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Health Department: State on Target to Reach Renewable Energy Goal

March 11, 2019, 4:43 PM HST · Updated March 12, 12:19 PM
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According to the Hawaiʻi Department of Healthʻs “Hawai‘i Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report,” Hawaiʻi is on target to meet its greenhouse gas emissions goal for 2020. The report, which was prepared by the ICF International and the University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization, indicates that the state is on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to equal or below 1990 levels, a  goal the state legislature 12 years ago.  

“Hawai‘i is on the right path to mitigate the effects of climate change, but we must continue to stay on track,” health director Dr. Bruce Anderson said. “The Department of Health requires greenhouse gas emission caps for the largest stationary sources of air pollution, and major sources of greenhouse gas emissions are taking responsibility for implementing the reductions. Everyone must do their part to continue these efforts.”

The report uses data from 2015 greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide, as well as data on “sinks,” which remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Sinks, made popular from Kyoto protocol, includes carbon offset activities like reforestation and urban tree planting. Key findings from the report are listed below:

  • The energy sector makes up more than three quarters of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. A little over half of the energy sector emissions come from transportation, excluding international bunker fuel, and 45% come from stationary combustion.
  • Decreases in domestic marine, domestic aviation, and military emissions contributed to a 20% decrease in transportation emissions from 2007 to 2015, offsetting an increase in ground transportation emissions.
  • Stationary combustion emissions from electrical power plants and petroleum refineries dropped by about 15% from 2010 to 2015.
  • Industrial processes and product use, which includes emissions from cement production, electrical transmission and distribution, and substitution of ozone depleting substances accounted for 4% of the state’s emissions in 2015.
  • Agriculture, forestry, and other land use, which included emissions and sinks from agricultural activities, land use, changes in land use, and land management practices made up 5% of the statewide emissions in 2015.
  • Waste, including emissions from waste management and treatment activities such as landfills, composting, and wastewater treatment, accounted for 4% of statewide emissions in 2015.

According to the department, these positive trends are expected to continue, primarily because of the Hawaiʻi Clean Energy Initiative, whose goal is to achieve 100% clean energy by 2045. Below is a list of the initiativeʻs goals and efforts:

  • Total state emissions are projected to decrease largely because of the combined decrease in emissions from electric power plants and petroleum refineries.
  • Electric utilities are seeking to meet the state’s “renewable portfolio standard” mandates, which require using more renewable energy sources to generate electricity until Hawai‘i is no longer dependent on fossil fuels and uses 100% of renewable energy sources by 2045.
  • The state’s energy efficiency portfolio standard target mandates a reduction in energy use, a decrease of 4,300 gigawatt-hours of electricity use by 2030. Based on the average efficiency of fossil fuel electricity generation in Hawai‘i, this would be equivalent to about 3.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas removed.
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The greenhouse gas emission inventories in the report are used for decision making and to provide direction on the state’s future efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Department of Health’s greenhouse gas emissions report for 2015 (dated January 2019) and summary of key results are available online.

State rules require the department to assess the state’s progress in achieving the reduction goal by determining statewide levels for the 2020 target date as well as the years leading up to and following it. The caps would no longer apply if the statewide greenhouse gas limit is met prior to 2020 and projections indicate the limit is being maintained.

The department expects to release a Hawai‘i Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report later this year, which will include a new 2016 statewide greenhouse gas emissions inventory and updated prior year inventories and projections.

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