Hawaii is one of the smallest states in the US with a population of 1.4 million. With a total land area of almost 11,000 square miles, it is around the size of Massachusetts. Consistently warm with only minor changes in temperature throughout the year, the Hawaian Islands have only two seasons: summer (kau) from May to October and winter (hooilo) from November to April. Each island has its own unique environment, making Hawaii home to all kinds of biomes, including tropical rainforests, cool alpine regions, and arid deserts. 

Climate change has strong adverse effects on Hawaii’s ecosystems and economy. Ocean warming and acidification are decimating the islands’ marine ecosystems, especially coral reefs, which are hugely important because they provide a safe place for fish to spawn, protect Hawaii’s coasts from waves and storms, and support tourism and fishing industries worth billions of dollars. Coral reefs are also fundamental to the fabric of local communities in Hawaii, providing a source of food, materials, and traditional activities. 

Related and useful non-climate change fact: research shows that common ingredients in sunscreen such as oxybenzone and octinoxate severely threaten ocean ecosystems. In Hawaii, due to its strong tourism industry, coral reefs are exposed to over 6,000 tons of sunscreen lotion every year. For context, a 2015 study showed that oxybenzone starts causing serious damage to corals at concentrations as low as the equivalent of one drop of water in six-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools. In Hawaii, popular swimming spots see concentrations more than 10 times that amount. Find reef-safe sunscreens here

Increasing heat levels also threaten Hawaii’s land flora and fauna, most of which are found nowhere else on earth. High temperatures are also a danger to Hawaii’s residents, as heat-related deaths rise in the wake of global warming.

Hawaii is also seeing increasingly intense rainfall events. On April 15th, 2018, 50 inches of rain fell on Hanalei in just 24 hours. That kind of rain is devastating to its ecosystems and population — and it’s a direct result of climate change.

Because Hawaii is an island chain in the middle of the ocean, sea level rise harms the state drastically, and has even eliminated entire islands. Whale Skate Island, a small island formerly located in Hawaii’s northwest region, disappeared due to sea level rise along with several other islands. In general, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which are low-lying and therefore at great risk from increasing sea levels, also have a high concentration of endangered and threatened species. Sea levels are projected to continue to rise three feet along the coast of Oahu during the rest of this century due to global warming.

In 2014, Hawaii passed House Bill 1714 establishing the interagency Climate Adaptation Committee, later renamed the Hawaii Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission, which was charged with developing vulnerability and adaptation reports on the effects of sea-level rise and leading the state’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. The Commission was also charged with identifying climate vulnerabilities across all sectors in Hawaii, assessing existing efforts and capacities of existing resources to address goals, setting goals and creating strategies for both mitigation and adaptation, and tracking and reporting on implementation progress.

As a result, in 2015, Hawaii set a goal for 100% of its electricity to come from renewable sources by 2045, making it the first state to set a legally required deadline. It also created an Energy Office and new electric vehicle programs (it now ranks sixth in the nation—behind California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and the District of Columbia—in the percentage of total car and truck sales that were EVs. Hawaii  adopted California’s appliance efficiency standards, plus climate taxes on fossil fuels, and programs to encourage green industry. Its Climate Commission created  three working groups centering around equity, transportation, and legislation to properly serve Hawaii’s community. To help reduce its reliance on petroleum, they implemented the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative to displace 70% of petroleum-based ground transportation fuels with non-fossil fuels by 2030.

Hawaii has no natural gas, no coal, no hydropower potential, and no nuclear capacity. Its islands are further from a major land mass than any other island chain on earth forcing the state to rely on energy that’s easy to ship in — mainly petroleum (more than 69% of Hawaii’s energy comes from shipped-in petroleum, making it the most petroleum-dependent state in the US)  but also coal which provides 13%. The only energy generated in Hawaii itself is renewable with solar making up more than half of its renewable energy resources, followed closely by wind, biomass, and geothermal. Nearly all of Hawaii’s utility-scale battery storage capacity is installed with onshore wind turbines or solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, allowing excess electricity from those generators to be stored and used later. As of January 2020, about 30% of Hawaii’s total generating capacity is solar or wind. Without storage, wind and solar generators can only provide energy when the sun is out or the wind is blowing. By storing excess output from wind and solar power plants, batteries can provide electricity during times of low wind and solar output and reduce the need for other forms of generation.

Hawaii is currently looking to the ocean for new sources of renewable energy, making the state hub for tidal and ocean thermal energy.

Hawaii is a special case when it comes to energy consumption.  Because of its mild climate, Hawaii ranks among the 5 states with the lowest total energy use. The transportation sector accounts for more than half of all energy consumed in Hawaii.

Hawaii is one of twenty five states committed to the U.S. Climate Alliance, which is working to implement policies that advance the goals of the Paris Agreement.



Hawaii Closes Its Last Coal-Fired Power Plant

By Elena Shao 09/02/22
Hawaii shuttered its last remaining coal-fired power station on Thursday, a major milestone in the state’s ambitious effort to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. The station, the AES Hawaii Power Plant near…

Hawaii lawmakers pass bills to protect natural resources, mitigate climate change impacts

By Kathryn Doorey 07/12/22
"The ten bills, and the budget adopted by the 2022 Legislature, will make meaningful changes to protect Hawaii's natural resources, from the top of Mauna Kea to our oceans, “ said District 7 Representative David…

State lawmakers want a detailed plan for transition to 100% clean energy by 2045

State lawmakers are asking for a detailed plan on how the state will transition to clean energy by 2045. Senators were briefed on a budget request by the Department of Business, Economic, Development and Tourism…

How to address climate locally? These 6 places have plans

While much of the nation’s attention to climate adaptation has focused on large coastal cities with outsize risks, some of the most forward-leaning climate policies are coming from less urbanized places such as Marina, Calif.;…

Parker Ranch to break ground on solar farm to supply clean energy to Hawaii Island

A ranch on Hawaii Island is working on a solar project to supply clean, renewable energy to 15,000 homes. Parker Ranch said it will break ground early in 2022.The 300-acre solar farm near the ranch’s…

New incentives push Hawaiian Electric toward more clean energy

A portfolio of incentives that went into effect today will guide Hawaiian Electric as it operates under a new business model that emphasizes Hawaii’s clean energy goals.

In Pro-Microgrid Move, Hawaii Becomes Second State with Microgrid Tariff

In what could be a model for other states, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved a microgrid tariff for its major utilities. The decision is the culmination of a roughly two-year process, but…

Hawaii: Renewable Future

Hawaii has made great inroads in increasing the amount of locally produced renewable energy. With a goal to generate 100 percent clean energy by 2045, the state will continue to:Align government regulations and policies with…

Preparing for Climate Change in Hawaii

On June 9, 2014, Hawai'i Governor Neil Abercrombie signed House Bill 1714 (now Act 83) establishing an Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee charged with developing a sea-level rise vulnerability and adaptation report addressing statewide impacts through 2050. In…


Hawaii Temperature

The Overeaching goal of the HCDP is to provide streamlined access to high quality reliable climate data and information for the State of Hawai'i

Hawaii Solar Panels: Pricing and Incentives

Hawaii is one of the leading states for solar energy in the country, thanks to its abundance of sunshine. Plus, electricity rates in the state are among the highest in the US. Investing in solar…

Hawaii State Profile and Energy Estimates

The Hawaiian Islands chain stretches more than 1,500 miles across the central Pacific Ocean, from the largest island, Hawaii, in the southeast to the Kure Atoll in the northwest. The eight main islands and the…

Energy State Bill Tracking Database

The searchable Energy Storage Legislation Database displays information in interactive maps and charts, tracking state activity from 2017 to the present.

Environment and Natural Resources State Bill Tracking Database

The National Conference of State Legislatures tracks environment and natural resources bills that have been introduced in the 50 states, territories and Washington, D.C.

Breaking Legal News in Hawaii: Home Sellers Must Now Disclose Sea Level Risks

It’s a sign of the coming times. Hawaii’s Senate Bill 474 has amended the state’s flood hazard disclosure rules for residential real estate. Disclosures now must include sea level rise exposure, in alignment with hydraulic…

Rigorously Valuing the Role of U.S. Coral Reefs in Coastal Hazard Risk Reduction

The degradation of coastal habitats, particularly coral reefs, raises risks by increasing the exposure of coastal communities to flooding hazards. The protective services of these natural defenses are not assessed in the same rigorous economic…

The First National Flood Risk Assessment

The First Street Foundation Flood Model represents the culmination of decades of research and development made possible by building upon existing knowledge and frameworks regularly referenced in the identification of flood risk.

The Impacts of Climate Change and the Trump Administration’s Anti-Environmental Agenda in Hawaii

By 2050, Hawaii’s sea level could rise by 3 feet, putting thousands of structures at risk and making parts of the islands inaccessible.

Hawaii’s climate leadership

After setting its decarbonization goal, Hawaii accelerated its renewable energy transition by creating an Energy Office and new electric vehicle (EV) programs and adopting California’s appliance efficiency standards.

State-by-State: Climate Change in Hawaii

Hawaii is vulnerable to warming and acidifying oceans, shoreline loss and species loss

Hawaii Renewable Energy Projects Directory

Find and learn about renewable energy projects in Hawaii.

Climate Change in Hawaii

The Aloha state of Hawaii is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, approximately 2,600 miles west of California. As the only state in the United States that is an island, Hawaii is unquestionably…

State of Hawaii Climate Change Portal

Hawai`i is a small state with big ambitions and big actions–especially when it comes to addressing climate change. In response to the Paris Agreement, Hawai‘i created the Hawai`i Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission (aka State Climate Commission).…

The Cost of Climate Change in Hawaii

The world is literally changing and here are six issues we need to understand so we can begin calculating the costs and consequences of climate change and prepare for them. We won’t be able to…


UH research: Hawaii could see more extreme weather as climate change worsens

By Samie Solina   12/29/21  
Rising tides, more frequent fires, and extreme rainfall. Those are some of the predictions University of Hawaii scientists have as climate change worsens.

Climate Change Will Make It Harder To Protect The Environment Around Oahu’s Next Landfill

By Claire Caulfleld   12/23/21  
In late 2010 and early 2011, heavy rains caused a Leeward reservoir to overflow above Oahu’s only municipal landfill, Waimanalo Gulch.

Hawaiian Electric’s renewable energy upgrades on Maui approved

Hawaiian Electric’s plans to build a new switchyard and make equipment modifications to two of the four retiring oil-firing generating units at the Kahului Power Plant, were recently approved by the Public Utilities Commission. Itʻs…

Hawai’i Gas Makes Organizational Changes To Focus on Clean Energy Goals

Hawaiʻi Gas has made organizational changes to better focus on its clean energy goals, with four leaders promoted to implement the company’s strategy to integrate sustainability into its core business operations.

When Kilauea Erupted, a New Volcanic Playbook Was Written

By Robin George Andrews   11/09/21  
Back in the summer of 2018, Wendy Stovall stood and stared into the heart of an inferno. Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano had been continuously erupting in one form or another since 1983. But from May to…

Hawaii’s beaches are disappearing due to climate change

By Janae Morris   10/31/21  
Rising sea levels paired with recent storm surges have been causing faster than usual erosion on Hawaii’s beaches and shorelines. "The coastal issues that are related to climate change are sort of the canary in…

The battery knocking coal out of Hawaii

By Julian Spector   08/18/21  
For Hawaii to finally knock coal power off its grid, it's going to need a bigger battery. And now that's happening. Developer Plus Power held a ground blessing last week for Kapolei Energy Storage (KES),…

Hawaii building huge new battery, bidding farewell to coal

By Julian Spector   08/17/21  
When coal plants on the mainland U.S. began to shut down in droves, natural-gas plants were ready to take their place, ramping up as needed to keep the lights on. In Hawaii, that’s not an…

Newsletter: Hawaii vs. fossil fuels

By Julian Spector   08/17/21  
I've reported on a solar-powered ship crossing the globe and a battery that beat a natural gas plant in the city of Oxnard, Calif. — those stories involved short drives from my home in Los Angeles. But there's plenty…

Some Hawaii Homeowners Damage Beaches to Protect Their Homes. A New Law Could Help Change That.

By Sophie Cocke   07/06/21  
Property owners selling homes, hotels, condos and businesses along Hawaii’s coastlines must disclose whether the properties are susceptible to damage from sea level rise under legislation that’s set to take effect next May.

How Bad Are U.S. Wildfires? Even Hawaii Is Battling a Surge

By Simon Romero   07/05/21  
The blaze first swept across parched fields of guinea grass. Then the flames got so close to Emma-Lei Gerrish’s house that she feared for her life. “I was terrified it was going to jump the…

Do We Want More Local Food Or Cheaper Power? Two Hawaii Priorities Conflict

By Stewart Yerton   06/16/21  
Honolulu’s effort to implement a landmark state agricultural lands policy faces opposition from major players in the state’s renewable energy industry, highlighting a significant challenge Hawaii faces as it tries to produce more of its…

‘Worst-case scenario’: Study shows coral reefs could go extinct in 30 to 50 years

By HNN Staff   06/13/21  
In a recent study of underwater ecosystems, researchers made the grim discovery that coral reefs could become extinct in 30 to 50 years if steps aren’t taken to mitigate climate change. An international group of…

Experts Forecast A Destructive Wildfire Season In Hawaii This Year

By Brittany Lyte   06/10/21  
About two-thirds of Hawaii’s acreage is abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, setting the stage for what local wildfire experts predict could be an extraordinarily active wildfire season in the islands.

University of Hawaii awarded $210M to lead NOAA marine research institute

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has selected the University of Hawaii to host its Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (CIMAR), which comes with an award of up to $210 million throughout…

Climate change-resistant corals could provide lifeline to battered reefs

By University of Pennsylvania   05/28/21  
In 2015, nearly half of Hawaii's coral reefs were affected by the most severe bleaching event to date. Coral bleaching occurs when warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures prompt corals to expel the algae that normally live inside…

Big Island renewable energy plant wins appeal

By Dave Segal   05/25/21  
The Hawaii Supreme Court, giving new life to Hu Honua Bioenergy LLC’s nearly completed biomass plant on Hawaii island, ruled unanimously Monday in favor of the company’s appeal and sent back the case to the…

Hawaii area can expect 2 to 5 storms during hurricane season

By Caleb Jones   05/20/21  
The central Pacific basin including Hawaii can expect between two and five tropical depressions, tropical storms or hurricanes this year, federal forecasters said Wednesday. The annual National Weather Service prediction said there is about an…

Big Island On Pace To Meet Renewable Energy Goals In 2 Years

By Tom Hasslinger   05/10/21  
Three large solar projects in the works on Hawaii island are bolstering the island’s renewal energy supply, so much so the island should hit 100% of its renewable energy standards by 2023, Hawaiian Electric Co.…

Hawaii’s Rains, Floods Cited as Examples of Climate Change

By Audray McAvoy   03/10/21  
 Heavy rains are part of the winter wet season in Hawaiian Islands. But the downpours triggering flooding that destroyed homes and bridges and set off mass evacuations on multiple islands this week are also an…

Lawsuit Aims to Protect Threatened Iconic Hawaiian Forest Bird

By Maxx Phillips   03/03/21  
The Center for Biological Diversity today sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to designate critical habitat and develop a recovery plan for the threatened ‘i‘iwi, the best known of Hawai‘i’s imperiled honeycreepers.

Hawaii’s renewable outlook? Sunny!

By Cameron Oglesby   02/24/21  
Hawaii’s largest utility, Hawaiian Electric, announced earlier this month that last year’s energy generation mix hit 34.5 percent renewables across Oahu, Hawaii Island, and Maui — easily exceeding the state’s goal of 30 percent renewable…

Could Hawaii’s Fossil Fuel-Powered Cars Soon Be A Relic Of The Past?

By Marcel Honore   02/19/21  
Electric vehicles represent just a small fraction of the cars on Hawaii’s roads – about 1% of all registered passenger vehicles. Still, their local numbers have been swiftly rising, and some of the industry’s top…

Hawaii Lawmaker Pushes Expanded Role for Hydrogen Fuel

By Ryan Finnerty   02/18/21  
Hawaii’s ambitious energy goals are aimed at cutting the emission of carbon fuels into the environment, but solar and onshore wind will not get the job done alone.

Federal ruling favors Maui County in lawsuit against fossil fuel companies

A federal judge gave Maui County a major win in its lawsuit against oil companies after he prevented the case from being moved to federal court.

Climate change exposes turtles to greater threats, UH researcher says

About 60% of the world’s turtles are considered threatened or endangered, and that number is expected to rise as climate change continues to get worse.

Study underway to determine cost of floating windfarm off Hawaii

By Chelsea Davis   02/05/21  
 Floating windfarms can be found in Europe and are being talked about in places like California. Now, they could be a reality in the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaii Needs A Green Jobs Corps

By Tam Hunt, Noel Morin, Heather Kimball, Bill Bugbee, Olivia Grodzka   02/04/21  
Hawaii is facing record unemployment levels — the worst in the nation and the worst in U.S. history. How are we going to dig ourselves out of this hole? A new green jobs program could be…

Patent-pending tech extracts energy from fresh, salt water

A game-changing discovery by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa researchers reveals a more efficient method of extracting energy when freshwater and saltwater mix. The findings by College of Engineering Interim Associate Dean and Professor David Ma and research associate Jian Yu have been published…

Worker Co-ops Can Lead The Way To A Healthier And More Just Economy

By Mike Gabbard   02/02/21  
The Hawaii Ulu Cooperative is revitalizing Hawaii’s indigenous food systems as a farmer-owned, competitive supply chain and market for local breadfruit and other regenerative crops. The HUC is owned by nearly 100 small, diversified family…

Hawaii’s electricity most expensive in the nation, but tax credit extension could help

By Sam Spangler   01/31/21  
Rooftop solar installations in Hawaii were up 55% in 2020, despite the economic turmoil brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Empty seas: Oceanic shark populations dropped 71% since 1970

By Christina Larson   01/30/21  
When marine biologist Stuart Sandin talks about sharks, it sounds like he’s describing Jedis of the ocean. “They are terrific predators, fast swimmers and they have amazing senses — they can detect any disturbance in…

Tropical cyclones are nearing land more, except in Atlantic

By Seth Borenstein   01/30/21  
Tropical cyclones across the globe, except Atlantic hurricanes, are moving closer to land in recent decades, a new study found.

Proposed Tourist Tax Could Help Hawaii Deal With Climate Change Impacts

By Kevin Dayton   01/29/21  
Some leading House lawmakers are proposing new fees on ground transportation that is used by tourists as a way to raise cash to balance the state budget in the short term, and to help cope…

Kauai Is Moving Forward On One Of The Nation’s Most Advanced Energy Projects

By Allan Parachini   01/28/21  
The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, the island’s community-owned electricity company, has signed final agreements with AES Corp., a developer of a wide variety of generating plants, to build Hawaii’s first power plant relying on “pumped…

Making the most of Hawaii’s sun

Hawaii, like islands all around the world, traditionally relied on costly imported hydrocarbon fuels and coal for its energy requirements.

SPI Energy Begins Construction of Solar Plant in Oahu, Hawaii

Energy" or the "Company"), SPI Energy Co., Ltd., (NASDAQ:SPI) (the "Company"), a g

UH Maui College becomes net-zero

By Web Staff   01/24/21  
UH Maui College uses less fossil fuel now. In a goal to become net-zero, the school has more than 3,300 photovoltaic (PV) modules installed that give 1.58 MW of power.

Hawaii Leaders Laud Nation’s Return To The Paris Climate Deal

By Marcel Honore   01/20/21  
Just days after the presidential election in November, the United States under then-President Donald Trump officially withdrew from the Paris climate agreement aimed at curbing global greenhouse gas emissions.

Hawaii finalizes utility regulation considered potential template for US power system transformation

By Herman K. Trabish   01/19/21  
ADec. 23 order by Hawaii's utility commission may lead to the most significant change in power system regulation in U.S. history by giving Hawaiian Electric new control over its future, proceeding participants said.

Home solar batteries in Hawaii to provide capacity, grid services through 80MW virtual power plant

By Andy Colthorpe   01/18/21  
Solar-plus-storage systems at customers’ homes in Hawaii will create a “comprehensive” virtual power plant (VPP) network on three Hawaiian islands of up to 6,000 individual systems.

Advocates celebrate aquarium fishing ban

By Dakota Grossman   01/15/21  
Environmental groups and marine wildlife advocates rejoiced after a court ruling this week made it clear that all commercial aquarium fishing is now banned in Hawaii without environmental review.

Hawaii’s Kaua’i island will get beyond 80% renewables thanks to solar-plus-pumped hydro plant

By Andy Colthorpe   01/11/21  
A large-scale solar PV system paired with pumped hydro energy storage could cover as much as 25% of the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i’s energy demand, pushing the island’s total share of renewables in its energy…

A hi-tech eye in the sky lays bare Hawaiʻi’s living coral reefs

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts   01/05/21  
In a newly released map, the coastal waters of the eight main Hawaiian islands are alight with color. Blue, turquoise, green, yellow, orange and red tinge the islands’ perimeters, each hue representing a different level…

EPA Muddies the Water on Permitting Discharges to Groundwater

By Andrew Otis   01/05/21  
In a June 2020 QuickStudy, I wrote about the implications of the Supreme Court’s April ‎‎2020 decision in County of Maui, Hawaii v Hawaii for permitting projects that ‎discharge pollutants to groundwater that ultimately impacts…

Investing in People, Companies and the ʻĀina

The pandemic accelerates new ways of lending, financing and investment in the Islands. A two-part report.

HECO motions to appeal PBR framework

By Brian McInnis   01/05/21  
A groundbreaking end-of-year decision and order made by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission was met with stated optimism but also a motion to "clarify and/or reconsider" elements of it by Hawaiian Electric Co.

Duke Energy installed major rooftop solar system at Keck Observatory in Hawaii

By Dave Kovaleski   01/03/21  
The rooftop solar project is at the W. M. Keck Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii, located near the summit of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. The installation…

Progress On Climate Change Is Pathway For Economic Recovery

By Josh Stanbro   12/31/20  
The twin crises of COVID-19 and climate change are good examples of the kinds of increasing and compounding 21st-century shocks and stresses facing our island community.

Officials Let Hawaii’s Waterfront Homeowners Damage Public Beaches Again and Again

By Sophie Cocke   12/31/20  
Everybody knows that seawalls cause beach loss, and Hawaii law forbids building them. But Honolulu County officials have granted exemptions to 46 homeowners over the past two decades even as a quarter of Oahu’s beaches…