On November 3 and 4th 2016, as the Executive Director of Sust`aina able Molokai, I had the humbling experience of presenting on our Molokai energy projects at the 1st World Community Power Conference

The following organizations, World Wind Energy Association Community Power, Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies and Japan Community Power Association invited the world of community power to attend the 1st World Community Power Conference 2016 taking place in Fukushima City on the invitation of the Mayor of the City of Fukushima. WCPC aimed at bringing together leading community power proponents from Japan and the world together in order to discuss the role community power has to play in the global shift towards renewable energy. WCPC led a discussions on a global community power strategy and with international, national and local implications.

WCPC took place on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Paris climate change agreement in which all governments of the world have agreed to switch the global energy supply to greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050, meaning in fact 100 % renewable energy. As this is also the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident and the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, it is even more imperative that we continue this conversation with renewed passion.

 What is Community Power ?

Community Power is usually defined as renewable energy installations initiated, operated and controlled by local citizens. Community power has been proven to have a very positive impact on deployment rates of renewable energy and increases the economic benefits of renewable energies.

Ownership

A local individual or a group of local stakeholders, whether they are farmers, cooperatives, independent power producers, financial institutions, municipalities, schools, etc., own, immediately or eventually, the majority or all of the renewable energy project.

Decision making

The community-based organization made up of local stakeholders has the majority of the voting rights concerning the decisions taken on the renewable energy project.

Distribution

The major part or all of the social and economic benefits of the renewable energy project are returned to the local community.

My favorite aspect of presenting was being able to give the Molokai Community the credit you all deserve for the work we have done in collaboration in regards to energy efficiency and conservation.

Molokai uses the least amount of energy across the state, has the highest solar roof top penetration, and has embraced the energy efficiency programs of HUI UP by switching out incandescent bulbs for CFLs and Old ice boxes for new energy star ones.

Seeing how other communities have been able to create community energy projects where the community not only uses the renewable energy but financial profits by it allowing monies to stay within the community and benefiting economically as well.

In May of 2016 we held a small renewable energy convening on Molokai, with key stakeholders to ascertain what the path forward could be for Molokai and the inclusion of community power projects. (link to transcripts from meeting here )

It feels like the next step is for us as a community to make that leap into a community renewable energy project –leading the way as we have done in the past.

Fukushima prefecture

We have all heard and seen the photos of the nuclear power plant melt down that took place 5 years ago- and we can know that it was a terrible tragedy.

It become very real when we went out to some of the villages and were able to see that there is rebuilding happening. What is most astonishing is that they are still packing up the top five centimeters of soil, sealing it in super heavy plastic bags and stacking them by the side of the fields and roads. Then they tarp them, and vent the tarps and that is where they will stay until there are better options. I saw rice fields that had been used for 9 generations, now barren and no longer able grow food because the water, soil is contaminated. Some people are moving back and fixing up their homes as the government has declared it “safe” after five years – but they can’t grow food there, they youth are not coming back fear of health issues, to see something so tragic because we as humans had to have enough power to send to a large urban area- the energy was for Tokyo- it was heart breaking to me and a lesson for Hawaii. We have be the leaders we need working towards community renewable energy, and we need to help keep the pressure on the Japanese Government not to build and to dismantle the nuclear power plants left.

What will happen to our beloved Hawaii if there is a bigger accident and the wind blows the wrong way? What happens to the fish we eat? The ocean we rely on for subsistence living? What I came away with is that we must act locally with responsible policies and projects but we must work with other countries in a broader to ensure that we keep our global promises and the promise to our future generations. We are all connected as we work towards climate change mitigation, we are all feeling the socio, economic, environmental results and reactions and we need to work with each other not against to ensure our future.

HOW CAN MOLOKAI & SUST`AINA BLE MOLOKAI BE PART OF THE SOLUTION ???

  1. We know that our community pays the highest cost in energy and the result is a clear commitment to energy effeincy and conservation as was evident in the success of our last 3 HUI UP programs. We are continuing our efforts and working with Hawaii Energy, Blue Planet Foundation and the DBEDT to create an even more ambitious program- trade out every grid tied in Electric water heater for a solar water heater. We have estimated that there are about 1000-1200 households that for one reason or another were not able to participate in the earlier solar water heater rebate programs that made them very affordable. So we are working to create different funding mechanism through GEMS financing that allows the cost to be tied to the utility bill of a home and NOT to a person in the house.

If you are a MECO customer and still have an electric water heater please fill out this form so that we may contact you about the options of trading it in for a solar water heater and reducing your energy costs by 30% Link to form here

  1. We are now one island in a network of sustainable islands from Samso-Denmark, to

Japan, Australia , Maine working to support more community energy projects. We can learn from those further along and teach those who need to the assistance in that way we continue to add to our network with renewable energy and community power!

This not only moves us more quickly to renewable energy but allows the community to benefit economically from the projects not just in cleaner, cheaper energy but as actual share holders and owners of the projects themselves. Links to website such as the Energy Academy, Australia, and ISEP.

  1. Sust `aina able Molokai would like to help facilitate the community in building a community owned renewable energy project, on Molokai as a pilot for the state and training for innovation. This community has experience in knowing a bad project but what does a good project look like? How do we design in order to teach the tools to other communities?

CALL TO ACTION- be a part of the Community Power movement globally by acting locally!

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