Molokai community-based renewable energy projects receive green light from PUC

Mar 27, 2024

The first community-based renewable energy (CBRE) projects on Molokai have received approval from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to move forward. 

The two community-owned and -designed solar plus battery projects were announced last year. The projects could meet more than 20% of the island’s energy needs and are estimated to serve 1,500 households. The recent approval announcement welcomes a new chapter in energy development, where energy projects are not just about generating power but also energize the communities they serve.

“The PUC’s approval of Hoʻāhu Energy Cooperative’s two Molokai CBRE projects is a resounding affirmation of community-led energy planning, and is, to my knowledge, one of the first of its kind in the country,” said Michael Colón, energy director at Ulupono Initiative, which helped support the project. “Hoʻāhu Energy Cooperative is a community-owned and managed energy cooperative whose profits are shared with its subscribers and vested toward community ownership of its projects.”

The project’s next phase will involve a development team focusing on the technical integration and project development aspects. This includes finalizing the design and the interconnection studies before construction begins. This project sets the stage for an evolution in how communities across the country can own, operate, and benefit from renewable energy, and is also poised to set an example for future endeavors.

“Ulupono is thrilled to watch the community on Molokai lead the nation in community-led renewable energy planning and ownership,” Colón said. “The proliferation of renewable energy is a key mission for our organization, and it is crucial that the communities hosting renewable projects benefit from them and have something they can ultimately be proud of.”