Maui News

Young activist to discuss resiliency at 10th annual Hawaiʻi Energy Conference on Maui

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Youth activist Daphne Frias will keynote the 10th annual Hawaii Energy Conference. PC: Courtesy

The Hawaiʻi Energy Conference, a two-day event that illuminates renewable energy and related topics, will resume in-person gatherings for its 10th anniversary from May 24 to 25 at Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

Presented by the Maui Economic Development Board, the conference is open to the public and features keynote speakers, panel discussions, case studies and an exhibit venue, a news release said. The conference in recent years was virtual due to the pandemic.

Registration for the 2023 conference is open with early-bird rates available until March 31.

This year, the keynote speaker is Daphne Frias, a 25-year old youth activist who is a champion for the disabled community. 


She will speak on the innate resiliency of disabled people and how that relates to adaptation and sustainability. Born and raised in West Harlem, New York City, Frias has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to ambulate; she has seen how minority communities are disproportionally affected by climate change.

Doug McLeod of DKK Energy Services, who is a member of the energy conference program committee, said Frias is part of the next generation of climate leaders. 

“In the first 10 years of this conference, the discussion evolved from whether our planet was experiencing climate change to whether our energy policies will be enough to avoid excessive climate change,” he said in the release. “Our keynote speaker this year is part of the next generation of climate leaders. Her story and her message are inspirational.”

Energy is a complex topic, and it is easy to get lost in the details,” McLeod added. “We rarely get to talk about the bigger purpose of our work. 


In 2019, Frias was appointed as one of the North American Regional Focal Points for Sustainable Development Goal 16 at the U.N. Major Group for Children and Youth. In this position, she works to highlight and represent the voice of her fellow youth and the work they are doing to become pivotal peacemakers. 

As a freelance organizer, Frias spends time speaking at various colleges, summits and panels. In addition, she consults with nonprofits, crafting engaging campaigns highlighting the voices of Gen-Z.

Jonathan Koehn, a founding member of the energy conference program committee, said Frias is a “great spokesperson for personal resilience.”

“I think it’s a good opportunity for the conference to kick-off with a discussion oriented to those who are most vulnerable in our communities,” he said.


“Daphne is a really great spokesperson for personal resilience, for accessibility and she does an amazing amount of community organizing,” said Jonathan Koehn, a founding member of the HEC Program Committee and Chief Sustainability & Resilience Officer, City of Boulder. “I think it’s a good opportunity for the conference to kick-off with a discussion oriented to those who are most vulnerable in our communities.”

Frias’ presentation will segue into a segment of panels that focus on community engagement and empowerment as it relates to energy. 

The discussion will look at new ways of engagement including the new participatory budgeting model and Molokaʻi’s recently approved community-based renewable energy project.

A second focus area of the 2023 program will look at Hawaiʻi’s clean-energy goals, in which panels will question the following:

  • It takes how long for a building permit? A discussion on the challenges and solutions of permitting for distributed energy resources like rooftop PV and lithium-ion batteries.
  • What does the data say? This panel will discuss the different “100%” goals involving Renewable Energy, Carbon, and sustainability, whether Hawaiʻi is on track to meet them and whether the focus needs to change?
  • Why are large scale renewables across the US coming online slower than expected, and often at higher cost? Wren Westcoatt of Longroad Energy will lead this developers’ roundtable.

A third focus area of the 2023 Hawaiʻi Energy Conference will look at new tools and technologies in the renewable energy domain, including geothermal, aviation fuel, energy storage and use of hydrogen.

For more information on the program and to register, visit the Hawaii Energy Conference website


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