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March 28, 2019

Hawai‘i Energy Conference evolves with changing energy environment

Categories: Energy | Featured

Day 1 of the Hawai‘i Energy Conference supercharged energy industry leaders from across the state, the U.S. Mainland, and abroad, at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center to discuss innovative ideas to keep pace with today’s rapidly changing energy landscape.

Presented by the Maui Economic Development Board, with support from the County of Maui Office of Economic Development, the former Maui Energy Conference rolled out its new name to reflect what the sixth annual event has already become: the premier energy conference for the Hawaiian Islands.

Recognizing the evolving nature of energy generation, storage and delivery, the first day of the conference sessions offered forward-thinking sessions such as “Hawai‘i Distributed Energy Resources – Redefined for the 21st Century,” which attendees identified as one of the day’s most anticipated activities in a survey.

As for the greatest challenge to meeting Hawai‘i’s energy goals, attendees identified the regulatory environment and were therefore grateful Gov. David Ige took time to participate in a panel discussion on innovations in regulatory policy. The conversation described great opportunity in the state as “a living laboratory for the effective integration of renewable energy technology, the transformation of the regulatory environment, and the growth of potential market opportunities.”

Another Day 1 highlight was a case study “talk story” with Carbon Lighthouse, a company established in 2010 to make fighting climate change easy and profitable by engineering new ways to erase the 20 percent of global emissions from non-residential buildings. Ulupono Initiative Vice President of Investments Greg Gaug led the candid session with Brenden Millstein, CEO of Carbon Lighthouse.

Millstein, who grew up in Berkley, Calif., “before the tech boom,” as he put it, was attracted to how math can be applied to improving life for people.

He finds great irony in that Carbon Lighthouse imitates the oil industry in some ways. For example, “oil is very careful about what you pay for,” he said, explaining that oil companies do not necessarily charge for infrastructure and development of technology. Carbon Lighthouse likewise charges a fixed fee for energy and guarantees a quantifiable amount of energy, or offers a refund. 

It seems to be working, as Carbon Lighthouse, over its nine years, has managed to double its impact toward its goal every six and a half months. For example, approximately 50,000 barrels of oil were saved over the last three years just from its work Alexander & Baldwin alone. By working directly with local contractors, the company not only does good for the environment but also benefits the local community by creating jobs.

Carbon Lighthouse will be doubling the size of its office in Hawai‘i to meet demand. That’s not bad for an operation that was borrowing office space from Ulupono not too long ago while getting up and running. 

Millstein considers Hawai‘i “phenomenal” from a business perspective. The state offers advantages, beginning with the fact that people clearly care about the environment. The mission to reduce fossil fuels is a cultural match with the islands.

There is also a significant opportunity to make a demonstrable impact, considering that 70 percent of Hawai‘i’s energy comes from oil. Financially, cost reductions deliver three times greater benefit because the cost of grid is so much more, he said. Immediate savings are often realized upon implementation.

When asked by a member of the audience whether it is a concern if clients work solely from a financial benefit perspective, Millstein said it is less of an issue in Hawai‘i. He explained that Carbon Lighthouse’s environmentally conscious corporate ethos is aligned with many businesses here. But, he added, it depends on the client. If they are financially driven but still demonstrate an eagerness to further energy goals, he’s open to it. 

“We have a very large tent strategy,” he said.

Day 2 of the Hawai‘i Energy Conference continues today

Ulupono Initiative Vice President of Investments Greg Gaug led a candid session with Brenden Millstein, CEO of Carbon Lighthouse, on Day 1 of the 2019 Hawai‘i Energy Conference.