Amid rising fuel costs, Hawaii County mayor calls on governor to declare energy emergency

Hawaii County's mayor said he thinks the state should take action to head off rising fuel costs and make Hawaii more self-sufficient.
Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 6:40 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 18, 2022 at 7:08 PM HST
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HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii County’s mayor is asking the governor to declare an energy emergency.

Mayor Mitch Roth believes the state should take swift action to head off rising fuel costs and make Hawaii more self-sufficient.

“A lot of people, when they think about the fuel prices going up, they think about cars. But it’s more than cars. If the electricity that we’re making is being made with fossil fuels, that raises the rates,” Roth said.

Last week, Hawaiian Electric Company said electric bills could increase by up to 20% because of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

“Raising the cost of gasoline and electricity, that could be the difference between someone choosing to feed their kids or paying their rent. That’s a terrible situation,” said Roth. “So we need to do all we can to make sure that we’re taking care of everybody in our community.”

Roth sent a letter to the governor on Thursday asking him to fast-track renewable energy projects that are currently under review by the Public Utilities Commission.

It’s a process that sometimes can take years.

Roth said those projects will help reduce the state’s need for imported oil.

“It’s cheaper to make the energy with the renewable energy than it is to make it with oil,” he said. “If it’s made locally and if it’s carbon neutral, or better, yet carbon negative, it should give an immediate approval within 60 days.”

Roth said about 40% of the electricity produced on Hawaii Island requires fossil fuels.

He said if all the projects currently under review by the PUC were approved, the island could be producing 100% renewable electric energy, saving millions of dollars.

The communications director for the governor said Roth’s request “would not address the immediate challenges.”

“Each of the projects would have additional steps following a PUC decision before they can be brought online. A more immediate solution would be to tackle Hawaii County’s backlog of solar and battery storage permit applications,” Cindy McMillan said.

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