Are electric micro grids the solution for Moloka`i or O`ahu? Law students at the William S. Richardson School of Law want to know.

Last year the students in the Environmental Law Program (ELP) Energy Justice Working Group examined the proposed takeover of the Hawaiian Electric Companies by Florida-based NextEra Energy.

This year the law students tackled micro grids.

The law students vary in their knowledge of energy policy. Their backgrounds range across the spectrum.

For decades the University of Hawai`i at Manoa has offered utility accounting classes at the Shidler School of Business, and electrical engineering classes at the UH College of Engineering.

The law school is complementing this by focusing on complex policy issues dealing with renewable energy, social justice, and climate change.

The program is under the guidance of David Forman, Director of the Environmental Law Program (ELP) and Energy Professor Shalanda Baker.

Two third year law students Zuri Aki, and Grant Nakaya, LLM student Mako Kawada and Business Market Research Fellow Maruf Hossain examined three O`ahu communities: Haleiwa-Waialua, Pupukea-Sunset, and Kahuku-Laie.

Haleiwa and Kahuku are home to the only grid-based wind generation facilities on O`ahu. As a first step the students sought to understand the characteristics and stakeholders of the diverse communities.

The team recognized that local champions are needed to drive the process.

The other team consisted of Claire Colegrove, Sean Aronson and James Strange. They examined possibilities for Moloka`i.

Claire Colegrove worked with Defenders of Wildlife for three years, both in Washington D.C. and in Alaska. Prior to that she worked two years as a legislative analyst in Washington D.C.

Sean Aronson is a profession media consultant and videographer. He worked as a reporter with the Molokai Dispatch from November 2008 to August 2010.

James Strange is an Extern/Clerk for the Supreme Court of Hawaii and was a Kamehameha Schools – Sustainable Punalu’u Energy Justice Fellow. He worked with SolarCity before entering law school.

The Moloka`i team relied on a Sust`āinable Molokai plan as a launching point to further examine possibilities for the island.

They examined several places in California, Oregon, Alaska and Europe which are in the process of breaking away from traditional utility structures and creating renewable micro utilities. The team recognized the key role for energy storage.

Attending the presentation given at the law school last night were two major Sust`āinable Molokai players: law professor Malia Akutagawa, and Sust`āinable Molokai Executive Director Emilia Noordhoek.

The team will be heading to Moloka`i to discuss their analysis with some members of the community. As Aronson noted, Moloka`i is not an easy place to understand. “You need a lifetime to understand it.”

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