Despite campus solar installations, UH says reaching clean energy goal will be difficult

The University of Hawaii at Manoa
The University of Hawaii at Manoa(UH-Manoa)
Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 6:09 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Despite an ambitious program to build solar arrays on campus buildings, the University of Hawaii said reaching its goal of net zero energy by 2035 will be a challenge.

UH officials told lawmakers in a hearing Tuesday that although there have been multiple large solar installations on its Manoa campus, they said many of its older facilities and buildings are still dependent on electricity from the power grid.

During the pandemic, when much of the campus was shut down, UH said it still burned 90% of the electricity it usually would have in pre-COVID times.

“The UH Manoa campus faces a huge problem in terms of trying to meet net zero energy goals because number one, its 100-year-old campus,” said state Rep. Gregg Takayama, a higher education chair. “Even though the buildings aren’t all 100 years old, they face a substantial hurdle in trying to control the energy usage.”

This comes as several community college and neighbor island campuses have met their clean energy goals.

During the hearing, officials also pushed for a mandate for solar capability on any new state building.

“Maybe we can’t regulate the private, but we can regulate the state. We can say that every new state building shall be net zero or shall maximize its solar footprint — and we have to fund it,” said Miles Topping, UH director of Energy Management.

Lawmakers agreed that the initial cost is worth the long-term savings and the need to prevent climate change is crucial.

Along with these initiatives, lawmakers also said they want to update utility regulations in order to make solar in public schools more cost-effective.

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