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Hawaii aims to double efficiency of buildings by 2015

<p>Doubling building efficiency will create 5,000 clean energy jobs in the Aloha State, which also plans to boost renewables to 40 percent of its energy mix.</p>

Hawaii announced plans that will help reach its target of cutting energy demand by 30 percent and increasing renewables to 40 percent of the mix by 2030.

Starting in July, the state is launching energy savings performance contracts with the goal of doubling the efficiency of state and Honolulu County buildings by 2015, which will create 5,000 clean energy jobs in the process.

Energy efficiency improvements are slated for the state's 15 airports, prisons and jails, the University of Hawaii-Hilo's 30 buildings, the City and County of Honolulu Board of Water Supply and its largest wastewater treatment plants, among other sites.

Construction was hard hit during the recession when the real estate market collapsed and 20 percent of workers are still unemployed. Energy efficiency contracts will employ people with construction-oriented skills such as engineers, building operators and equipment installers, including building insulation, efficient HVAC systems, plumbing, etc.

Hawaii's energy agency will take an integral role: It will develop baseline data, review energy audits and contractor proposals and verify cost and energy savings. The state is committed to investing $300 million for this, subject to legislative approval. Efforts so far have been funded by the 2009 Recovery Act (stimulus bill) but that money dried up.

Beyond these costs, because the projects will be financed and implemented by energy performance contractors, the state will pay for the upgrades out of the energy saved.  

Waikiki image by Chris Howey via Shutterstock.

"The state has led by example," Jeff Mikulina, CEO of Hawaii's Blue Planet Foundation, told Honolulu Star-Advertiser. "They've had a similar program in place for years, but there's always room to dive deeper into efficiencies and find more savings, which is a win-win for energy goals and taxpayers. I assume that they'll keep doing what they've been doing only on steroids."  

Hawaii already saves 48.5 million kilowatt-hours of energy a year, thanks to energy upgrades.

Why aren't many other states doing the same?

Solar in Hawaii

About a quarter of Hawaii's construction jobs -- 2,000 to 3,000 jobs -- are in solar, placing the industry among its fastest growing and most important, Mikulina said. The nonprofit has been working since 2007 to make the state a model for clean energy.  

Hawaii ranked No. 7 in 2012 for the amount of solar added in the state and No. 6 for small solar. SolarCity is adding 24 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics on 6,500 homes at Hawaiian bases as part of the Army's SolarStrong program.

Three utility-scale projects are also under construction on Kaua'i -- the 30 MW will supply half the island's electricity.

Hawaii's utility leads the nation by planning for more solar on the grid, rather than holding back expansion as other utilities do.

Hawaii also leads the U.S. in electric car purchases because of its high gas prices and extensive charging infrastructure, among other incentives.

Waikiki image by Chris Howey via Shutterstock.

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