Maui Residents: Communication key to ensuring Maui’s “green” energy future
Final report, MPowerMaui: An Energy Conversation, captures resident priorities, values regarding energy on Maui
Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) released a final report summarizing the findings from a unique community engagement process, MPowerMaui: An Energy Conversation. The findings in this report summarize resident perceptions, priorities and values on energy on Maui. To download a copy, go to www.medb.org/mpowermaui.
Over the course of 43 community sessions held in this past January and February, MPowerMaui successfully engaged 435 residents in significant discussions about Maui’s energy future. These participants represented a broad range of constituencies – students, adults, working people, and retirees. The vast majority were Maui residents (98%) and more than half had lived on Maui for greater than 20 years. The small group, 90-minute sessions were designed to be engaging, interesting, and informative.
“MPowerMaui featured the interactive kind of format used in our Focus Maui Nui visioning process that produced lively discussions and thoughtful responses from our community,” said Jeanne Skog, MEDB President & CEO. Activities enabled participants to learn more about energy, to think about their own actions related to energy, to prioritize issues, to consider what actions they would or would not support, and to develop messages for decision makers.
- Much of the public’s feedback confirms what is already known – that the high cost of energy is one of the top issues for Maui residents, but other findings are relevant and worth considering.
- There is a clear order of preference for types of energy sources. PV is the most highly preferred clean energy. Although, it is also the one that residents are most familiar with.
- Many participants would unconditionally support significant increase in PV, but they simultaneously highlight equity concerns and want to see more balance between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”
- Participants are concerned about the differential in energy cost between PV owners versus renters and those who either cannot afford PV or who are stymied by the long waits to get adequate permitting for PV.
- Participants were less enthusiastic about wind energy than they were about PV, but nevertheless, it is still a highly approved source of energy.
- Much of the support for building more wind farms is contingent upon there being a safe and reliable storage system in place so that the wind power generated is not curtailed.
- Least preferred is the transition to Liquid Natural Gas (LNG). While some accept it as a “bridge” to renewables and energy independence, some rule it out altogether, wary of safety issues, investment into temporary infrastructure, and the possibility of getting hooked on another non-renewable, foreign source.
- Participants were also vocal about their lack of “trusted” knowledge about the implications of switching to LNG.
- Regardless of the type of energy source, common themes throughout the sessions included wanting to be more informed and included in decision-making processes, and to have choices.
- Although there might be criticism and blaming, ultimately, there is also the recognition that these issues require a collaborative effort from Maui residents, the utility, and government.
If conclusions and directives can be drawn from the MPowerMaui process, they would fall into three broad categories: communication; energy source preferences; and the desire to be energy independent, appropriate, and innovative.
“This unprecedented effort in engaging community voices in Maui’s energy future has illuminated major opportunities to clear up misconceptions, rebuild trust, and collaborate in moving forward towards a vision of a sustainable Maui,” said Skog. “We hope this final report will help guide decision-making about Maui’s energy future in meaningful ways. We are grateful to the numerous hosts who opened their workplaces, classrooms, meeting halls, and homes because they believed in the value of independent, community-based processes.”
The MPowerMaui project was presented by the Maui Economic Development Board with funding from the County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development; State Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT); and the UH Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI).