The Blue Planet Foundation, an environmental non-profit, lowered Hawaii’s overall clean energy grade from a B- to a C.
The foundation releases energy report cards semi-yearly to grade the state’s progress to 100% renewable energy.
Only projects currently operating, and not proposed ones, such as the controversial Na Pua Makani wind farm in Kahuku, factor into the report card grades.
The last report card the foundation released was in 2017 and gave Hawaii an overall grade of B-.
The grades are based off of five different categories: transportation, efficiency, renewables, smart grid and economics.
Managing Director at Blue Planet Foundation, Melissa Miysashiro explained that the transportation category was the main reason that the state’s overall grade dropped.
“That’s the lowest grade in all the report card so we’re actually headed in the wrong direction,” she said. “Fossil fuel transportation hasn’t gone down. It still accounts for almost two-thirds of our fossil fuel consumption and we have a lot of work to do.”
The report shows that people are choosing less energy efficient vehicles, increasing their driving mileage and using public transportation less.
Public bus ridership has dropped about five percent since 2014. Miyashiro explained that new forms of public transportation, such as bike sharing hasn’t been able to make up for that deficit.
“Most of the public transit options beyond the bus are concentrated in the urban core of Honolulu,” she said. “Those living outside of urban Honolulu where homes are more affordable don’t have public transit options so as people move outside the urban core, they’re driving more.”
The renewable energy category also had a lower grade from the 2017 report. Miyashiro mainly attributes the state’s stalled progress to the closing of the Puna Geothermal plant on Hawaii Island after lava threatened the facility.
Two areas where the state improved is in its ability to store clean energy for later use and the declining price of renewable energy.
Miyashiro says that “we are generally on track,” to fulfill the state’s goal of having 100% renewable energy by 2045.
“As the cost of renewables and particularly battery storage continues to drop, we think that will accelerate even more quickly,” she said.
Hawaiian Electric Company Vice President of Corporate Relations, Jim Kelly thought the state deserved a higher grade.
“We see a lot of positive momentum behind these numbers and some challenges, too, which the report points out,” he said. “When you consider Hawaii has more than doubled use of renewable energy and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in just a few years, we think that’s better than C work.”