Molokai residents energized by Alternative Energy Festival

| January 15, 2013 | 3 Comments

Quechan Tribal members at the Mitchell Pau'ole Center on Friday, from left, Lucinda Polk, Vernon Smith, Lucia Polk and Allen Paquin, a Navajo Tribal member. These tribal members told the story of how they have fought Big Wind projects in the deserts of Southern California.

Quechan Tribal members at the Mitchell Pau’ole Center on Friday, from left, Lucinda Polk, Vernon Smith, Lucia Polk and Allen Paquin, a Navajo Tribal member. These tribal members told the story of how they have fought Big Wind projects in the deserts of Southern California.



I Aloha Molokai News Release

The Mitchell Pau’ole Center in Kaunakakai transformed into an alternative energy learning center for over 500 people this past weekend at the second annual Alternative Energy Festival.

On Friday and Saturday, those in attendance learned to construct solar water heaters; how to do a no-cost energy audit; learned about a home’s costly vampire energy; compared options for buying or leasing a home PV system; and listened to panels discuss alternative generation options so that Molokai can wean itself off of fossil fuel. Participants also reflected on future challenges they will face if the Big Wind project or undersea cable project moves ahead and discussed Molokai “home rule” at the I Aloha Molokai-sponsored festival.

Helen Wai teaches energy conservation as a process of money management.

Helen Wai teaches energy conservation as a process of money management.


Exhibitors shared information on a variety of topics, including: energy saving devices, changing habits, a tree giveaway, biking as transportation, sustainable food, recycled products and new financing programs to help Molokai families install PV panels without a huge financial investment upfront.

“New programs for residential PV make solar more affordable for Molokai families and people on fixed incomes to stabilize their electrical bills,” said Matt Yamashita, Rising Sun.

Entertainment delighted the crowd. The Quechan Tribe representatives from Ocotillo, Calif. enthralled the audience throughout the festival with haunting chants and flute solos. Quechan members, Lucinda and Lucia Polk, demonstrated a Native American dance while Quechan Tribal Administrator Vernon Smith chanted. Allen Paquin, a Navajo Tribal member, played the flute with soothing songs about birds and the love of family. Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chair, Colette Machado, officially welcomed the tribal representatives Friday evening and presented them with a Hawaiian artifact.

Darlene Toth grows and donates trees.

Darlene Toth grows and donates trees.


The Saturday morning panel topics was called “State and County Energy Initiatives.” Members consisted of Henry Curtis, Life of the Land; Pat Gagin, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative; Robin Kaye, Friends of Lanai; and Doug Macleod, Energy Commissioner, Maui County Energy Office.

Molokai spends $13 million annually on electricity and gasoline.

“If Molokai becomes energy self-sufficient, then millions of dollars would be kept circulating on island versus offshore,” said Curtis. “Current HECO’s Integrated Resource Planning Advisory Committee is focused on Oahu generation and not solving neighbor island generation concerns; therefore, Molokai will have to plan its own energy future,” said Robin Kaye.

Gagin provided an overview of how Kauai bought its island utility and how an energy cooperative operates with major input from both cooperative members and customers.

Guest speaker Harry Kim, former Mayor of Hawaii Island, reminded residents that government is “our” government and adults have a responsibility to make good decisions with the next generation in mind. “Decisions today will determine the future for many generations,” said Kim.

Allen Paquin, a Navajo Tribal member, plays a moving song on his flute.

Allen Paquin, a Navajo Tribal member, plays a moving song on his flute.


The second panel consisted of the five members of the Quechan Tribe and their opposition to a Big Wind project in Ocotillo. Already several years into the skirmish, the Quechan tribe is refusing community benefits and is now suing the Big Wind developer. The developer is proposing to destroy sacred cultural areas and the ancestral home of many tribe members. These tribe members are currently fighting against the same Big Wind developer as the Big Wind project proposed for Molokai.

The afternoon panel members focused on energy and island independence and consisted of Moses Haia, staff attorney for Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation; Dr. Noa Emmett Aluii, practicing physician on Molokai and long-term activist for Native rights; Naalehua Anthony, Native Hawaiian Roll Commission; and Kaleikoa Kaeo, University of Hawaii, Maui Community College.

The panel agreed that issues in one place in Hawaii have impacts on all places because of precedent. As well, a sense of urgency exists because parts of Hawaiian culture can be lost forever if inappropriate choices are made today. The main advice: Molokai must plan its future and plan it wisely.

The last panel focused on energy alternatives and included Henry Curtis; Davianna McGregor, professor and founding member of Ethnic Studies at University of Hawaii, Manoa; Pat Schellerup, Lite Solar Corporation; and Robert Petricci, Pele Defense Fund.

Participants agreed that decentralized generation with rooftop solar is in Molokai’s immediate future and other fuels, such as biofuels, could be one of several nighttime generation options. To do this type of planning, the community, and especially Hawaiians, need to be at the table versus just government bodies.

I Aloha Molokai (IAM) is a grassroots, all-volunteer organization formed to oppose the industrial wind turbines and undersea cable proposed for Molokai. The group supports renewable energy projects but insists that theses projects protect the environment, respect native Hawaiian culture, provide reliable energy at affordable cost, and are supported by the community. The work of IAM involves not just advocacy but public education through films, forums and community outreach on Molokai, around the state and throughout the world.

Category: News, Sustainability

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