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A Dozen Moments from Earth Day 2018

May 7, 2018

· 2 min read
Ian Chipman Editorial Director

In honor of our planet completing another successful twirl around the sun, and to mark a decade of progress on the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, Elemental Excelerator gathered some old friends and welcomed some new ones at the Earth Day Energy Summit.

There, we shared with the world some new data on Hawaii’s path to clean energy by releasing a report called Transcending Oil. It tells the story of how Hawaii can transition to clean energy faster than we thought. And that it will be cheaper and generate more jobs in Hawaii than sticking with the status quo.

Joined by changemakers, policymakers, and straight-up makers from across our islands and the country, we took stock of how far we’ve traveled on our quest for 100% renewable energy since the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative launched in 2008. More importantly, we cultivated opportunities to accelerate that progress and forged a renewed determination to design a clean, resilient, and equitable future in Hawaii — and around the world.

Throughout the day, we learned some new things — and shared a few things we’ve learned along the way — about innovation and community and the risks of inaction. We spoke and listened intently about urgency and equity and moonshots. We agreed that the hard work of transitioning to a carbon-free economy is essential work. We looked back to fuel our momentum moving forward.

“It’s one thing to sign a piece of paper,” said Maurice Kaya, who was the co-architect of the HCEI in 2008. “It’s quite another thing to put the elements in place to be able to get people together, to actually embark upon this initiative in such a way where you can actually made the type of progress that you’re seeking. And what that takes is a very broad, very difficult, but very committed community effort.”

As we embark on that effort, we wanted to share just a few of the words and images that lingered with us the most from this Earth Day.

Joi Ito

“The slow-moving stuff like nature and geology, that’s actually the thing that just keeps going. That’s where the memory is … When you think in thousand-year terms, suddenly problems become very different when you’re not just thinking about your own generation … Are we willing to make short-term tradeoffs for commercial reasons at the expense of nature and culture?

— Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab, spoke about designing a compass for a world without maps, and why Hawaii is the epicenter of this challenge.

Trevor Houser

“Hawaii’s just beginning to tap its clean energy potential. To assess that potential and how fast Hawaii can go, we did a comprehensive assessment of the resources across the state, island by island, rooftop by rooftop, wind resource by wind resource, and then modeled a future for Hawaii under a range of oil price and renewable energy cost scenarios … What we found is, under any plausible future, both in terms of oil prices or renewable energy cost, it is cheaper for Hawaii to go quicker in its clean energy transition.

— Trevor Houser, Partner, Rhodium Group, shared the key findings from Transcending Oil: Hawaii’s Path to a Clean Energy Economy

Nainoa Thompson

“The question really wasn’t about whether we should go around the world or not, the question was about risk. Risk. We looked at what’s more dangerous, the pirate or the hurricane or the rogue wave or the mosquito against the other risk of not doing anything … What’s more dangerous, the pirate or being tied to the dock? We said it’s being tied to the dock.

Nainoa Thompson, President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, spoke about overcoming fear and the decision to take Hōkūle’a on a three-year voyage around the world.

Miki Tomita

“When I think about Hōkūle’a and I think about taking a traditional voyage clear around the world, to circumnavigate the world’s oceans, like, that’s an impossibility! … Kids right now are growing up in a time where the impossible has been made possible.

Miki Tomita, Co-founder of Education Incubator, spoke with Astro Teller about how Hawaii is inspiring the world to shoot for the moon.

Governor David Ige

“It is an honor and privilege for me as governor to proclaim today, April 20, as Transcending Oil Day, to mark the release of the report and demonstrate how Hawaii will lead the country and the world to transform our economies globally from being oil-driven and oil-based to a clean, renewable energy economy.”

Governor David Ige joined Elemental Excelerator’s CEO Dawn Lippert to reaffirm Hawaii’s commitment to a clean energy future.

Brian Schatz

“There is a pathway to do this that is consistent with our economic development goals. There is a pathway that does this that doesn’t leave people behind paying electricity rates that they just can’t handle. And that story, I think, has to be foundational to who we are, because it’s not about creating an ecological utopia and then nobody can afford to live here. It’s about building the kind of community that we want.

U.S. Senator for Hawaii Brian Schatz spoke about balancing social equity with technological innovation, and transitioning by design.

Chris Lee

“Not only can we achieve our renewable goal of 100% clean energy by 2045, but the utilities already filed plans to hit it by 2040. This report demonstrates that if we collectively come together and do as much as we possibly can, we’ll do it far cheaper and far faster even than that. And that is something that excites all of us because it means jobs, it means money saved for consumers, and it means a planet we can hand our kids.”

Representative Chris Lee, Chairman of the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee in the Hawaii State Legislature, spoke about aligning the public and the private sectors to meet Hawaii’s renewable energy goals.

Beth Osborne

“The way we pay for our transportation system right now is through a gas tax. If you are Department of Transportation and you move people quickly and efficiently, you earn less money through the gas tax because they burn less gas than if you make them sit in traffic and drive long distances. Is that the price signal we really want to send? The less efficiently you produce your transportation system, the more money you get to maintain it?  … We have the chance to let people travel much shorter distances, to share rides, to easily travel both in and out of their car, and to travel more cleanly.”

Beth Osborne, Vice President for Transportation at Smart Growth America, spoke about the challenges and opportunities in transitioning to clean transportation.

Astro Teller

“This goal of getting to 80-84% in the next 12 years, I know how impossible that seems, but let me tell you a secret about impossible. The glass ceiling in your life is mostly defined by your definition of impossible. Your creativity, your bravery, your audacity — that’s your glass ceiling. There are a few laws of physics that are probably going to be hard to get around. Other than those, it’s your attitude about what’s possible that defines the limits of what you can achieve. You can easily get there in 12 years. Easily. You have so much of a tailwind.”

— Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots at X, spoke with Miki Tomita about reimagining what’s possible at this pivotal time for Hawaii.

Olin Lagon

“Think of all the brilliant people around the world, the billions of dollars on R&D to provide technology solutions for companies and rich individuals and homeowners and financially literate people to get off the grid and participate in clean energy. Think about the other side. How about the renters and the people who are left behind? How many of our best and brightest are working on that side?

Olin Lagon, CTO and Founder of Shifted Energy, spoke about prioritizing the equitable distribution of clean technologies.

Jenna Takata

“We should be giving the opportunity to students from every background to really think about this. I did not know how great clean energy was until recently — it’s not something that’s thrown at you. I believe that we can have great ideas coming from brilliant minds who don’t know they’re that brilliant yet.”

Jenna Takata, a student at Kauai High School, joined other students and leaders from Hawaii’s four counties to explore ways to include young voices in the clean energy conversation.

Andy Karsner

“You have to accelerate through the curves. You have to confront fear. You have to encourage one another and not set up patterns that discourage you from arriving at your destination or freezing from analysis paralysis. You have to move boldly and bravely to the destination and its reward.”

Andy Karsner, Managing Partner at Emerson Collective and co-architect of the HCEI in 2008, spoke about overcoming the status quo and charging headlong through uncertainty.