Report | February 2020

Powering Paradise

How Hawaii Is Leaving Fossil Fuels and Forging a Path to a 100% Clean Energy Economy

By Dan Cross-CallJason PrincePeter Bronski
Download the report below

In 2015, Hawaii was the first US state to proclaim a 100 percent renewable energy target. Since then, 14 other states, over 110 cities, and at least 20 utilities have followed suit to set 100 percent clean or renewable energy goals. These and other jurisdictions can learn from Hawaii’s relentless pursuit of innovation as they develop strategies to make their own energy targets a reality.

A timely report from Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), Powering Paradise: How Hawaii Is Leaving Fossil Fuels and Forging a Path to a 100 Percent Clean Energy Economy, provides a comprehensive review of Hawaii’s clean energy journey, exploring the various elements which have come together to make this possible.

Hawaii’s leadership is in part due to simple economics. The state’s heavy reliance on imported fossil fuels makes electricity expensive and creates a financial incentive for renewable energy. It is also a reflection of the state’s culture of innovation and its determination to build a better future.

Exhibit: Hawaii’s rooftop solar installations have increased dramatically as solar costs have fallen

Drawing on interviews with Hawaii stakeholders, RMI’s first-hand experience in the state, and extensive research, the report offers lessons transferable to other U.S. states engaging in their own transition to a 21st century clean energy system:

1. A willingness to try – Hawaii constantly pushes boundaries without benefit of a clear script. Others can learn from Hawaii’s missteps, but should be emboldened to take risks, assured that rapid feedback loops will accelerate rather than impede their progress.

2. Clear guidance from leadership – From the justification for the 100 percent renewable energy target, to framing the utility of the future and expectations for stakeholder engagement in regulatory proceedings, Hawaii demonstrates the importance of establishing reasoned, clear and compelling intentions for the energy transition.

3. Stakeholder engagement – As it moved into the unknown on many fronts, Hawaii has consistently crowdsourced invaluable wisdom from local stakeholders, as well as drawn upon national and international experience. Ensuring broad support for its actions has been critical for maintaining momentum and making progress toward targets.

This report distills this complex story into those key insights most transferable to others in the midst of transformation of energy systems in markets throughout the United States.

For more, click the ‘Download’ button above to download the report and read our related blog Learning from Aloha: Hawaii’s Energy Transformation.