Hawaii burned 11.3 million barrels of petroleum last year to make electricity. Consider it Hawaii’s contribution to global warming and climate change.
Of course, the state of Hawaii isn’t too happy about that. In fact, it has a goal of reducing energy consumption by 30 percent by 2030–a reduction of 4.3 billion kilowatt hours in 17 years. That much change can only come through lifestyle changes, ranging from small stuff like turning off lights in rooms you’re not using and swapping incandescent light bulbs for CFL or LED bulbs to ditching your car in favor of public transportation and building a lot more solar and wind energy generators.
To help, the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has contracted Hawaii Energy to run a ratepayer-funded energy reduction program that’s administered by the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). The program is paid for through the MECO (or HECO or HELCO) Public Benefits Fund (PBF), which constitutes about 1.5 percent of the total revenues for the state’s electric companies.
This program monitors and distributes rebates that are available to household and business consumers. To qualify, you have to be a paying customer and satisfy items on the sanctioned list of available rebates: new energy efficient refrigerators, solar water heaters, ceiling fans, air conditioners and so forth. There are rebates from ranging from $50 to $1,000 for households that purchase these items. The rebates are offered for companies as well, and in some cases rebate investments can add up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the project.
“Now that ARRA [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] funds have run out, I think Hawaii Energy is the go-to source in Hawaii,” says Brian Fitzgerald of the Oahu PR firm MVNP. “Several businesses and organizations have received custom rebate incentives from Hawaii Energy. Castle Medical Center ($647,637) and Honolulu Museum of Art ($346,026) are recipients of the largest rebates given by Hawaii Energy to date. But many others have benefitted as well. Anything that helps a building run more energy efficiently is open for possible rebate.”
Hawaii Energy reports that Hawaii ranks first in electric energy rates, with Maui consumers paying 36 cents per kWh compared to the national average of just 11 to 12 cents per kWh. On the flip side, the state spends more than $5 billion a year on imported oil.
Governor Neil Abercrombie says that by reducing water and electricity use, public and private sector innovators are helping reach the state’s goal of 70 percent energy by 2030. On April 26, he will recognizing the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas with the Kela Award for their green initiatives. He will also give the Hyatt Waikiki, Wyndham Waikiki and Aqua Aloha his administration’s Green Business Awards.
The work at the Westin KOR makes up the largest Hawaii Energy projects on Maui. Begun in 2012, it’s cost $383,353 and saved an estimated 1.9 million kilowatt hours annually, reducing the resort’s electricity purchases by a third. For that, Westin received $215,657 in state rebates.
“We do work closely with Hawaii Energy on all of our energy projects,” says Sulinn Aipa, the Westin KOR Operations Coordinator. “You can absolutely consult with them before and anytime during projects. However, rebates and best options for maximization were not a deciding factor for us. We already knew what retrofits we wanted to do and we appreciated any incentives that were applicable.”
Aipa says Westin’s drive for more energy efficiency began in 2008 when she pushed for a committee to reduce water and energy consumption and increase recycling and waste management.
“I started in 2007 when they had just opened the North Tower,” says Aipa. “I was part of the Associate Development Program. You had to choose a project you were passionate about. For me, that was an energy committee to protect natural resources.”
The efforts Aipa had already established led the way to the resort’s energy saving goals, but there is more to the efforts to get the resort to go green than just numbers. Aipa also promotes company environmental projects like reef and beach cleanups, as well as volunteering at Malama Honokowai.
Westin KOR wants to reduce their energy consumption by 30 percent and water reduction by 20 percent by 2020. Their recent retrofit project included the installation of two cogeneration units that supply 80 percent of their own power. They also added irrigation controls that cut water use by 14,821 gallons and installed thousands of LED lights throughout the resort. They even offer an incentive for guests to defer daily housekeeping: a complimentary breakfast buffet. They say that saves the resort about $65,000 a year.
Aipa also gives a presentation every semester to the Island Sustainability class that’s part of University of Hawaii Maui College (UHMC) BAS Sustainable Science Management Program and sits on the advisory committee for their bachelor program.
“We help inform the students mainly on sustainable hospitality and what the resort does,” she says. “I always stress building sustainable in turn-key is really important.”
Aipa says the resort should hit 15 percent of their reduction goals this year. As far as the future goes, she says education will be the key to changing behavior.
The rebates currently offered are on a first-come, first-served basis. Hawaii Energy also consults with companies considering investing in energy saving, offering the best ways to improve efficiency.
“We have a Transformational Department that does training for the community,” says Malie Alsup, Marketing Manager for Hawaii Energy. “We have held various energy efficiency workshops on Maui, and generally it’s energy officials [who are] attending. The best way to get info on these is to sign up for our energy newsletter on our website.”
For more information, check out hawaiienergy.com/business for a general overview on what they offer, then call them directly at 808-839-8880 for more specifics.