Honolulu - Honolulu ranks first for installed solar capacity per capita in the United States, according to new analysis released today by Environment America Research & Policy Center.
The report comes amid Trump administration rollbacks of Obama-era policies aimed at reducing climate emissions and encouraging renewable energy.
“Solar on thousands of homes and government buildings is helping Honolulu reach our sustainable energy goals. Sending money overseas to ship oil and coal to our island that is bathed in sun all year round just doesn’t make sense anymore,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “We are on the front lines of sea level rise and other climate change effects and we must continue reducing our use of fossil fuels. Solar will continue being a big part of the solution along with waste-to-energy, wind, and other renewable sources.”
The report, Shining Cities: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America, ranks Honolulu ahead of cities like Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles.
“By using solar power in Honolulu, we can reduce pollution and improve public health for everyday citizens,” said Bret Fanshaw with Environment America Research & Policy Center, report co-author. “To realize these benefits, city leaders should continue to embrace a big vision for solar on rooftops throughout the community.”
The figures in the report reflect the recent growth of solar across the country. The top 20 cities listed in the report have nearly as much solar today as the entire country had installed in 2010. In 2016, solar was the number one new source of energy installed in America.
The Solar Foundation just released new data showing there are 1,939 people employed in solar in Honolulu County.
Despite that growth, challenges remain for the solar industry in Hawaii. In 2015, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission eliminated Hawaii’s net metering policy, a key driver of rooftop solar.
“Hawaii is a success story because of the high price of electricity, state tax credits, continued drop in price of technology, and sunny location,” said Colin Yost, Chief Operating Officer of Revolusun. “All of the success Hawaii has had is because of cheaper technology and constant consumer demand. The speed of solar integration in Hawaii will continue to increase because of that technology pricing and demand, despite policy setbacks."
Cities can push solar forward in a number of ways, according to the report. Among the recommendations, cities can set a goal for solar usage, help residents finance solar power and put solar on government buildings.
“Cities are big energy users with lots of unutilized roof space suitable for solar panels,” said Fanshaw. “Honolulu can continue to lead the way and protect our environment by using as much of its solar potential as possible.”
Environment America Research & Policy Center is a national environmental organization dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces.