Category Archives: Energy

Making Life Better, Part 3: Why These Big Island Issues?

I want to talk about why I’m involved in all these different Big Island issues: Geothermal. The Thirty Meter Telescope. The Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative.

These are not random, unrelated concerns. They are all directly related to what’s happening in our world and on our island.

I am always working toward making our lives better here on the Big Island, and making this a better place for our children and grandchildren.

Everything came together for me when I started going to the Peak Oil conferences  in 2007. That’s where I learned about Charlie Hall and his theory of Energy Return on Investment (EROI).

What was interesting to me about that his is a biophysical approach. A systems approach. It doesn’t put everything into its own silo, but instead takes everything into consideration all together.

EROI boils down to one basic concept: You have to have net energy to survive. This concept is discussed as an economic concept, but really it goes all way back to biology. Think about a rainbow trout swimming in a river and catching flies. At the end of the day, it has to have caught enough flies not only to survive but also to reproduce.

It’s the same for every animal. Look at cheetahs. They’ve got to be able to run down antelopes and rabbits and whatever they eat, and still have energy left over to reproduce and raise their kids.

It takes energy to get energy. We have to be able to get at our source of energy – like oil – and still have enough left over to power our society.

This concept applies to organisms, organizations and civilizations – everything.

How These Big Island Issues Apply

I’m no scientist. I’m a farmer who’s spent a lot of time out there on the farm, dealing with the physical stuff, out in the rain and the dirt. I come at this practically, always remembering my Pop’s lesson about, Not no can, can.

I am always trying to find a solution to something or other by thinking hard and planning ahead. When I went to school I learned there’s a name for this. It’s called “contingency planning.”

And it’s what we need to be doing now. Contingency planning. We need to take sustainable actions now to prepare for a better future.

What makes a solution sustainable? It has be economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.

As for the economic part, people understand what you need to do to make that work. Environmentally, too.

What is generally missing, and what I gravitate toward, is the social part of sustainability: leaving no one behind. I always come at everything from that point of view.

When we look at the Big Island, we have the lowest median family income, a homelessness problem and many other social problems. When I look at solutions, I want to make sure they address these problems.

Solutions

From what I see, education is the game changer. There are clear correlations between education and family income. And education and family income have a strong impact on the other problems. It’s not very complex.

The TMT brings $50 million to our island,  earmarked solely for our kids’ education. And geothermal and the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative bring smart energy solutions to our peak oil crisis.

I’ve been influenced by my Pop, who taught me to look long term. When you’re looking long term, you don’t have to make radical decisions you might regret later. When you  focus on the long term, you can make gradual changes to get to where you want to go.

We need to have a sustainable energy situation, and that will help with everything else.

Facebooktwittermail

Hawaii Energy Picture: Making Our Lives Better

How do we make the Hawaii energy picture, and our futures, better?

I sense that young folks know something needs to change in our modern world. And I see lots of folk helping each other cope.

This is all very encouraging, so I want to have a conversation: What can we do to make things better for all of us? I’m going to be posting about this in the next few weeks.

I’m going to talk about it being important that we take care of ourselves here in Hawaii, because nobody else is going to worry about us. In a world of declining energy, the pie is getting smaller and everybody is jockeying and fighting for a smaller piece of pie. This is when you get discontent. Look, for instance, at the current presidential election.

But the solution is not fighting with each other like what’s going on right now.  The solution is helping each other.

The bottom line is that in whatever we choose to do, the pluses have to exceed the minuses.

This is why I look at the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) as a plus. It supports education, and that helps us develop new technologies. Technology is not energy, but it helps us to extend energy. Also, investment in the TMT is all coming in from foreign dollars, instead of us taxing ourselves. All pluses.

Another thing we have that’s clearly a plus in terms of energy is geothermal. We will be over the “hotspot” that provides us with geothermal energy for 500,000 to a million years. That isn’t going away. A huge plus.

And GMOs are a plus because they help us find different ways to keep feeding ourselves, which of course is critical.

This is what it all boils down to. This is the graph that changed my life.

Hawaii Energy

I first saw it during the 2007 Association for the Study of Peak Oil conference in Houston. It shows, simply, that we have been using much more oil than we’ve been finding.

Obviously there will be consequences if we don’t either:

  • conserve what oil we have
  • find affordable alternatives
  • or use technology to extend what energy we have.

It takes energy to do work and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a measurement of work, so this graph implies the world GDP may be challenged if we don’t find alternatives.

It was clear to me that this was going to be the biggest challenge facing Hawai‘i.

I continued studying this and also attended four more ASPO conferences. And I realized I was the only person from the state of Hawai‘i that was attending these conferences and hearing all these experts, and Hawaii energy became my kuleana. It’s not that I wanted it or needed it; I just felt stuck with the knowledge and knew I had to do something with it.

My friend, Professor Charles A.S. Hall, who is known as the father of Energy Return On Investment (EROI), was someone I found clear and easy to understand.

Hawaii energy

What it’s about and what we can do

I am going to revisit a lot of what I’ve learned since I started studying about this problem in 2007, and write about it here. For example, it takes energy to get energy (for example, to get oil up out of the ground) and net energy is decreasing as we use increased amounts of energy to access more difficult sources.

Is it surprising that World GDP is lessening? Not many of our leaders seem to be paying attention to these things.

So to get back to my question above: What changes can we make? What can we do to make things better for all of us?

People have ideas, and I’m going to write some posts about what makes sense to me (and others). Stay tuned.

Facebooktwittermail

Declining Energy Continues, is Significant

Above all the local Hawaii issues, we still have the worldwide consequences of declining energy resources. The Bakken Field situation is nothing new — it’s something I’ve been well aware of over the years as I attended five Association for the Study of Peak Oil  conferences.

From Charles Hall, who is a world-renowned systems  ecologist:

The Death of the Bakken Field has Begun: Means Big Trouble For The U.S.

The Death of the Great Bakken Oil Field has begun and very few Americans understand the significance.  Just a few years ago, the U.S. Energy Industry and Mainstream media were gloating that the United States was on its way to “Energy Independence.”

Unfortunately for most Americans, they believed the hype and are now back to driving BIG SUV’s and trucks that get lousy fuel mileage.  And why not?  Americans now think the price of gasoline will continue to decline because the U.S. oil industry is able to produce its “supposed” massive shale oil reserves for a fraction of the cost, due to the new wonders of technological improvement.

I actually hear this all the time when I travel and talk to family, friends and strangers.  I gather they have no clue that the Great Bakken Oil Field is now down a stunning 25% from its peak in just a little more than a year and half ago:

bakken-field-oil-production-sept-2016

The mighty Bakken oil field located in North Dakota reached peak production in December 2014 at 1.26 million barrels per day (mbd) and is now down to 942,000 bd.  This decline is no surprise to me or to my readers who have been following my work for the past several years.

I wrote about the upcoming crash of the Bakken oil field in my article (click on image to read article)– Published, NOV. 2013:

the-coming-bust-of-the-great-bakken-oil-field

I ended the article with these sobering words:

There are only so many drilling locations available and once they run out, the Great Bakken Field will become a BUST as the high decline rates will push overall oil production down the very same way it came up.

Those who moved to the frigid state of North Dakota with Dollar signs in their eyes and images of sugar-plums dancing in their heads will realize firsthand the negative ramifications of all BOOM & BUST cycles.

Well, the Bust of North Dakota economy has arrived and according to the article, “The North Dakota Great Recession“:

Unfortunately by April 2015 it was clear that the oil markets were in a secular decline brought on by oversupply in the global energy markets fueled by a deep recession in China. As a result, companies started to lay off workers, and over the following months caused a massive exodus of people as jobs were eliminated. Nobody is exactly sure how many people have left the state, but some put estimates as high as 25,000.

The strongest real estate market continues to be Watford City with the weakest in Minot. However, even in Watford City the price of a three-bedroom rental home has come down from $2,500 in 2015 to a current price of $1,400. This represents a 44 percent decline of the rental price in the market.

Some folks believe the reason for the decline in oil production at the Bakken was due to low oil prices.  While this was part of the reason,the Bakken was going to peak and decline in 2016-2017 regardless of the price.  This was forecasted by peak oil analyst Jean Laherrere.  I wrote about this in my article below (click on image to read article)– Published, APRIL 2015:

what-will-the-death-of-the-great-bakken-look-like

I took Jean Laherrere’s chart and placed it next to the current actual Bakken oil field production:

bakken-oil-decline-vs-jean-laherrere-forecast

As we can see in the chart above, the rise and fall of Bakken oil production is very close to what Jean Laherrere forecasted several years ago (shown by the red arrow).  According to Laherrere’s chart, the Bakken will be producing a lot less oil by 2020 and very little by 2025.  This would also be true for the Eagle Ford Field in Texas.

According to the most recent EIA Drilling Productivity Report, the Eagle Ford Shale Oil Field in Texas will be producing an estimated 1,026,000 barrels of oil per day in September, down from a peak of 1,708,000 barrels per day in May 2015.  Thus, Eagle Ford oil production is slated to be down a stunning 40% since its peak last year.

texas-eagle-ford-oil-production-sept-2016

Do you folks see the writing on the wall here?  The Bakken down 25% and the Eagle Ford down 40%.  These are not subtle declines.  This is much quicker than the U.S. Oil Industry or the Mainstream Media realize.

And… it’s much worse than that.

The U.S. Oil Industry Hasn’t Made a RED CENT Producing Shale

Rune Likvern of Fractional Flow has done a wonderful job providing data on the Bakken Shale Oil Field.  Here is his excellent chart showing the cumulative FREE CASH FLOW from producing oil in the Bakken:

bakken-cumulative-negative-free-cash-flow-likvern

I will simply this chart by explaining that the BLACK BARS are estimates of the monthly Free Cash flow from producing oil in the Bakken since 2009, while the RED AREA is the cumulative negative free cash flow.  As we can see there are very few black bars that are positive.  Most are negative, heading lower.

Furthermore, the red area shows that the approximate negative free cash flow (deducting CAPEX- capital expenditures) is $32 billion.  So, with all the effort and high oil prices from 2011-2014 (first half of 2014), the energy companies producing shale oil in the Bakken are in the hole for $32 billion.  Well done…. hat’s off to the new wonderful fracking technology.

According to Rune Likvern in his article on the Bakken, he stated the following:

Just to retire estimated total debts (about $36 Billion, including costs for DUCs, SDWs, excluding hedges and income/loss of natural gas and NGLs) would require about 7 years with extraction and prices at Jun-16 levels.

Nominally to retire all debts (reach payout) would take an (average) future oil price close to $65/bo (WTI) for all the wells in operation as of end June – 16. This is without making any profit.

For the wells in production as per Jun-16, the total extraction of these will decline about 40% by Jun-17, and depletes their remaining reserves with about 20%. By assuming the operations remain cash flow neutral, total debt remains at $36 B in Jun-17.

As from Jul-17 this would now require an average oil price of about $73/bo (WTI) for these wells to nominally retire all debts (reach payout). Additional wells will add to what price is required to retire the total debt.

What Rune is stating here is that the $36 billion in total cumulative debt will occur by June 2017.  Thus, it would take an average $65 a barrel to just pay back  the debt in seven years.  With the way things are going in the U.S. and world economies, I doubt we are going to see much higher oil prices.

Furthermore, the work by Louis Arnoux and the Hills Group suggest the price of oil will fall, not rise due to a Thermodynamic Collapse.  More about this in an upcoming interview.

The United States Is In Big Trouble & Most Americans Have No Clue

As I have been documenting in previous articles (going back until 2013) the U.S. Shale Oil Industry was a house-of-cards.  Readers who have been following my work, based on intelligent work of others, understood that Shale Oil is just another Ponzi Scheme in a long list of Ponzi Schemes.

From time to time, I look around different websites that publish my work and read some of the comments.  I am surprised how many individuals still don’t believe in Peak Oil even though I explained the Falling EROI – Energy Returned On Investment quite clearly.

For some strange reason, some individuals cannot use deductive reasoning to destroy lousy conspiracy theories.  Moreover, if they do believe in Peak Oil, then they think there is a wonderful “Silver-Bullet Energy Technology” that will save us all.  I gather they believe this because the REALITY and IMPLICATIONS of Peak Oil are just too horrible, to say the least.  So, holding onto HOPE that something will save us, just in the nick of time, is better than accepting the awful reality heading our way.

And the awful reality of Peak Oil will be felt more by Americans as their lifestyles have been highly elevated by the ability to extract wealth and resources from other countries through the issuing of massive amounts of paper Dollars and debt.  Basically, they work, and we eat.

Unfortunately, the propping up of the U.S. market by the Fed and the domestic shale energy Ponzi scheme is running out of time.  This is why it is imperative for investors to start moving out of Bonds, Stocks and Real Estate and into physical gold and silver to protect wealth.

For the wealthy investor or institution that believe a 5-10% allocation in physical gold is good insurance, you are sadly mistaken.  While Donald Trump is receiving more support from Americans in his Presidential race, his campaign motto that he will “Make American Strong Again”, will never happen.  The America we once knew is over.  There just isn’t the available High EROI – Energy Returned On Investment energy supplies to allow us to continue the same lifestyle we enjoyed in the past.

So, now we have to transition to a different more local or regional way of living.  This new living arrangement will be based on capital that is “STORED ECONOMIC ENERGY or WEALTH.”  This can only come via the best sources such as physical gold and silver.

If individuals and countries have been acquiring physical gold and silver, they will be in better shape and will be able to enjoy more options than those who have been selling their gold and accumulating lots of debt and derivatives.

Check back for new articles and updates at the SRSrocco Report.  You can also follow us at Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.

Facebooktwittermail

Maui Energy Conference: ‘How Did We Get Here?’

I just got back from the 2016 Maui Energy Conference, where I spoke on a panel. It was really interesting how the moderator, Bill Aila, set up our panel. He said:

“Imagine it’s now 2045 and Hawai‘i is a wonderful place because we’re using 100 percent renewable energy. How did we get here?”

I went straight to talking about the Hawai‘i Island Energy Co-op because it’s very simple – it saves money. It’s a non-profit, and all the profits that would otherwise go to shareholders go, instead, to the folks that own meters. It’s predictable. Everything else that is going to happen with energy between now and 2045 is unpredictable. But saving money because of your business model is predictable.

Another reason a co-op is a good model is because the board members have to pay attention and keep up with what the people want or they won’t be re-elected.

The moderator also wanted to emphasize to the audience outside Hawai‘i that things are different here. It’s Hawaiian-style to prepare way in advance. People can’t just come in and look at the balance sheets, say they’re going to invest here and then expect changes to happen really quickly.

Things operate differently here. Hawai‘i’s culture has evolved from a society where relationships were reciprocal, and the more you gave the more you received, to a market economy that is more along the lines of “the more you get, the more you get.” It’s quite different, and there a lingering, uncomfortable feeling that the capitalist system is suspect.

In my opinion, it’s partly why Hawaiians introduce themselves by talking about who they are, with some of their genealogy. You don’t come in here all of the sudden and try to rush things through on us. It doesn’t work that way here in Hawai‘i. We have to know who we’re talking to.

I also used the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) as an example. We can’t say that one size fits all, that all telescopes are bad, that a whole mountain is sacred. And the GMO subject, where the anti-GMO folks will say that all GMOs are bad. Well, not really. Some are bad and others are helpful. It depends on what you’re talking about. We can’t talk in generalities.

What are we trying to achieve? I asked. We’re trying to make sure our society benefits all of us, not just some of us. The ends don’t justify the means. That doesn’t work.

I talked about how I came to the TMT project and the two most important things I learned from it: 1) To follow the process, which I learned from Patrick Kahawaiola‘a, and 2) “What about the rest?” which I learned from Kumu Lehua Veincent. I talked about how agriculture and energy are tied together. I even had a chance to talk about my Uncle Sonny Kamahele, who taught me the most important lessons I ever learned about farming.

It was a good discussion. We had a lot of really good feedback.

Facebooktwittermail

It Takes All Of Us: Help the Hawaii Island Energy Co-op

Help us make the case that a co-op utility model is in the Big Island’s interest by donating to our crowdfunding effort.

Before we can ask large investors for additional funding, we need to raise $50,000 to prove that the community is on-board with a coop for Big Island. The money will be used for planning and public outreach. (Actual purchase of the utility would be made with traditional financing sources.)

Donate here

Donate today and we’ll send you an “Own the Power” t-shirt and other cool HIEC swag.

Here’s the Hawai‘i Island Energy Cooperative’s story:

HIEC was formed after a huge offshore company announced in late 2014 that it intended to buy our local electric utility. Our board decided that as the deal was being evaluated, all options should be put on the table—including, and especially, an energy cooperative for Hawai‘i Island.

To date, HIEC has actively participated in public meetings and hearings hosted by the Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commission (PUC), offering expert testimony regarding the merits and benefits for the people of a Big Island cooperative.

Right now, HIEC needs your support. Before we can ask large investors for additional funding, we need to raise $50,000 to prove that the community is on-board with a coop for Big Island. The money will be used for planning and public outreach. (Actual purchase of the utility would be made with traditional financing sources.)

Donate today and we’ll send you an “Own the Power” t-shirt and other cool HIEC swag.

Why a coop? Local, democratic control, community-driven strategic priorities and potentially lower electric costs are just a few reasons. Under the coop model, profits would be returned to members or invested back into the coop; no dividends paid to the Mainland or to outside shareholders—the money stays local.

HIEC is connected to a national network of energy coops—more than 900 across the United States. If we are able to negotiate a deal to buy the utility, this affords us access to low cost capital as well as purchasing power for things like renewable energy development, pensions and information technology.

HIEC is not be alone. Our friends on Kaua’i operate the state’s only electric cooperative. We have been working closely with Kaua’i Island Utility Coop (KIUC) to build on its experiences. KIUC recently reached 90% renewable energy penetration and has returned $33 million to its members since 2002. We believe this is due to its cooperative business model—the ability to be nimble and rapidly respond to Hawai‘i’s changing energy landscape.

The decisions we make today on Hawai‘i’s energy future will have long lasting impacts. Help HIEC continue its work of being an active participant in the PUC process as well as keeping the community plugged in via social media, eNewsletters, farmers market pop-ups and coffee hours. The power can be in YOUR hands!

Facebooktwittermail

PUC Testimony & HIEC Proposes Alternative Power Generation Plan

This is video of Marco Mangelsdorf of the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative (HIEC) testifying at the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission on February 9, 2016.

Below the video is the HIEC’s just-released alternative power generation plan, which would move the Big Island faster and cheaper toward cost-effective clean energies and reach close to 100 percent renewable years before the state’s 2045 target date.

(HILO, HAWAII, FEBRUARY 10, 2016)—Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative (HIEC) today released its alternative power generation plan that would move the Big Island faster and cheaper toward cost-effective clean energies and reach close to 100 percent renewable years before the state’s 2045 target date.

The HIEC plan, based on a new analysis of the island’s existing resources and estimates of potential new solar, wind and energy storage resources, presents a less expensive and cleaner alternative to previous plans.

“We are very excited to be able to propose a compelling, practical and doable plan that would accelerate our island’s clean energy transformation in a way that would yield significant benefits for the more than 83,000 electric customers here,” noted HIEC director and spokesperson Marco Mangelsdorf.

According to Mangelsdorf, “By building on the successes achieved by Kauai Island Utility Cooperative to integrate high levels of cost-effective solar PV into the grid while adding just the right amount of storage to ensure system stability and reliability, HIEC would be better able to ensure a lower-cost, more balanced power supply portfolio.”

Through its analysis HIEC has developed a plan that includes:

No new fossil fuel generation

  • With the abundant availability of cost-effective renewable energy resources, there’s no need for any additional petroleum-based generation.
  • Any fossil fuel substitutions would be based on near-term cost advantages without requiring costly infrastructure improvements.

No liquefied natural gas infrastructure or long-term reliance on fossil generation

  • Alternative plan does not use LNG.
  • Opportunity fuels such as propane used for lower short-term cost savings with low conversion investments and quick paybacks.

Continued expansion of roof-top solar

  • Investment in battery and pumped storage would allow for additional roof-top solar with fewer technical concerns about system reliability.
  • Utility scale storage would avoid daytime curtailment and move excess roof-top generation to night time peaks.

Competitively priced, cost-effective utility-scale solar PV and wind

  • Utility-scale renewable generation, using Hawaii Island’s abundant solar and wind resources, would replace continued reliance on fossil generation.
  • Early retirement of fossil generation would occur as new renewables come on line.

Capital expenditures would be less compared to the current or future investor-owned utility model

  • Lower cost of capital due to non-profit status.

Lower cost solar and wind resources would replace LNG conversion costs. Greater efficiencies in overall operations

  • Coordinated quick response dispatch would back utility and roof-top solar generation with fossil units, thereby firming variable output for system stability.
  • Ability to integrate new low cost renewables as technologies and appropriate smart grid investments improve efficiencies.

Whether, where and when more geothermal energy will be brought on line to be left to the membership and democratically-elected board of the fully operational cooperative

In the Hawaiian Electric Industries-NextEra Energy merger proceedings now being held by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission,  NextEra has asserted that the primary question the Commission should ask itself is whether Hawaiian Electric ratepayers and the State of Hawaii would be better off with or without the sale going through.

HIEC has argued that the Commission should consider the merits of the cooperative ownership model for Hawaii Island.

Noted HIEC president Richard Ha, “Credibility, purpose and a focus on how to best serve and benefit the island’s 195,000 residents is what this cooperative is all about.  HIEC’s alternative power generation plan provides an important basis to establish that a cooperative does what its members want, not what is in the best interest of shareholders.  We are committed to a path to the island’s renewable energy future that will get us faster and cheaper to where we all want to go—an economy based on more affordable electricity and an environment that’s cared for.”

About Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative

HIEC is a non-profit cooperative association that seeks to establish a member-owned electric utility and encourage non-petroleum-based transportation for Hawaii Island. HIEC presents a unique opportunity for all electricity consumers to “Own the Power.” For more information, visit www.hiec.coop. HIEC is on Facebook and Twitter @HiEnergyCoop 

Facebooktwittermail

UH Hilo Offering New ‘Energy Science’ Certificate

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo will begin offering a certificate in Energy Science in the Fall 2016 semester, pending official approval by the UH Hilo Curriculum Committee, which is expected.

“Energy science is a really critical component of our future,” says Bruce Mathews, interim dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management. “It’s tied right in with our local agriculture. Our energy is dependent on outside resources, and nutrients used as fertilizers are derived from outside energy, too. We are so dependent on imported fossil fuel – oil and coal. For us to become self-reliant is extremely critical.”

He says they hope to eventually offer a whole undergraduate degree in Energy Science; currently, there is no such undergraduate program in the U.S.

From the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo:

The conversion of energy to useful forms for humans, its distribution and its impact are among the most pressing issues of our time. They are at the same level as climate change, population growth and social justice. The Certificate in Energy Science provides students with extensive, integrated knowledge about this field – enough to access entry-level jobs. The courses take advantage of the Island of Hawaiʻi’s privileged opportunities in solar, wind, biofuel, tide and geothermal energies, with field trips planned according to the course subject matter.

The management and policy concentration has an emphasis on policy, yet it requires at least two courses with significant technical content. It is intended for students majoring in humanities, social sciences, business and similar fields. It can lead to potential careers in energy policy or management. The technical concentration is a more rigorous program consisting of year-long surveys of energy science and biofuels as well as a laboratory course. This concentration will prepare students for graduate work in the energy field. It is intended for students in the natural sciences or CAFNRM. It will lead to potential careers in technical areas.

The certificate program offers two tracks. The first is for non-science majors and focuses on energy policy.

Mathews talks about what he calls a gap between policy people and science. “If you can get some policy types more informed about energy science, it can better inform policy,” he says. “A lot of people in the college feel that many of our issues in society today come about because policy-trained political scientists and lawyers don’t have a deep enough breadth of knowledge in the sciences to be as effective as they could be when, as politicians, they are making decisions for our future.”

“There’s sort of a postmodern philosophy that has gone beyond the age of reason,” he says. “It’s the idea that ‘Whatever you believe is fine.’ And, ‘If I believe it, then it’s true.’ It’s about belief, rather than judgements that are based on the best evidence, and I think that will be a huge challenge to Hawai‘i as we move forward on energy. For instance, when people believe all geothermal is bad no matter how it’s done. How will be move forward on these resources if people think like that?

“That’s why we wanted to have that part of the curricula open to students who are not of a scientific nature,” he says.

The second Energy Science Certificate track, a more rigorous one, is for people with natural science backgrounds.

He says they are also working on offering Energy Science courses for non-credit through the university’s continuing education program, though that’s not available yet.

While the program officially starts in the fall, two Energy Science courses will be offered this summer.

Hilo Physics Professor Philippe Binder will teach in and has taken the lead on promoting the Energy Science program. Engineering professor Shihwu Sung, whose focus is biomass, was recently hired to teach in the new certificate program. Next, says Mathews, they will hire an assistant professor who focuses on managing energy grid systems and energy efficiency in rural areas.

He says his biggest worry is that students won’t sign up for the program because they are fearful of the science. “Students are coming to college inadequately prepared from high school and I see it all the time when I talk to high school students,” he says; “they have a huge fear of the physical sciences.”

He says, though, that Dr. Binder realizes this and is willing to help. “As long as a student is motivated,” says Mathews, “he’s willing to tutor students and will open up office hours to do this. For this program to be successful, it’s going to take encouragement and intervention. We will also make courses as engaging as possible, with exciting field trips and laboratories. Places like the Natural Energy Lab, HELCO, Pacific Biodiesel, and people in the solar sector have said they will do anything they can to help us with these courses. There’s a lot of support in the Hilo community for this program. We welcome other support from industry, too, in terms of interaction with students, and hiring students as interns.”

“All universities are increasingly having to operate like businesses and try to generate revenue,” he says, “but there are some things the state needs to realize are important to our future. These sorts of programs have to be supported and go forward. When problems arise, it will be more costly if we don’t have people in the state who are trained about our food and energy problems. The nexus of food, water and energy is the core. We need a lot of energy to grow our food, and we can’t grow the food without water. It’s all connected to the future of humanity, and so these are areas that need to be critically protected.”

“We will also miss out on federal grants and such if we don’t have a program in place for them,” he says. “It’s critical for us in securing research money down the road.”

Mathews says an Energy Sciences certificate, which will take two to three semesters to complete, will give a student a leg up in terms of entering the energy sector after college.

“Companies like HELCO and those in the solar industry, for instance, will appreciate someone who has training in energy sciences. It’s a starting point.”

***

Richard says he couldn’t be happier that UH Hilo is moving toward a degree in Energy Science, something that is not currently offered anywhere else in the U.S.

“I’m especially interested in this because a group of us are promoting the benefits of an energy utility co-op. Doing work that is effective as well as affordable is most important. It’s all about doing work and it takes energy to do work.”

“I am very pleased to have enabled Nate Hagens to be the program’s first guest speaker,” he says. “I am going to see if we can bring in more world class speakers in the months and years to come.”

Facebooktwittermail