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Q: What should businesses be doing now to make sure they not only survive, but also thrive, in the longer term?

Constance H. Lau, PR/CEO, Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc.

A. Maurice Kaya, energy consultant, former state chief technology officer and energy administrator

For many businesses the most obvious near-term strategy to deal with skyrocketing energy costs is to reduce their exposure through investments in energy efficiency. Commercial buildings can typically achieve a 30 percent reduction in electricity use by investing in more efficient lighting, air conditioning and control systems, all with attractive payback periods. If you have significant water heating loads on your premises, solar water heating systems should be investigated and installed.  Onsite generation can offer significant long-term energy savings, especially using proven technologies like solar photovoltaic energy systems. In the future our electric utility companies should have programs to install these distributed renewable energy systems on customer sites as part of their new business lines. When retooling fleets and equipment, clearly specify the most fuel-efficient vehicle for the application.

Besides individual action, businesses collectively must become part of a large movement to demand answers to uncontrolled energy cost increases, achieving more predictability while maintaining the reliability needed to maintain their productivity and the health of the economy. We need to accelerate the transformation of our energy systems to renewable energy for both electricity and transportation fuels. How much more pain must you feel before you ensure that your voices are heard by policy-makers, elected officials, regulators and energy suppliers?

We are fortunate in Hawaii because we have the natural resources to make the needed transition. We are at a tipping point. No place else in the U.S. is as vulnerable to oil shocks as we are, and our successes can set an example for others, while generating more business for Hawaii companies in the sustainable energy market.


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