A Guide to Sustainability for Hawai’i

Sustainability and Resiliency

A path to Sustainability and Resiliency (often thought of as separate problems to be solved) are both in fact linked. Each require both the state and country governments to undertake coordinated policy changes, beginning with the substantial reduction in a statewide dependency on a fragile supply chain made up of locally replaceable imported fossil fuels and imported foods.

Hawaii’s 2021 legislative session is presently taking baby steps towards agriculture and energy reforms.  While the private sector, including Matson, are gearing up for access to expanded port facilities capacity in Honolulu, in order to better supply the state’s tenuous mainland lifeline.

Hawaii's Food System Is Broken. Now Is The Time To Fix It - Honolulu Civil Beat

With food as major statewide import, moving towards greater self-sufficiency will require something different than just enabling the state’s current dependencies.

The State’s Legislature this year appears to recognize this need in development of several bills encompassing the promotion and development of a diversified local agriculture system. None so far appear to address the need  for  a farm-to-consumer infrastructure as an essential first step forward towards this end.

Necessary supporting elements for resilient supply-chain are not limited to a reliable and flexible inter-island ocean-air transport system, further supported by a cold and longer term storage infrastructure to ensure an adequate domestic food supply from local as well as imported sources. Today’s neighboring island food retailers food inventory is dependent, container-to-container.

On the road to Sustainability and Resiliency, there will be necessary infrastructure and economic changes which will more than likely be disruptive to the status quo, but a plus for local jobs and a self-sufficient statewide economy prepared for the challenges of the 21st century.

  1. Eliminating Statewide imported fossil fuels dependencies:
    • ENERGY – Engage in a statewide shift to economic electrification through local clean power sources: solar, wind, power battery – pump storage, and ocean energy
    • TRANSPORTATION – Implement a 20 year phase out of gasoline and diesel vehicle dependencies, replaced through zero emissions land transportation electric vehicle alternatives, integrated mass transit systems, bike lanes, and smarter urban design
  2. Strengthening and integrating water supply and power systems, through the development of pumped-power storage solutions, is just one obvious solution which serves both Big Island power and water utilities.  West Hawaii Island examples:
    • WATER – Electricity and water supply are interdependent – no power, no water.  Hawaii’s water utilities (locally DWS) spend over 65% of the utility’s operating budget on electricity, a cost they freely pass-on to both agricultural and residential, and business water customers. DWS presently has no emergency power back-up to keep its pumps running and the water flowing during power interruptions and full blow blackouts.
    • POWER – Hawaiian Electric (Hawaii Island) faces increasing supply and demand power management issues, or industry nomenclature; load-balancing. Hawaii’s goal of 100% Renewable (electricity) by 2045 is dependent on the state and utilities cooperating in the development of energy storage options – problem and opportunity in which both water and power utilities can work together to mutual and public cost benefits.
  3. Addressing infrastructure vulnerabilities to rising sea-levels and increased island storm impacts are also another link in the chain to sustainable and resilient outcomes. Future infrastructure development and housing, e.g., must incorporate planning and permissions which fully consider climate-compatible development.
    • Public and private housing developments incorporating self-powering micro grids, linked to the Island’s power grid is step one.
  4. Advancing the state’s digital economy, first by working with private sector vendors in the creation of a high speed, broadband, telecommunications infrastructure serving all island communities
  5. Developing self-powered solid waste and water treatment management systems which do not pollute and create opportunities for re-use, as well efficient and managed disposal.
    • Reduce Waste, beginning with consumer education
      • Develop reuse options which avoid the landfill, beginning with an effective reverse supply system incorporating both public and private collection-drop off centers, repurposing of goods for sale and donation
      • Develop municipal waste water systems which return gray water to R-1 Recycle, e.g. Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant.  Everything pumped into the ground in Hawaii will find its way into the state’s pristine marine environment.
      • When You Can’t Avoid Waste: compost and recycle in a public waste management system designed to serve public requirements, not the other way around.
  6. Education Opportunities – Supporting a statewide K-12 and college degree education system designed to serve local economic and environmental job opportunities .
  7. Social Equity – Historically, some parts of our community have been left behind economically. Efforts to improve resiliency and sustainability need to ensure that ALICE (asset-limited, income-constrained, employed) and other disadvantaged communities benefit equally in the state’s economic an social transition to sustainable and self-sufficient future.
  8. Developing parks and recreation opportunities which support more robust community interactions and environmental education and appreciation of Hawaii’s ania, values directly link to livability in Hawaii — translated, a greater appreciation for the interdependencies of living in and with the natural world.
2 replies
  1. Mike Brandeberry
    Mike Brandeberry says:

    Why don’t you mention biomass energy ?
    It is available immediately.
    Carbon neutral cheaper than wind,
    The fuel can be grown and harvested Sustainable’y on the Big Island.

    • Bill Bugbee
      Bill Bugbee says:

      “Biomass is far from “clean or green”. In the case of the Big Island, the failed Hu Honua tree burning biomass plant it neither cost effective or sustainable. It locally creates air and water pollution and an array of environmental and health harms which are far from carbon neutral, and ratepayers would foot the bill for this expensive alternative. Burning waste for power (WTE) is another biomass example which shares similar failings to that of Hu Honua. However, some biomass options holds promise, e.g., burning methane, a landfill by-product, to produce power. Another biomass energy option which also holds some promise is algae, but remains in the early stages of validation. Wind, solar couple to storage are proven 24×7 zero emissions power sources when scaled up, and highly cost effectively fossil fuel replacements available today.


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