Megan Hall: Welcome to Possibly, where we take on huge problems like the future of our planet and break them down into small questions with unexpected answers. I’m Megan Hall.

Here at Possibly, we usually focus on doing our part at home. But with all this talk about climate change, one member of our team started thinking about what’s going on around the world. 

So today, we’re going to talk with Emily Tom about renewable energy in Hawaii. Welcome, Emily!

Emily Tom: Hi Megan!

Megan Hall: So, before we get started, why Hawaii?

Emily Tom: I mean, as an island in the middle of the ocean, Hawaii is in a really unique position when it comes to fighting climate change.

Megan Hall: I see! 

Emily Tom: I’m also from Hawaii, and not to brag about my home state, but we’ve always kind of been leaders in the fight against climate change. 

Griff Jergens: We were the first state to declare, we’re going to be 100% renewable energy.

Emily Tom: That’s Griff Jergens.

Griff Jergens: I’m the Education Director of Blue Planet Foundation, nonprofit located in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Emily Tom: And he told me all about Hawaii’s transition to renewable energy. On the island of Kaua‘i, it’s been–

Griff Jergens: Incredibly successful. 

Emily Tom: About 70% of the power grid on Kaua‘i comes from renewables.

Megan Hall: Seventy percent? That’s a lot!

Emily Tom: Right? And the majority of that comes from solar power.

Megan Hall: I mean that makes sense. . You must get a lot of sun.

Emily Tom: Exactly. And there are 77,000 solar panels catching that sunlight and turning it into electricity 

Megan Hall: That’s great, but you can’t have solar all the time. What happens at night?

Emily Tom: See, that’s what makes Kaua‘i unique. They knew they needed a way to store their energy.

Griff Jergens: So they’ve partnered with Tesla, and Tesla’s pretty much on the leading edge of battery storage.

Emily Tom: And we used those batteries to store energy for later, when the sun goes down.

Griff Jergens: At three o’clock or four o’clock when the sun’s kind of losing its strength, then the battery kicks in. So they can continue running off 100% renewable energy.

Emily Tom: The way it works is this – when the sun is bright, and producing more energy than Kauai needs, some of that goes to the grid, and some gets saved for when a cloud comes over or the sun goes down.  

Megan Hall: Wow, so the solar panels are part of a kind of full-service power plant?

Emily Tom: Exactly. Solar alone is tricky for the grid because a cloud can cause an unexpected drop in production. Batteries help smooth things out. 

Megan Hall: Like an electrical rainy day fund?

Emily Tom: yeah, or a cloudy moment fund. 

Megan Hall: So is Kauai at 100% renewable electricity? 

Emily Tom: No, it’s only at 70% renewable energy right now. But the investment in renewables is why Kauai isn’t about to get a huge increase in electricity prices. 

Megan Hall: Why is that?

Emily Tom: In the rest of the state, which depends much more on oil to generate electricity, sanctions on Russian oil are set to increase electricity prices by 30-60%

Megan Hall: I guess it pays to go renewable.

Emily Tom: The details differ from place to place, but more and more the answer to that is yes, both economically and for the climate. 

Griff Jergens: So it’s not going to work exactly the same for every place. But I

think you take what worked for us, you take what didn’t work for us, and then make it your own wherever you are around the world.

Megan Hall: Wow, it’s nice to have some good news about climate change for once.

Emily Tom: Yeah, absolutely.

Megan Hall: Great. Thanks Emily! 

That’s it for today. For more information or ask a question about the way your choices affect our planet. Go to the public’s or subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at Ask possibly.

Possibly is a co-production of the Institute of Brown for Environment and Society, Brown’s Climate Solutions Initiative, and The Public’s Radio.

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