

NK: This theme came through in my research, at the heart of this crisis is the extractive worldview — not just the extractive industry with oil, gas and coal, but this whole relationship with the land — that thinks we can take and take and never deal with the consequences of our actions. So I was really struggling with, what is the antithesis of an extractivist worldview? And landed on this idea that it's a regenerative-based world view, the idea of protecting cycles of fertility. The fact I was going through, in my own life, this often painful process of trying to conceive a child and losing several pregnancies while doing this made it really real to me. I felt it in my body. I always make this distinction as a writer between intellectual knowledge and body knowledge. That's why I think I think it's important to not only research from your computer but actually go places, and feel it in your body...

NW: To actually live it.

NK: That's why I included it. Also because I feel like coming back to where we started, climate change — this issue is so big. It feels abstract, it feels far away. I wanted to share with readers some of the things that made it personal to me, made it small to me. The other thing is we often talk about climate change in technocratic language and the truth is, this is a really emotional subject. We're triggering deep, existential fears — we're talking about our home, our source of all safety becoming dangerous to us. I feel like we need a language that acknowledges emotion...

So I just wanted to experiment with different ways of talking about this... For me, when I read people writing about this in more personal ways, it makes me think, OK, what is my personal entry point? I think it helps us talk about this thing that we're all trying not to talk about.

Posted in climate change | Comments Off on Q&A with Naomi Klein

Tell it to HECO

October 2nd, 2014


Absolutely p.o.'ed. Disappointed. Insulted.

These are the responses I've heard from people who either own or lease solar photovoltaic panels regarding the plan that the Hawaiian Electric Co. recently proposed which would raise basic connection fees for all customers to $55, while imposing an additional $71 for new solar PV customers.

HECO also proposes that the utility credit solar PV customers about half of what they get now — at just 17 cents per kilowatt-hour — for the clean energy that they produce. In other words, if they produce the energy, they charge a premium. If solar PV customers produce clean energy, it should be worth less. How is that fair? How is charging ALL customers MORE — a whopping $55 (which is unheard of in any other state) — fair to everyone? Is it fair to change the rules in the middle of the game? Not in my book.

Meanwhile, more than 4,400 solar PV customers are still waiting to be connected to the grid. HECO has not answered questions of when they will be connected, or how they will be compensated, as they very well deserve to be.

Solar is not a luxury. It's a technology that middle-class families from Waianae to Hawaii Kai, small businesses and non-profits invested in as part of a step towards a clean energy future and energy independence. It's a technology that makes sense for Hawaii.

Polls show that an overwhelming number of people want more rooftop solar in Hawaii, according to the Sierra Club, which adds that "customer choice is in the public interest."

So give HECO a piece of your mind. Or tell it to the Public Utilities Commission, which still has to approve HECO's Aug. 26 plan. Public comment is welcome at by Oct. 6. Put the docket number in the subject line. (ex.Public Comment – Docket No. 2014-0192 – DGIP). Let your solar voice be heard.

Separately, you can also contact Hawaii's legislators (contact info is available at

Letters to the editor have been rolling in, with the vast majority expressing disappointment and disbelief with HECO's plan. For your convenience,  here are "Letters to the Editor" that ran in the Star-Advertiser in the past few weeks. Shows you how powerful the voices for solar can be together (scroll all the way down, the earliest one's my favorite). Keep them coming.

Oct. 18, 2014

Rosenblum gets a sweet deal

Did I read this correctly ("Ex-HECO chief to get $551K as consultant," Star-Advertiser, Oct. 15)?

Hawaiian Electric Co. is paying former president and CEO Dick Rosenblum $551,000 for six months of work to be an "adviser" to HECO chairwoman Connie Lau immediately after he retires on Jan. 5.

So you have a current chairwoman, Lau, who has seemingly thwarted our state in its move toward energy independence, hiring Rosenblum to advise her on things she already knows or could be advised of between now and Rosenblum's retirement.

I don't get it. Something smells. Hopefully the public and the state Public Utilities Commission smell something, too.

Orson Moon

PV owners being mistreated?

It seems Hawaiian Electric Co. has managed to pit photovoltaic owners against non-photovoltaic owners.

The erroneous assumption is PV owners are not paying their fair share because they are not buying enough energy. What happened to decoupling?

Saying to get off the grid if you do not like it ignores the fact that if 11 percent of the grid's users got off and stopped paying the minimum, that cost would have to be absorbed by the remaining 89 percent. Seventeen dollars may be too little, but $71 is too much, and it is unfair to make people pay more for using less.

Michael B. Moore

Sept. 27, 2014

HECO failing at lowering bills

I'm a photovoltaic investor and it saddens me to have read negative responses to PV systems.

I shouldn't have to explain why we decided to invest our hard-earned money into a PV system, but I feel I must.

The reason my family did it was to get away from a huge monopoly like Hawaiian Electric Co. and start using the money saved from the outrageous electric bills to something more important -- our kids.

It seems to me HECO is trying to create an animosity between us and a distraction from the bigger picture.

There are fewer customers on the grid but HECO is still charging three times more for electricity. Why hasn't it figured out how to take the unused electricity my PV system produces and apply it to non-rooftop solar customers to lessen their electric bills?

Could it be HECO was unprepared?

Crystal Padron

Sept. 26, 2014

HECO delaying sustainability

Stop falling for Hawaiian Electric Co.'s misinformation campaign that pits customers against each other ("No special deals for PV owners," Star-Advertiser, Letters, Sept. 11).

Unfortunately, we're past the luxury of bickering. Climate change is real. Climate change is here. Any doubters should check out what's happening with rising sea levels on the islands of Kiribati, then go to

HECO's plan slows Hawaii's move to clean energy and self-sustainability.

In addition to slowing photovoltaic installations, it swaps oil for liquefied natural gas, another fossil fuel, drilled via "fracking," which creates climate impacts just as bad as oil.

Fracking also ruins communities by exposing them to environmental and health hazards, including toxic leakage into their drinking water.

I don't think the people of Hawaii want to be party to this type of devastation.

We must all do everything we can to bring down carbon emissions, and that means cooperation and putting the planet before HECO profits.

Sherry Pollack

PV owners now being penalized

We installed thousands of dollars worth of photovoltaics two years ago.

It was our out-of-pocket gesture to benefit the community and help protect the environment.

It was also, incidentally, a very real subsidy to Hawaiian Electric Co., in the form of reduced fossil fuel costs, thereby freeing up funds which could be used to maintain and improve the electrical grid.

We generate all our own home power, plus some extra for the community to share. Based on our past electric bills, we won't recoup our investment for more than 10 years. Oahu's other 33,000 PV owners are doing essentially the same.

Let's not forget that PV owners paid their dues, up front, when purchasing their systems. We committed personal resources to move all of us toward our shared goal: clean air and energy independence.

Why, then, should we be financially penalized and seen as part of the problem, when we're proactively pursuing the solution?

Don Hallock
St. Louis Heights

Sept. 24, 2014

HECO driving customers away

Here is a glimpse of the future if Hawaiian Electric Co. raises the hook-up rate for solar customers:

Solar customers will look at the annual $850 or so that HECO is charging to be connected to the grid, do the math, and figure out that if they buy batteries and a generator, they will not need HECO. Battery technology is getting cheaper.

HECO is getting what amounts to free power from the excess from these customers. New HECO generators to replace this lost power will be very expensive.

HECO's CEO, Constance Lau, as reported in 2013, was earning $5.82 million per year. If you have a family of four, you are paying more than $20 a year just for Lau's salary. Double that for the next few key executives.

With solar customers opting out of the grid, that burden falls on fewer shoulders.

All rates will go up.

Tom Wallace
Hawaii Kai

Sept. 19, 2014

HECO conquers by dividing us

Hawaiian Electric Co. created a debate pitting ratepayer against rate-payer, deflecting attention from the real issues at hand.

Temperatures could increase by 2 degrees by the mid-2030s according to Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group vice president and special envoy for Climate Change. Kyte also said we could be staring at an ongoing food crisis within the next decade.

One person in five receives aid through the Hawaii Food Bank. Making matters worse, we can expect a sharp climate-induced rise in food prices due to the severe drought in California. Many will have to choose between feeding their families or paying their electric bill.

HECO and its shareholders should bear some of the burden. And HECO should be mobilizing its resources to expedite a grid with majority renewable energy to help reduce rates. We all need to make sacrifices in this era of climate change.

Dan Nakasone

Sept. 18, 2014

It's not HECO's call about tax rebates

Something seems to have been lost in the debate over our rooftop solar panels.

The idea was to find a way to reduce the island's collective carbon dioxide footprint. In order to do that, homeowners needed an incentive. Tax rebates are that incentive.

This should not be Hawaiian Electric's call. HECO, as a corporation, has no interest in reducing CO2, if it costs the corpor- ation money.

That is why, I hope, we have government and regulations that lean toward the interests of the people, not the corporations.

Garry Francell
Waialae Nui Ridge

Solar production was boon for HECO

Hawaiian Electric Co. encouraged solar power production because it made economic sense for HECO and for all its customers.

This solar power production deferred rate increases for needed generating capacity that HECO otherwise would have been required to build itself. HECO also touts solar power as a non-fossil-fueled, sustainable resource.

Due to significant tax credits, customer-generated solar power was cheaper (and more timely) than power that HECO could have produced itself. HECO enjoyed the additional capacity, deferred ratemaking politics, and avoided the customer rate-shock that would have occurred if it had built this generating capacity itself.

Shame on HECO for creating a wedge between its solar and non-solar customers over transmission upgrade costs.

HECO dollars to be spent on transmission upgrades have been more than offset by the dollars that HECO saved by not building this generating capacity itself, dollars that ultimately all HECO customers would have paid.

Donald Armstrong

Sept. 14, 2014

"PV system permits plummet on Oahu," Star-Advertiser, Sept. 10:

» Anybody who says Hawaiian Electric did not anticipate the demand is drinking the HECO Kool-Aid. I agree, they did not plan for it, but not because it wasn't evident in all the numbers.

» HECO did not anticipate, HECO did not anticipate, HECO did not anticipate. I am so sick and tired of hearing this because all it is saying is that they did not plan or do their job!

» Hawaiian Electric currently pays a 5 percent annual dividend. PV is not an option for me, so I bought shares of HE stock. For now, the 5 percent dividend covers my electricity bill.

» Lemons into lemonade. Good for you.

Sept. 7, 2014

HECO profiting well from PV customers

Hawaiian Electric Co. President Dick Rosenblum's latest quote, "We just want them to pay their fair share" regarding residential PV owners, really galled me.

HECO proposes to not only increase the base charge but also reduce by half the price of the credits it's giving solar owners, citing fairness and pandering for support from those without PV panels upset about paying full price.

If Rosenblum wants to talk fair share, how about HECO sending a check for that electricity they're taking from me and selling to non-solar owners?Even at the reduced rate, it would be a pretty penny every year.

HECO doesn't pay a dime for residential PV systems yet profits by re-selling any annual over-production from the panels at full price with absolutely no overhead to itself when the credits zero out.

I hope the state Public Utilities Commission sees through this charade to pad HECO's bottom line and that the Star-Advertiser does a little investigative reporting to bring the heat.

Mike Hanson

Sept. 4, 2014

Maybe turn HECO into a nonprofit

The premise of Hawaiian Electric Co. President Dick Rosenblum's defense of proposed HECO rates seems to be that solar power adopters are getting a "good deal" from HECO ratepayers after paying off their solar systems.

Rosenblum seems to conflate taxpayers with ratepayers.My solar "deal" was a result of taxpayers deciding that the common good was served by decreasing the amount of electricity generated by HECO and increasing the amount of electricity generated by individual solar panels.The $55 charge advocated by HECO is really solar owners paying for 200 kWh of electricity they don't use.

Using Rosenblum's logic, shouldn't taxpayers own HECO so that the subsidies provided from non-solar to solar customers are equitably distributed?

HECO reported $161 million profit for 2013.If HECO was non-profit, the $38 million subsidy claimed by Rosenblum could be easily absorbed by the public corporation and rates could be lowered for all.

Mark Felman

Sept. 2, 2014

HEI salaries related to high energy cost?

Informative and interesting article on high-salaried occupations in Hawaii ("Medical field tops wage ranking in Hawaii," Star-Advertiser, Aug. 28).

Going a little further and calculating, it appears that the CEO of Hawaiian Electric Industries received in the neighborhood of $2,885 an hour. Once you calculate the salaries of all other Hawaiian Electric employees, the total annual salaries must be off the charts.

Could that be one of the reasons that Hwaii owners and businesses pay the highest price in the nation for electricity?

James l. Robinson

What will new rate be called on bill?

HECO's new plan will raise more than solar rates; it will raise mine, too, and I'm not a solar customer because I live in a condo.

HECO says it now charges 34 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).

When I do the math, my last bill came out to 37.7 cents per kWh, all charges inclusive. Even if HECO reduced the charge from 37.7 cents per kWh to 26 cents per kWh and then added the $55 charge, my bill would increase by 25 percent.

I say, OK, charge me the 34 cents per kWh (not the 37.7 cents per kWh), but forget the $55 charge.

What does it plan to call the new charge anyway?My bill already has the following ambiguous charges on it:Customer Charge; Base Fuel Energy; Non Fuel Energy; Energy Cost Adjustment; IRP Cost Recovery; PBF Surcharge; Purchased Power Adjustment; RBA Rate Adjustment; and Renewable Infrastructure Pgm.

HECO is the wolf in sheep's clothing. Baaaaaa to its plan.

Kathleen Adams

Aug. 31, 2014

HECO energy plan will kill PV industry

Shibai! Hawaiian Electric Co.'s so-called energy plan is anti-green and anti-renewable energy.

First, it will penalize photovoltaic (PV) customers who invested tens of thousands of dollars to become energy efficient.That will also destroy the PV industry in Hawaii.

Second, while HECO claims it wants to reduce charges to non-PV customers, the plan actually provides their rates will increase, too -- all in the mere hope that after 2030 HECO "might" reduce energy costs for everyone.

If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.

Michael A. Lilly
Pacific Heights

Changing rules now unfair to PV owners

My electric bill last month was $17.

We delivered to Hawaiian Electric Co. 280 kilowatt hours (kWh) and received 220 kWh for a credit of 60 kWh. But with the proposed rate increase we would have to pay $99.57 -- a dramatic increase.

Here's the calculation: To HECO, we would have to pay 220 kWh times 34.62 cents, totaling $76.17 for the electricity we received, and simultaneously, receive a credit of 280 kWh times 17 cents for $47.60 total for the power we feed into their system(instead of our present 280 kWh times 34.62 cents for $96.93 total).

So although this wasa good summer month and we made more electricity than we used, we still would have a negative balance of $28.57 ($76.17 - $47.60 = $28.57).

Add to that the proposed new fixed monthly charge of $71 and our bill would then be $28.57 + $7 = $99.57. This would make solar a poor investment for us and probably many other solar customers.

HECO should not be allowed to change the present rules for existing solar owners, because the present rules were the main reason people bought solar.

Volker Hildebrandt

Aug. 30, 2014

HECO plan will ensure its profits

HECO has come up with a new plan that sounds more like a way to discourage private photovoltaic (PV) installations and effectively raise rates.

» Step 1: Promise (someday) a 20 percent reduction in electric rates.

For its mythical average customer using 600 kilowatt hours a month, that would be a savings of around $42 monthly.

» Step 2: More than quadruple the minimum monthly charge to people with PV from $17 a month to $71 a month, a $54 monthly hike.

» Step 3: Charge a one-time interconnection fee of an undisclosed amount for each PV installation.

» Step 4: Reduce the credit for electricity supplied by customers' PV installations in half (from the retail rate of about 35 cents per kWh to 17 cents per kWh).

Result: More profit for HECO.

Battery backed-up, off-grid installations will become more attractive, and HECO's customer base will decrease even further.

Result: Less reliable grid.

Bob Gould


Hands Across the Sand Rally

May 15th, 2014


World champion bodysurfer and lifeguard Mark Cunningham, left, with IV full of oil attached to his arm. Longboard champ Kelia Moniz, seated, right. Poster and campaign by Surfrider Foundation's Rafael Bergstrom.

The Surfrider Foundation, Sierra Club and Livable Communities Hawaii are hosting a Hands Across the Sand Rally from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Ala Moana Beach Park this Saturday (May 17).

Participants will join hands and form a long line in the sand to say "No" to dirty fossil fuels and "Yes" to clean, renewable energy. There will also be guest speakers, food and networking.

Hands Across the Sand, established four years ago after the disastrous BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, is held each year at beaches and coastal areas across the U.S. and the world. The goal, according to founder Dave Rauschkolb, is to "bring organizations and individuals together to send a powerful message to leaders that expanding oil drilling in our oceans is a dirty, dangerous endeavor."

"Every oil spill endangers the coastal tourism industries, ravages the sea life and seafood industry and impacts the lives of every person in its path for generations."

Participants in Honolulu hope to send a clear signal to government officials and the Hawaiian Electric Co. management that it's time to move beyond the state's costly dependence on imported oil and toward locally produced energy sources.

"Here in Hawaii, this issue is especially urgent because our utility is slowing the rate of solar adoption," said Caitlin Pomerantz of the Sierra Club in a press release. "Meanwhile, electricity rates are skyrocketing as we continue to get over 90 percent of our energy from imported fossil fuels. Increasing access to rooftop solar helps Hawaii achieve energy independence, lower energy costs and reduce our contribution to climate change; that's why 94 percent of Hawaii residents support it."

Participants at the rally will start a petition to hold HECO accountable for a deadline set by the Public Utilities Commission, which directs it to speed up the adoption of rooftop solar within the next 120 days.

To learn more about the Hands Across the Sand Rally, visit



Sandalwood Legacy Trees

January 28th, 2014

The sandalwood, or iliahi sapling, is now part of Hawaiian Legacy Hardwood's sponsorship program. Courtesy image.

The sandalwood, or iliahi sapling, is now part of Hawaiian Legacy Hardwood's sponsorship program. Courtesy image.

Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods of Paauilo, Hawaii, is now offering the rare, endemic sandalwood – or ‘iliahi, as part of its sponsorship program.

The sweet smelling ‘iliahi, found only in Hawaii, was harvested nearly to extinction a century ago. ‘Iliahi are not easy to grow, according to Heidi Bornhorst in "Growing Native Hawaiian Plants: A How-to Guide for the Gardener," because it is often difficult to find the seeds.

It is also slow-growing, with wood that is considered very valuable. HLH does not plan to harvest the trees.

"The simple fact is that because it is so slow-growing, if you are planting it for harvest, you better be planting it for your grandkids," said CEO Jeff Dunster. "And yes, in fact we are planting it for our grandkids, and everyone else's grandkids too."

The Legacy Tree program offers the public the opportunity to get involved in the reforestation of Hawaii through sponsorships. Sponsor a Sandalwood Legacy Tree to celebrate an event, honor an individual or memorialize a loved one.

The sponsorship of a sandalwood legacy tree is $100, with $20 going to the charity of the giver's choice (plus $1 which goes to the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust).

HLH celebrated the planting of its 200,000th native koa tree on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii island in May 2013 three years after the program was launched. The goal is to plan 1.3 million koa treesKoa legacy tree sponsorships are also still available for $60 (with $20 going to a charity).

Each tree can be tracked through HLH's Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system, basically a computer signature, which keeps tabs on the tree's growth, maintenance and geology.

Visit or call (877) 707-TREE to learn more.




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