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Newsletter: Mar 2015

HIPL news

The HIPL strategic planning retreat was February 28. The meeting was facilitated by Sharon Sims of SAS Services. The HIPL steering committee covered a lot of ground and will be writing up a report summarizing the discussion and laying out a strategic plan for the coming 2-3 years. That will be announced and posted on our website when available.

As part of that strategic planning effort, we are soon to be registering with the State of Hawaii as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. That means we want to formalize our board and officers as well as finalize our mission and bylaws. We are looking for individuals passionate about the moral and spiritual dimensions of climate change to serve on our board and help guide the future of our organization. As an interfaith organization, we welcome diversity of backgrounds, traditions, and beliefs.

HIPL events

March 28: Letter-Writing Campaign. HIPL is partnering with the Blue Planet Foundation to sponsor a letter-writing campaign on behalf of committing Hawaiian Electric to achieving 100% renewable energy generation by 2040. We will be hosting a kick-off event on Saturday, March 28 from 1:30-3:00 at Church of the Crossroads, 1212 University Ave, in Honolulu. Bring your laptop, tablet, or just paper and pen, learn more about HIPL and Blue Planet Foundation, and celebrate our state's continued drive to achieve a 100% renewable energy future with snacks, drinks, and prizes. We will have more info about how you can get others in your faith community involved in the campaign, which runs until Earth Sabbath weekend (April 26).

Local news

Speaking of 100% renewables, SB715 and HB623 have passed out of all the committees to which they were referred. They now go up for full floor votes. No date set for that yet.
HB484 that would require the electric utility to establish community-based renewable energy tariffs has also passed out of all its committee referrals.
HB1504 that would create and fund a legislative study of public utility models as an alternative to the current private monopoly model we have in Honolulu, Maui, and Hawaii counties also passed out of its committee referrals.
HB1512 that would require the Public Utilities Commission to develop performance criteria for utilities has not yet been heard by the Finance committee.

Green Energy program not living up to expectations. The Green Energy Market Securitzation (GEMS) program administered by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) has officially started but is running into a lot of bumps in the early going. First, unlike initially planned, it is not focused on lower cost and cost-effective solar hot water systems. In fact, it does not even include them; only photovoltaic (PV) systems are allowed. Second, currently it is only available to non-profits, not homeowners or renters. Third, given HECO's foot-dragging on PV interconnection approvals, the GEMS program was revised to require energy storage to bypass the interconnection approval delays. This adds significantly to the system cost. Finally, there is no on-bill financing option available yet, meaning customers cannot pay for the system through their utility bills. This was a big part of the appeal and justification for the program. While churches are among the non-profits who can participate, the problems with the program are going to limit participation in the near-term until the PUC and DBEDT work out HECO's interconnection approvals and financing options. Stay tuned...

New Solar Farms Planned for Oahu. Eight new large PV projects, ranging from 15-50 MW in size (one household uses about 600 kW-hr or 0.6 MW-hr per month) are planned for land in Central Oahu and the Waianae coast. Most of the land is rated as low-grade agricultural, but it still represents a partial loss of open space and changing view planes. Negotiated rates for the PV-generated electricity range from 13-17 cents per kW-hr, less than fossil fuel-generated electricity. While HIPL encourages truly distributed energy generation, large-scale renewable generation will have to be part of the mix to meet our goal of a 100% renewable energy future. Finding ways to accommodate multiple uses of land dedicated to renewable energy generation should be a central objective, from using rooftops and covered parking to house PV panels to siting wind turbines in large pastures or agricultural fields. Wherever possible, we should strive for "both/and" solutions rather than "either/or".

Naomi Klein: This Changes Everything. Renowned environmental reporter and author Naomi Klein packed both the main auditorium and the overflow viewing room at the University of Hawaii on Feb. 26, talking about her new book which covers how climate change is a wake-up call for us to finally challenge the increasing corporate concentration of economic and political power in America and globally to address greenhouse gas emissions and achieve our renewable energy goals. Olelo Community Media is broadcasting the talk on March 13 at 7:00 PM and March 14 at 9:00 PM on Channel 54. 

Global news

Hydrogen cars inherently less efficient than electric. While Toyota is touting its new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the Mirai, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, the upscale electric vehicle maker, considers them a "dumb idea." Turns out, for most commuter vehicles, he's right. Electric vehicles use batteries to store electricity that can be generated from any source, including renewables. The efficiency of taking electricity to charge a battery to drive an electric motor is 75-80%; whereas, using the same electricity to split water, store the hydrogen, and run a fuel cell results in only about 20-25% efficiency. Furthermore, charging EV's can be done using our existing electricity infrastructure. Fuel cell vehicles would require a hydrogen production and distribution/delivery infrastructure, similar to what already exists for gasoline or diesel. And unfortunately, about 95% of the hydrogen produced commercially now is made from methane, a fossil fuel and potent greenhouse gas. Finally, you can charge your EV right from home, using your own PV panels or renewables-generated electricity. All fuel-cell vehicles would have to find a suitable refueling station. Fuel-cell vehicles currently being developed have a range of 250 miles or so per tank, better than most EVs, but even in Hawaii, the expected cost to fuel the vehicle will likely be no cheaper than the cost of electricity to charge an EV. Elsewhere, it is certain to be much higher. Assuming a truly green fuel cell vehicle requires the  hydrogen to be created by electrolysis with the electricity from renewable energy sources, it just makes more sense to take that electricity and directly charge a battery. If extended range is truly needed, then hydrogen fuel cells might make sense, but the current push by vehicle manufacturers is toward sedans and SUVs, not long-haul trucks.

Oil spills increasing. With the boom in US oil drilling enabled by fracking, refineries are busier and train car transportation of oil has increased dramatically. Along with this has been a rise in oil spills and accidents. One of the latest of note occurred in northwest Illinois, but multiple significant spills have occurred recently in Ontario, West Virginia, California, and elsewhere due to train car derailment, oil refinery mishaps, and wastewater spills. Unfortunately, many smaller spills that do not directly threaten human health are not reported, so the public is laregly unaware of the extent of the problem, and long-term effects will be hard to trace back to the sources. It's just another reason to move away from fossil fuels.

Pipelines are not the answer. While rail transport of oil tends to result in more frequent spills, oil pipelines still leak more oil, overall. And these spills are generally larger, in more remote areas. The tradeoff is that rail car derailments tend to cause more explosions and fires, posing greater immediate risks to human life and direct air pollution. So the answer to these tradeoffs, of course, is to work even harder to replace oil with renewable liquid transportation fuels. And in Hawaii, to stop using oil to make electricity, period.

January 2015 was warmer than average in the US. Believe it or not, more areas in the continental US were warmer than were cooler than average this January, making it the 24th warmest January on record (since 1895). Many western states were "much above average", while most New England states were only "below average," although they got more than their fair share of snow, as well. Since this dichotomy of temperatures is caused at least partly by global warming, it may be more the new normal for US winters.


Divest from fossil fuels: it's good for your health. A consortium of health care providers and nonprofits in the UK released a report arguing that climate change is bad for human health; therefore, the health sector should divest from fossil fuels. They compared this to the choice to divest from tobacco companies, which was done in the 1990s. Among the health effects of fossil fuel use include global warming increases in vector-borne diseases and loss of crop production, air pollution-related diseases, and diseases associated with fossil fuel extraction. Doctors from the UK have previously urged the World Health Organization to declare climate change as a public health emergency.

Harvard students sue the university to force divestment. A group of Harvard students, calling themselves the Harvard Climate Justice Coalition, have taken the administration to court, seeking to force them to divest from fossil fuels. The judge in the case has not yet issued a ruling, but the Harvard administration and the state attorney general are seeking to have the lawsuit thrown out due to the students' lack of standing, i.e. they do not represent anyone actually harmed by the effects of climate change and other ills associated with the fossil fuel industry. Divest Harvard has been urging divestment through traditional activist means, but this legal challenge represents an important step to debate the legal aspects of our moral obligation to act on the causes of climate change.

How is climate change already affecting our Pacific Island neighbors? Just watch this speech by Kathy Jetnil-Kijner, a poet and civil society representative of the Marshall Islands at last September's UN climate summit in New York. To learn more, view the entire Climate Progress article. HIPL  has a copy of documentary The Hungry Tide, which focuses on similar effects happening in Kiribati and Tuvalu. We are happy to arrange a viewing and discussion session with your community.

YouTube Video

We are in the middle of the Christian season of Lent, and we encourage you to participate in one of the Lenten carbon fast programs available. The United Church of Christ is promoting the Ecumenical Carbon Fast. The Catholic Climate Movement has their own Lenten Fast for Climate Justice program. And HIPL has published our 2015 version of the Lenten Carbon Fast calendar. Use this season of reflection and renewal to make a renewed commitment to reducing your carbon footprint.

Make sure to join us on March 28 at Church of the Crossroads for our letter-writing campaign kick-off. You can write and submit your letter that day, but we encourage you also to take back the resources to your community and get others involved, as well. The Hawaii legislative session coincides well with the Earth Day celebrations and Earth Sabbath services, so use that as your deadline for letter-writing in your own community.

We will be promoting Earth Sabbath services during April this year, but you can start early by attending the 5th Sunday services at First Unitarian Church of Honolulu on March 29, which will be sponsored by the Social Justice Council. HIPL has been featured in years past, but it is always a great service centered around how we can put the principles of our faith into action on behalf of justice issues large and small.

Support us!
The best way to support HIPL is to get your congregation involved as a partner in our efforts. The voices of people of faith are needed on the overarching issue of global warming because of the foundational moral dimensions of this issue and the kinds of fundamental changes that are needed to address it effectively and with justice and equity for all people and the environment.

However, we also appreciate your financial support. The Interfaith Alliance-Hawaii continues to serve as our fiscal sponsor. Your donation to HIPL should be made out to them and sent to our mailing address for the time being.

PO Box 37266
Honolulu, HI 96837

As always, send us your stories, news, and events for inclusion in next month's newsletter.