Can Hawaii become the world's first renewable energy/hydrogen economy?
The ingredients are there. Hawaii's got renewable energy. Hawaii's got high energy import costs. Hawaii's committed to 100% renewable energy by 2045.
But Hawaii's biggest 'asset' is its 'closed' electricity and land transport system. This is unique in the developed world.
Hawaii's a series of islands. Motor vehicles can't driven into Hawaii from elsewhere. Nor can Hawaii 'import' electricity from elsewhere over power lines.
But this is now a competitive advantage. Hawaii can implement leading-edge transport and electricity innovations without worrying about backward compatibility.
Exploiting this energy innovation niche will add billions to Hawaii's economy. Two developments hold the key.
The first is the pending sale of Hawaiian Electric Co to Florida-based NextEra Energy. That deal could close next year.
The second is the Honolulu Area Rapid Transit (HART) project. So far, this poorly-planned, over-budget $6 billion mass transit project represents Hawaii's failure to turn 'exceptionalism' into an economic asset.
Hawaii's populous island of Oahu, where 80% of the state's people live and Honolulu is located, has long copied US mainland-style housing development templates of low-density, single-family homes.
Oahu's also built large freeways suited for a continental economy of infinite space than for a small island where every inch counts.
The result: out-of-reach housing prices and clogged traffic due to poor land utilization.
The wholly unsupported hope now is that by superimposing a mass transit system atop Oahu's clogged roadways people will be encouraged to leave their cars at home. Characterized charitably, this is myopic.
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