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MASTER'S PROJECT: Public Transport Systems and Infrastructure Solutions to Reduce Fossil Fuel Dependence on Hawaii Island


The Kohala Center, an independent, community-based institute for research, education, and conservation based on Hawaii Island, has just completed a plan for the County of Hawaii Energy Sustainability Program Five Year Roadmap. Among its findings are:

  • Overall, 95 percent of the island's total energy needs are met with imported petroleum fuels.
  • In 2011, Hawaii Island produced more electricity from renewable sources - 37 percent - than any other island in the state. However, electricity consumption represents a small fraction (15 percent) of the island's overall energy use.
  • More than half (52 percent) of all energy consumed on the island is used in the transportation sector. About 24 percent of the island's energy supply is lost during conventional electricity generation, transmission, and distribution.
  • Other petroleum-based fuels for residential, agricultural, and commercial/industrial applications account for the remaining nine percent of energy supply.
  • Hawaii Island possesses abundant - yet untapped - solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and bioenergy resources. Collectively, these renewable energy resources far exceed the island's total energy needs. The technologies required to harness these resources are commercially available today and, in most cases, the cost of deploying these technologies is below the current cost of petroleum-based energy production.
  • To date, a great deal of Hawaii Island energy analysis has been focused on the electricity sector because the island has one of the highest electricity rates in the US (approximately $0.40/kwh for residential users) and a regulated monopoly utility. As noted above, however, there are existing resources and technologies to reduce electricity costs while reducing the island's dependence on imported fossil fuels for electricity generation.

Analysis of the ground transport sector has been sorely neglected because the island has invested virtually all of its public capital on roadway infrastructure for private vehicles and because solutions to reducing dependence on transport fuels involve collaboration of many disparate public and private entities.

One of the key recommendations of the Energy Sustainability Program Roadmap is to create a comprehensive mass transit strategic plan for the island to increase ridership and to introduce modern transit management technologies. Another part of a transport analysis would be to examine the social organization of travel and island infrastructure modifications that could result in lower VMT.

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