UH-MC on track to reach net zero energy goal next year


In June 2015, Gov. David Ige signed into law a bill making Hawaii the first state in the nation to set a 100 percent renewable portfolio standard for the electricity sector by 2045. On the same day, he signed a bill requiring all 10 campuses of the University of Hawaii to be net zero by 2035.

We are extremely proud that — thanks to a tremendous campus- and community-wide effort — our University of Hawaii Maui College is on track to reach that goal by 2020 at the latest. We’re actually aiming for 2018. And we believe we can do it! If we do, we may also become the first college campus in the United States to reach net zero.

Stuart Zinner is the project director of our Energy Demonstration Project. He says there is not necessarily only one definition of net zero, but “the law as signed defines it as offsetting the amount of electricity we use with renewables. We’ve been working on our campus with Johnson Controls Inc. since 2012 to reach our goal.”

JCI is a large multinational energy service company and it has proved to be a fantastic partner. “Phase One’s energy performance contract helped us reduce consumption campus-wide through energy efficiency — more efficient lighting and air conditioning, for example,” says Zinner. “It also included a PPA (power purchase agreement) for renewable energy — solar electricity — which resulted in the now familiar parking lot array of panels.”

The first three rows were completed in 2013, another row in 2014 and additional rooftops panels were commissioned this year. This phase also includes a battery storage component. We have about 20 percent more rooftop panels to install for this phase to be complete. Although the contract with JCI for Phase Two has not yet been signed, we’re confident it will be soon and we’ll be on our way to net zero in 2018.

“Throughout Phase One, JCI has been most successful in terms of integrating students into their operations,” says Zinner. “They allowed students to shadow them, conducted safety trainings, even offered classes of their own in subjects like project management. Further educational opportunities are planned for Phase Two, as well.”

The focus for Phase Two is sustainability and we’re going to get the rest of campus — especially the faculty — involved even more. Of course, we have our Sustainable Science Management program headed up by Tim Botkin.

“For the long term, we look at areas like energy and transportation in the context of related issues,” says Botkin. “We are getting better at considering operation emissions, but what about waste, construction emissions, the price and efficiency of the energy system?

“We also need to involve the community to achieve better efficiency. If we generate excess power, we should share it. There should be a mechanism for us to share with the shopping center across the street, for example. We have a group which has worked on this concept, which is known as ‘demand response,’ “ Botkin adds.

“Our job is also to encourage people to share their good ideas without prejudging where they’re going. You have an interest in something that contributes to the goal, let’s help you with a process that works in an improved system.”

“Our college is very close to net zero,” says David Tamanaha, our vice chancellor for administrative services. “The design is definitely there and we can reach it in the next year. We’re at 20 to 30 percent offset right now, and in the next phase we’re going to add a lot more renewable in the form of solar generation with battery storage. And the design is flexible, making it even more likely we will reach net zero in the next year or two.

“It’s very possible that this campus will be the first in the nation to be net zero. We’re ‘racing’ against the Oregon Institute of Technology. Whether we’re first or second, we’re a leader,” says Tamanaha. “That’s what we want. To be the center of excellence for sustainability.”

If you’d like to travel one of the world’s most exciting and dynamic career paths, think about a degree in Sustainable Science Management. To learn more about UH-Maui College’s Sustainable Science Management program, please visit maui.hawaii.edu/ssm/.

* Lui K. Hokoana, Ph.D., is chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College. “Ka’ana Mana’o,” which means “sharing thoughts,” appears on the fourth Sunday of each month. It is prepared with assistance from UH-Maui College staff and is intended to provide the community of Maui County information about opportunities available through the college at its Kahului campus and its education centers.