Integrating Policy and Technological Innovation to Drive Hawai‘i’s Innovation

Since the formation of the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) in 2008, Hawai‘i has emerged as a national leader in energy policy and deployment. At more than one-quarter of the way towards its ultimate goal of achieving total energy self-sufficiency in the electricity sector, it has become clear that effectively integrating energy policy and technological innovation is the key to ultimate success. 

There are distinct challenges Hawai‘i faces when interconnecting more intermittent energy such as roof top and utility scale solar, and utility scale wind. Hawai‘i’s energy stakeholders also have growing concerns about losing momentum for future investments in grid improvements and technologies necessary to realign the daily mismatch in electricity supply and demand on many circuits throughout the state.

The Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) has been directly involved in investigating and offering solutions to the technical questions of wind and solar integration and other hurdles to achieving high rates of renewable penetration. For many years, HNEI has been testing technology and strategies to make renewable generation more affordable and resilient. Its GridSTART team, led by former Hawaiian Electric Company engineers Leon Roose and Marc Matsuura are designing and testing smart grid systems on a microgrid and community level.

U.S Navy Wave Energy Test Site (WETS), supported by HNEI research, off Kane‘ohe, O‘ahu.

HNEI is now also addressing ways to align and improve energy policy and regulatory proceedings and to incorporate technological innovation in taking the next steps to fulfilling HCEI’s ambitious energy agenda. Its Energy Policy and Innovation Team, established by HNEI Director Richard Rocheleau, includes former Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commissioner John Cole and past Hawai‘i State Energy Administrator Mark Glick. According to Glick, who led Hawai‘i’s energy transformation initiative for five years before joining HNEI is December 2016, this formative group of energy administrators is forging a renewed focus better positon HNEI to assist the state and other areas achieve their clean energy goals. With this group in place, HNEI is increasing its focus to guide systemic energy transformation in Hawai‘i, Asia Pacific nations, and islanded and remote jurisdictions to achieve significant improvements in the economic and environmental health of our communities and planet,” noted Glick.

With Rocheleau, Glick and Cole, HNEI’s approach today can be described as offering vigorous thought leadership to decision-makers and energy stakeholders on the policies and plans to drive energy transformation and the impacts that can be achieved to abate climate change, stimulate economic growth, improve energy security and reduce energy costs. Rocheleau added, “The HNEI policy team has a great desire to combine the assets of the University of Hawai‘i System like the University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Office (UHERO), the Colleges of Engineering and Social Sciences, and the Laboratory for Advanced Visualization and Applications on analysis, research, engineering, economics and policy to achieve an optimal energy transformation.”  

HNEI is seeking to ride the wave of energy transformation investments in technological and policy innovations that are in large measure driven by the urgency to enhance energy security and mitigate climate change. In doing so, HNEI hopes to contribute to economic growth resulting from efforts to develop and deploy solutions that are critical to remote and islanded nations and states like Hawai‘i, which are even more susceptible to the impacts of climate change, price volatility and energy imports.

HNEI’s Energy Policy and Innovation Team intends to market its expertise in overseeing design and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures as a proven and highly efficient methodology for achieving climate mitigation. It is forming alliances to offer guidance and systems support to political jurisdictions that are urgently pursuing energy transformation based its own unique circumstances: geopolitical, demographic, and economic policies.  Glick and his colleagues believe that by forming robust partnerships and staying true to a clean energy pathway informed by analysis and greater policy understanding HNEI will have contributed to its vision of building stronger, sustainable communities in a new carbon-free world.