Hawaii’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policies

The State of Hawaii has enacted a variety of laws and policies designed to enable economy-wide decarbonization, including renewable energy development, energy efficiency measures, clean transportation options, and grid modernization. The Commission is charged with monitoring the implementation by the State’s electric utilities of two of these important policies, the Renewable Portfolio Standard and the Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard.

Renewable Portfolio Standard

A Renewable Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) is a policy designed to increase the use of renewable energy by requiring utilities to generate a certain amount of their energy portfolio with renewable energy. In 2001, Hawaii established the United States’ first renewable portfolio goal. The goal was turned into an enforceable standard in 2004 and has received numerous updates, including the first nationwide 100% RPS mandate in 2015. Most recently in 2022, H.B. 2089 amended the RPS to be based on net electricity generation rather than sales, reaffirming the following targets:

  • 30% of net electricity generation by December 31, 2020;
  • 40% of net electricity generation by December 31, 2030;
  • 70% of net electricity generation by December 31, 2040; and
  • 100% of net electricity generation by December 31, 2045.

Pursuant to HRS §269-91, renewable energy includes energy generated using one of the following sources:

(1) Wind;
(2) The sun;
(3) Falling water;
(4) Biogas, including landfill and sewage-based digester gas;
(5) Geothermal;
(6) Ocean water, currents, and waves, including ocean thermal energy conversion;
(7) Biomass, including biomass crops, agricultural and animal residues and wastes, and municipal solid waste and other solid waste;
(8) Biofuels; and
(9) Hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources.

The State’s two electric utilities, Hawaiian Electric and Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, submit annual reports to the Commission on the utilities’ progress towards meeting the State’s RPS in Docket No. 2007-0008. These reports are also available on the Commission’s website. As of 2023, 33.3% of Hawaiian Electric’s generation is provided by renewable energy.

The Commission further supports the RPS mandates through the development of ratemaking structures with incentives to encourage the use of cost-effective renewable energy resources, the commissioning of independent studies to evaluate the capability of utilities to meet the standards and the impact on the State, and the evaluation of the RPS every five years in collaboration with the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (“HNEI”). HNEI submits a report assessing the achievability and effectiveness of the RPS every five years to the Commission and the legislature, most recently in December 2023. The report finds that the RPS has effectively led to renewable energy deployment and a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector, and that both utilities are likely to meet the 2030 RPS requirement. However, achieving future RPS targets will be more difficult due to increasing electric loads from electric vehicle adoption and challenges in deploying new renewable energy resources such as land use restrictions, community acceptance, and transmission requirements.

Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard

An Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (“EEPS”) is designed to incentivize the implementation of energy efficiency measures that conserve and reduce energy usage. Energy efficiency measures are a cost-effective approach to economy-wide decarbonization, as these measures reduce the amount of energy generation that is necessary to meet customer needs, thus reducing the amount of renewable energy infrastructure that must be built.

In 2008, the State of Hawaii partnered with the US Department of Energy to establish the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, with a goal of meeting 70% of the State’s energy needs through renewable energy (40%) and energy efficiency (30%) by 2030. Act 155 of 2009, codified under HRS §269-96, established EEPS in Hawaii with a statewide goal of 4,300 gigawatt-hours (“GWh”) of electricity savings by 2030.

Electricity savings are tracked by the Commission both in terms of first-year savings, which refer to the aggregate energy savings achieved during the first 12 months following implementation of an energy efficiency measure, program, or portfolio, and also cumulative persisting savings, which refer to the sum of energy savings achieved for all measures delivering energy savings in that year. Since the EEPS was established, the State has exceeded interim annual electricity savings goals in most years.

Pursuant to HRS §269-121, Hawaii’s electric utilities may collect a public benefits fee from ratepayers to fund energy efficiency programs. Hawaii Energy is currently the State’s third-party administrator for Hawaiian Electric, serving customers on the islands of Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Oahu. Kauai Island Utility Cooperative administers its own energy efficiency program.

The Commission evaluates the State’s EEPS progress every five years, beginning in 2013, and may revise the standard based on the best information available at the time to determine if the existing standard remains effective and achievable. The Commission reports its findings and revisions regarding the EEPS, based on its own studies and other information, to the legislature every five years. The most recent report was submitted in December 2023 to the legislature, finding that the current EEPS goal continues to be effective in accelerating energy efficiency resource deployment, notably to low-income customers,  and that the State met its 2020 interim goals. The report also notes that more aggressive strategies will be necessary to meet the 2030 EEPS goal.

Further information about Hawaii’s EEPS progress and associated stakeholder activities can be found on the EEPS website.

Updated 6/2024