Honolulu Star-Advertiser: With Energy Star program at risk, keep focus on energy goals

By Brian Kealoha

Living in Hawaii, we believe that preservation and prosperity go hand in hand.

Unfortunately, after a quarter-century of boosting our nation’s efforts to be more energy efficient, the days of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star® program appear to be numbered. It has been widely reported that the Trump administration is set to kill off this key program that benefits both businesses and their customers, while setting back efforts to protect our environment. For the past 25 years, Energy Star labels have provided consumers, like you and me, with easy-to-compare information that can be readily used to make knowledgeable decisions on products that best fit our energy and budgetary needs.

The Energy Star program also motivates manufacturers of refrigerators, washers and dryers to design and make more energy efficient appliances. Energy Star appliances are investments in our energy future. In some cases, they might cost a little more. However, on average, these appliances still end up paying for themselves within the first few years when coupled with Hawai‘i Energy rebates.

Nationally, the EPA says Energy Star has saved consumers some $430 billion on utility bills through the years. At Hawai‘i Energy, we strongly promote Energy Star certified appliances with rebates aimed at enticing families to upgrade their older refrigerators or televisions in order to save energy and save money. It’s just one way we’re doing our part to help Hawaii reach its goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2045.

Over the past eight years, island families and businesses have saved more than $1 billion on their electric bills through energy efficiency and conservation efforts. That is $1 billion that has stayed in our local economy rather than being spent on fossil fuels and ultimately leaving the state. Time and again, island families have expressed their gratitude once the true savings kick in: when they notice the difference in their electric bill.

The signal being sent by the administration’s proposal to shutter the Energy Star program is disappointing. A program which brings so much awareness and education, while saving energy and money, should be seen as critical rather than one to be sent to the chopping block.

If the program does draw to a close, it will be critical that we all pay greater attention to the energy decisions we make. The people of Hawaii have made great strides in our efforts to save energy and this must continue. Hawai‘i Energy will be here to help educate and incentivize smart energy choices.

Regardless of the Energy Star program’s fate, we must remain focused on what’s truly important: Working together to reach Hawaii’s 100 percent clean energy goal.

Protecting the environment is vital to the future health and independence of Hawaii. Reducing wasteful energy use is something we must collectively prioritize as an island community in light of the Trump administration’s proposed actions to the contrary.