Lighting Future Holidays

By Mike Fitzgerald
Wednesday - December 14, 2005
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Energy Reliability Advisory Committee members: Scott Howard, Pua Aiu, Terry Surles, James Maskrey and Mike Fitzgerald.
Energy Reliability Advisory Committee members: Scott
Howard, Pua Aiu, Terry Surles, James Maskrey and Mike

During the holiday season we look forward to an array of beautiful light displays throughout Oahu, which have become a part of our holiday tradition. Beautiful as they may be, they are also a reminder that we need to think about addressing Oahu’s long-term energy needs to ensure we always have reliable electricity for many future holiday celebrations.

Our economy is expected to continue growing over the next several years. Will we have enough reliable energy to fuel that growth? More importantly, what can we all do to ensure we have enough power from now through 2009, when HECO is expected to bring its new power plant online? And what will we do beyond 2009 to ensure this is the last new fossil-fuel power plant built on O’ahu?

HECO has repeated over the past several years that the best way to ensure there is enough energy for us all is for all of us to use less of it. Conservation not only helps make certain there is enough to go around, but helps businesses and residents save money.

Most measures are simple and painless, such as turning off the lights if you aren’t in the room and switching from standard bulbs to compact fluorescent lights. For businesses, incorporating energy conservation measures - in lighting, heating water and air conditioning, for example - when planning renovations can save a lot of money, year in and year out, down the line. For example, the Ward entertainment center saves about $20,000 per year with its energy saving air conditioning and lights.

However, one of the best ways to conserve our energy use is to look at alternative sources. Hawaii has one of the best solar power programs in the nation, but we can do better. Many more homes should have a solar water heater on their roofs. And homeowners’ associations should allow clotheslines in back yards if residents want that option.

Developers also need to be aware that how a house sits in relation to the elements can create a much more energy-efficient home by taking advantage of trade winds, solar power and natural shade. Contractors must also use the most energy-efficient materials and make sure that all ducts and connections are tightly sealed. Some builders are making great strides in this area. Gentry Homes’ Montecito and Tuscany models in Ewa have each won the EPA’s Energy Star award for exceeding energy-efficiency standards in building design. In the process, they have built better, more valuable homes.

Other alternative energy sources, such as wind and photovoltaics, also need to be seriously considered. Although community opposition derailed plans for a Leeward wind farm in the near future, HECO is now beginning discussions with the community and landowners in Kahuku as an alternative location. It will be a learning process for everyone. We will have to learn to accept wind farms in our back yards if we are going to move toward energy self-sufficiency. Leeward Oahu residents can no longer be expected to shoulder all the infrastructure burdens for Oahu’s energy needs.

In the long term, Hawaii must become more energy self-reliant. We should all look forward to the day when biofuels grown in Hawaii can power all our electric plants. Our leaders, too, must learn to work together to make this happen. If they do, Hawaii could become a role model for energy self-sufficiency in the 21st century. And our holiday lights will shine brighter than ever.

Next Week: Richard Valezquez, AAA Hawaii

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