Alpen Steel | Renewable Energy

~ The State Energy Planning And Policy Branch In Hawaii

Renewable-energy wave hits Hawaii

In what may be a sign of things to come for Hawaii's economy, the state Energy Planning and Policy Branch is adding workers while most of state government is shrinking.

The office is hiring 18 workers with the help of federal funding and is an oasis of sorts within the Department of Business,

Economic Development and Tourism, where 40 out of 96 positions are being eliminated.

Indeed, Hawaii's energy industry has been a bright spot in an otherwise dour time for the state's economy, with solar photovoltaic installation companies doing well and renewable energy firms looking at adding many megawatts of projects here. Energy may be a stealth economic engine for the state, one that has relied on tourism and military spending as its main locomotives.

"This is a big opportunity," said Ted Peck, head of the Energy Planning and Policy office, who says he is being approached several times a week by companies exploring setting up shop here.

"We have had a half dozen states and four countries call us and say we want to partner with you and learn with you."

Hawaii currently gets 90 percent of its energy from oil, a percentage that's greater than any other state. That includes paying about $3.5 billion for 50 million barrels of oil imported into the state.

The cost was higher last year when oil traded at more than $140 a barrel. Gov. Linda Lingle wants the state to cut its oil addiction and has set a goal of getting 70 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030.

That presents an opportunity for energy companies, whether they are offering new technologies or more prosaic solutions, such as changing to more efficient lighting or windows in air-conditioned office buildings.

"If Hawaii doesn't convert to a home-grown energy economy, then we'll continue to be a really high-cost state," said Karl Stahlkopf, a partner at Sennet Capital and former president of Hawaiian Electric Co.'s renewable energy business.



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