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Hawaii’s Energy Transition Provides a Model for Decarbonization

Rocky Mountain Institute’s “Powering Paradise” report describes Hawaii’s journey through the energy transition of the last decade and offers insights that can help other jurisdictions navigate their own clean energy transitions.

Boulder, CO – February 4, 2020 – Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) today released its new report “Powering Paradise: How Hawai‘i Is Leaving Fossil Fuels and Forging a Path to a 100 Percent Clean Energy Economy.” The report provides a comprehensive review of Hawaii’s clean energy journey, exploring the various elements which have come together to make this possible.

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 19 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.

“People refer to Hawaii as the ‘postcard from the future’ because the state is confronting grid transformation issues sooner and is leading on pioneering approaches to the energy transition, from how the electricity system is planned, to how energy resources are procured and managed, to re-envisioning the role and business model of the utility,” said Dan Cross-Call, principal at RMI and coauthor of the report. “Hawaii’s journey provides lessons for many aspects of energy system innovation, which other jurisdictions can benefit from.”

Drawing on interviews with key stakeholders, RMI’s first-hand experience working on the ground in Hawaii, and extensive research, the report distills lessons from Hawaii’s experiences that are transferable to other U.S. utilities and energy professionals considering, or in the midst of, their own transition to a 21st century clean energy paradigm. These include:

  1. A willingness to try – Hawaii is constantly pushing boundaries, without always having a clear script for where it will go. Others can learn from Hawaii’s missteps, but should also be emboldened to take their own risks, assured that rapid feedback loops will accelerate rather than impede progress toward solutions.
  2. Clear guidance from leadership – From the justification for the 100 percent renewable energy target, to the framing for 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 steps into the unknown across so 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 that benefit everyone.

“Hawaii is the paragon for the clean energy transition, and the working prototype for all others attempting the clean energy transition,” said Jason Prince, manager at RMI and coauthor of the report. “It’s been lab, case story and an example of the relentless, collaborative effort that others can learn from and adapt to their own circumstances.”

“It is the state where deliberate leadership across legislative, regulatory, utility, and grassroots levels is steering market forces in the right direction to demonstrate that 100 percent targets are not merely aspirational, but practical and necessary.”

RMI has written this report with the express aim of informing actors in other states so that they can develop and successfully execute against their own 100 percent renewable energy targets.

To download the report, visit

Media Contact:

Nick Steel, Media Relations Manager
t: +1 347.574.0887

About Rocky Mountain Institute

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) — an independent nonprofit founded in 1982 — transforms global energy use to create a clean, prosperous and secure low-carbon future. It engages businesses, communities, institutions and entrepreneurs to accelerate the adoption of market-based solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; the San Francisco Bay Area; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing.