Hawaii renewable energy and energy efficiency

Hawaii offers a variety of incentive programs to encourage the adoption of renewable energy and the improvement of energy efficiency by commercial, residential and governmental energy consumers. Hawaii has a relatively large amount of renewable energy generation and was the first state to adopt a 100% renewable energy goal. Hawaii's clean energy goals include obtaining 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2045 and reducing electricity consumption 40% by 2030.

A history of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Hawaii

To reach its renewable goal, Hawaii enacted legislation in 2008 which requires solar water heaters to be installed on new single-family residential construction1. Though Hawaii's net metering program is seen as a key driver of solar penetration surging, it was closed to new applicants in 2015. Instead, there are two distributed generation tariffs, namely Customer Grid Supply Plus (CGS Plus) and Smart Export. The CGS Plus is available for residential and small commercial customers, and the Smart Export is for customers who own renewable energy plus energy storage systems. Customers will receive a monthly bill credit for energy delivered to the grid based on an island-specific rate2.

In 2006, Hawaii enacted legislation to create a public benefits fund (PBF), funded by a surcharge on utility bills that is based on a percentage of total utility revenue. In 2009, Hawaii Energy was created to administrate the public benefits funds, which aims to reduce energy consumption, improve energy efficiency, and pursue a 100% clean energy future3. In 2015, Hawaii established a separate Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS) to reduce electricity consumption by 4,300 GWh (40% of 2007 electricity) by 20304.

To reduce its heavy dependence on petroleum, Hawaii has been developing its abundant renewable energy resources. The largest source of renewable energy in Hawaii is solar power with a total of 1225.25 MW installed capacity; this provides more than half of the state's total renewable generation, and more than 10% of the state's total electricity generation5. Most of this solar generation comes from distributed PV systems due to tax credits, incentives, and utilities' distributed energy resource programs. Wind energy is Hawaii's second most utilized renewable energy, accounting for more than 20% of the state's renewable generation. The state's first wind farm was built in the 1980's by Hawaiian Electric Company in Kahuku, Oahu. Currently there are eight existing utility-scale wind energy projects in Hawaii located on the islands of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii. The remaining renewable generation is provided by bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, and ocean-based power6.

Hawaii's Renewable Portfolio Standard

Hawaii established a renewable portfolio goal in 2001, requiring each electric utility to set goals to increase net renewable energy sales to 9% by December 31, 2010. This goal was replaced with an enforceable renewable portfolio standard (RPS) upon the enactment of S.B. 2474 in 2004, raising the target to 10% and requiring that 20% of electricity be generated from renewable resources by the end of 2020. In 2015, the Hawaii legislature amended the state's RPS (H.B. 623) and Hawaii became the first state to establish a legislative goal: obtaining 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2045. Eligible renewable energy sources include biofuels, biogas, biomass, falling water, geothermal, hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources, ocean water, currents, and waves, the sun, and wind7.

Important renewable energy organizations in Hawaii

The State of Hawaii Public Utilities Commission was established via Act 89 in 1913 to review the operations and finances of the public utility under investigation, held public meetings, and pointed out improper practices and charges. With the enactment of Act 108 in 2014, the Commission was provided with increased administrative decision-making authority. In 2019, the Commission regulates 1,806 entities to provide effective and informed oversight so as to serve the public fairly and reliably. Among these regulated entities, there are four electric utilities, including Hawaiian Electric Company, Manu Electric Company, Hawaii Electric Light Company, and Kauai Island Utility Cooperative8. The Commission requires the state's retail electric suppliers to disclose details regarding the fuel mix of their electric generation to retail customers and in annual reports9.

The Hawaii State Energy Office (HSEO) aims to lead the state's movement toward clean energy by developing and utilizing local energy resources in a balanced way. To maximize Hawaii's energy self-sufficiency and cost-effective investments in clean energy, HSEO has established a five-point policy directive, which is 1) Diversify energy portfolio; 2) Connect and modernize grids; 3) Balance technical, economic, environmental and cultural considerations; 4) Leverage position as an innovation test bed; 5) Promote an efficient marketplace that benefits producers and consumers10.

The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) was established in 2008 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by the U.S. Department of Energy and the State of Hawaii. HCEI aims to reduce petroleum use in Hawaii's transportation sector and achieve 100% clean energy by 2045. HCEI has made progress through policy that the state's renewable energy portfolio and energy efficiency targets have been codified into law. In the clean transportation sector, there are over 5,000 EVs in Hawaii, supported by over 530 publicly available charging stations statewide. In renewable energy deployment, HCEI is investing in smart infrastructure and exploring next generation technologies11.

Utilities in Hawaii also play a significant role in advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency. Most of Hawaii's electricity is supplied by Hawaiian Electric Company, Manu Electric Company, Hawaii Electric Light Company, and Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (The first three are owned by Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc.). Each of Hawaii's six main islands has its own separate electricity grid, and each island is responsible for generating its own power. Hawaii encourages initiatives to modernize its transmission grids and interconnect them to enable more efficient power generation and to support increased development of renewable energy resources12.


  1. DSIRE. “Solar Water Heating Requirement for New Residential Construction”. Assessed December 17, 2019
  2. DSIRE. “Distributed Generation Tariffs”. Assessed December 17, 2019
  3. DSIRE. “Hawaii Energy”. Assessed December 17, 2019
  4. DSIRE. “Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard”. Assessed December 17, 2019
  5. SEIA. “Hawaii Solar”. Assessed December 20, 2019
  6. Hawaii State Energy Office. “Hawaii Energy Facts & Figures”. Assessed December 20, 2019
  7. DSIRE. “Hawaii Renewable Portfolio Standard”. Assessed December 20, 2019
  8. State of Hawaii Public Utilities Commission. “Introduction”. Assessed January 7, 2019
  9. DSIRE. “Fuel Mix Disclosure”. Assessed January 7, 2019
  10. Hawaii State Energy Office. “Who We Are”. Assessed January 7, 2019
  11. Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative. “About the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative”. Assessed January 7, 2019
  12. EIA. “State Energy Profile Analysis” Assessed January 7, 2019

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