What Is The Renewable Energy Law In Hawaii?

What is the renewable energy law in Hawaii?

Hawaii has long faced energy challenges due to its isolated island geography. With no indigenous fossil fuel resources, Hawaii imports 90% of its energy in the form of petroleum to power its electricity, transportation, and other sectors. This heavy reliance on imported oil has exposed the islands to energy price volatility and supply disruptions. In addition, the burning of fossil fuels has raised environmental concerns over air and water pollution.

To address these issues, Hawaii has set some of the most aggressive renewable energy targets in the United States. In 2015, Hawaii enacted a law requiring the state’s utilities to generate 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2045. This law builds upon previous legislation passed in 2001 and 2009 that also mandated increased renewable energy use over time.

The renewable energy law aims to reduce Hawaii’s dependence on imported fossil fuels, stabilize energy prices, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and catalyze economic development through clean energy industries. However, transitioning the isolated island grids to 100% renewables also poses technical and economic challenges. As Hawaii moves forward with implementation, the effectiveness of the law continues to garner interest within the state and nationally.


Hawaii first passed a renewable energy law in 2015 with the goal of transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2045. The law, known as Act 97 or the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, mandated that Hawaii’s electricity come from 100% renewable energy sources by 2045 (Hawaii Energy Facts & Figures, 2019).

This law built upon previous attempts in Hawaii to increase renewable energy usage. In 2008, Hawaii set a goal to achieve 70% clean energy by 2030. In 2012, another law established energy efficiency goals and required the state’s utility to submit renewable energy procurement plans (Wikipedia, 2022).

The key drivers behind the 2015 law were reducing Hawaii’s dependence on imported fossil fuels, mitigating climate change impacts, and harnessing the state’s abundant renewable resources like solar, wind, hydropower, and geothermal energy. Hawaii has some of the highest electricity rates in the nation due to imported oil and wanted to provide more affordable and stable energy prices for residents (Khon2, 2015).

Main Provisions

The Renewable Energy Law in Hawaii contains several key provisions aimed at promoting renewable energy usage in the state. Hawaii’s renewable portfolio standard requires electric utility companies to provide 25% renewable energy by 2030. This includes energy from sources like solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and more. The law also contains strong net metering provisions which allow customers with rooftop solar panels to sell excess electricity back to the grid and receive credit on their utility bills. Additionally, the law provides various tax credits and incentives for installing renewable energy systems.


The renewable portfolio standard established by Hawaii’s renewable energy law has had a significant impact on the state’s energy production and economy. Since the law’s enactment, there has been a major increase in renewable energy generation from sources like solar, wind, geothermal and biomass.[Source 1] This transition to cleaner energy has reduced greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on imported fossil fuels.[Source 2]

The law has also provided an economic boost for Hawaii. The construction of new renewable energy projects has created many new skilled jobs in fields like solar installation and wind turbine maintenance. According to a 2019 study, nearly 5,000 direct jobs in Hawaii were supported by renewable energy investments.[Source 3] The switch to locally generated renewables has also kept more energy spending within the state rather than exporting dollars out of state for fossil fuel imports.

Overall, the renewable portfolio standard has succeeded in rapidly transitioning Hawaii to a cleaner and more economically prosperous energy system thanks to strong policy support for renewable generation.

[Source 1] http://kahea.org/blog/hawaiis-renewable-portfolio-standards-aggressive-but-in-need-of-qualification

[Source 2] https://www.civilbeat.org/2018/04/blue-planet-from-harry-potter-to-formidable-political-force/

[Source 3] http://kahea.org/blog/blog?b_start:int=28&Subject=environmental%20justice


The renewable energy law in Hawaii has faced some criticisms related to higher energy costs, reliability concerns, and fairness issues.

Transitioning to renewable energy sources like solar and wind has increased electricity costs for consumers in Hawaii. According to Civil Beat, monthly electricity bills have risen significantly, putting a strain on many residents and businesses. There are concerns that the law did not do enough to protect consumers from these cost increases.

Reliability of the electrical grid is another concern. Adding variable renewable sources like solar and wind has made it more complex to balance supply and demand. There have been some high-profile outages, like the solar eclipse in 2017, raising worries about grid stability as more renewables come online. However, proponents argue the grid can be modernized to handle higher renewable penetration while maintaining reliability.

Some have argued the renewable energy mandate is unfair because it forces electricity customers to pay higher rates to subsidize renewable development, which critics say mostly benefits the solar and wind industry. This raises questions around who should pay for the transition to renewable energy. According to a Kahea blog post, there have been disagreements over the fairness of costs and benefits.


Hawaii’s renewable energy law was first passed in 2004 with the goal of achieving 20% renewable energy by 2020. Since then, there have been several amendments to increase the renewable energy targets and accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels.

In 2009, Act 155 was passed which increased the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to 25% by 2020, 40% by 2030, and 70% by 2040 [1]. This amendment represented a significant step up in ambition from the original 20% by 2020 target.

Some criticized the increased targets as unrealistic and too aggressive. The electric utilities expressed concern about integrating high levels of variable renewable sources like wind and solar [1]. However, supporters argued the new goals were achievable with supportive policies and incentives.

In 2012, Act 166 removed the specific interim targets, instead requiring the utilities to steadily increase renewable energy year after year. It also expanded options for renewable energy projects [2].

The amendments over the years reflect an increasing commitment to transition Hawaii’s energy system towards renewable sources and reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels.

Future Outlook

Hawaii continues to pursue an aggressive plan to meet its 100% renewable energy goal by 2045. In 2021, Hawai’i’S CLEAN ENERGY VISION reported that the state was on track to meet key benchmarks, with 29% of electricity coming from renewables. Major planned projects include developing additional solar, wind, geothermal and biomass facilities across the islands.

However, Hawaii still faces challenges in transitioning fully to renewable sources. One issue is updating the electricity grid infrastructure to handle increasing amounts of intermittent solar and wind power. There are also concerns about land use conflicts and community acceptance for large-scale renewable projects. Despite progress made so far, Hawai’i’S CLEAN ENERGY VISION notes the state must accelerate the transition to clean energy to attain its goals on schedule.

Unique Aspects

Hawaii faces unique challenges in transitioning to renewable energy due to its island setting, indigenous culture, and high energy costs. As an isolated island chain, Hawaii cannot easily import energy sources and must rely heavily on local generation. This makes the state vulnerable to supply disruptions and price volatility. At the same time, the costs of energy production and distribution are higher compared to the mainland US, leading to some of the highest electricity rates in the country. Transitioning to renewables like solar and wind can help mitigate these high costs over the long run.

The state also has a strong indigenous Hawaiian culture that emphasizes harmony with the natural environment. This cultural heritage has influenced efforts to move away from fossil fuels and adopt clean energy solutions that are more sustainable. However, some renewable projects have faced opposition from Native Hawaiians who want to protect sacred lands from development. Balancing clean energy goals with respect for indigenous rights and values is an important consideration.

Overall, Hawaii’s circumstances as an isolated island chain with high energy costs and a culture deeply connected to the land presents unique factors as the state works to transition its energy system. With thoughtful planning and broad collaboration, Hawaii can address these challenges and build an innovative model for clean energy.

Cited from:
Hawaii’s Clean Energy Transition Faces Steep Hurdles, Study Finds | Hawaii News | Honolulu Civil Beat


Hawaii’s renewable energy law stands out from other states in several key ways. While many states have renewable portfolio standards that require a certain percentage of electricity to come from renewable sources, Hawaii is the first U.S. state to mandate 100% renewable electricity by a target date of 2045 (As Hawaii Aims for 100% Renewable Energy, Other States Watching Closely).

In addition, Hawaii relies much more heavily on solar and wind than most states. In 2019, 23% of Hawaii’s net electricity generation came from solar, compared to just 3% for the entire U.S. Similarly, wind provided 10% in Hawaii, versus 7% nationally (Hawaii Energy Facts & Figures).

Hawaii’s high electricity costs and isolated island grids create strong incentives for renewable energy that differ from mainland states. The law allows flexibility in meeting targets through measures like energy efficiency and biofuels that aren’t options elsewhere (State Brief: Hawaii).

While Hawaii is a leader, other states are also making significant progress in renewables. California, Vermont, New York and others have aggressive goals. But none has gone as far as Hawaii in completely transitioning its electric grids off fossil fuels.


In summary, Hawaii’s renewable energy law has had a significant impact on the state’s energy landscape. By requiring electric utilities to source more of their power from renewable sources, the law has stimulated investment in solar, wind, and other clean energy technologies. According to the Hawaii State Energy Office, as of 2018 the state had over 90,000 solar installations, with the capacity to generate over 565 megawatts of electricity. This represents a tremendous growth in renewable energy over the past decade.

However, the law has also faced criticisms and challenges. The abrupt loss of the electric utility HECO’s largest fossil fuel plant in 2011 put strains on the grid, as sufficient renewable sources had not yet been built. This highlighted the difficulties of transitioning from heavy reliance on fossil fuels to a more distributed clean energy system reliant on variable sources like wind and solar. There have also been concerns about inequities, as richer homeowners install rooftop solar but costs are spread across all ratepayers. Ongoing work is aimed at modernizing the grid and ensuring fairness in pricing.

Overall, Hawaii’s renewable energy law has set the state on a path to a clean energy future and encouraged innovation and investment to make it happen. It provides an example for other states and countries wanting to transition more rapidly to renewable energy. With thoughtful implementation and grid management, as well asattention to equity concerns, Hawaii’s model can inform the ongoing global shift to clean energy.

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