Ulupono Initiative
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Best Practices to Value Benefits of Renewable Energy Development in Hawaiʻi

By Joel N. Swisher, PhD, PE

Policies, programs, and investments to support renewable energy sources that lead to Hawaii's energy independence have been a major priority for the Forum. This concern and seeing the challenges and opportunities facing Hawaii, the Forum sought to study the benefits in addition to the costs of renewables – to find a framework for assessing and prioritizing renewables; and, in particular, to seek best practices from other jurisdictions for the metrics to assess and determine Hawaii's renewable resources portfolio.

With the support and funding of Ulupono Initiative, the Forum contracted with Dr. Joel Swisher, Director for the Institute for Energy Studies, Western Washington University, who has over 30 years experience in many aspects of clean energy technology, including energy system analysis and integration, and electric utility resource planning and economics. We asked him to assess and determine best practices and methodologies for assessing the economic value of renewable energy produced in Hawaii. The study is a review of the academic and trade literature as well as efforts of other jurisdictions.

While the Forum sought to come up with an analytical framework for evaluating the costs and benefits of renewable resources available to Hawaii, the study instead focuses on valuing benefits, which has heretofore been neglected in the analyses. It thus adds a fuller consideration of the value of renewables. The costs of renewables will be covered in other arenas, e.g. the current discussion before the Public Utilities Commission, but this study provides some background and focuses thoughtful consideration on the value of renewables. What Dr. Swisher found was that no existing model is a complete fit in Hawaii. Rather, elements of some existing models, expanded and adapted to the Hawaiian context, would be needed. Hawaii is at the cutting edge in terms of its high penetration of renewable energy, driving wholesale changes in energy supply systems, rather than marginal changes as in most other jurisdictions. The Forum therefore encourages further discussion and support for developing the metrics for valuing the benefits of renewables.

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