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State drives toward renewable energy

LIHUE — Hawaii is getting a boost toward the goal of transitioning its municipal fleets to 100% renewable energy by 2045 thanks to a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Combined with $316,494 in Volkswagen Mitigation Settlement funds and $2.5 million in fleet cost-share, the EPA Diesel Emissions Reduction Act award of $474,474 will go toward three projects: replacing one heavy-duty truck for the Honolulu City and County Board of Water Supply; replacing one road zipper for the state Department of Transportation, and replacing two buses through the state of Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

The DERA grant is part of more than $9 million in nationwide funding to replace older diesel school buses with newer, cleaner vehicles.

“By promoting clean diesel technologies, we can improve air quality and human health, advance American innovation and support green jobs,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker.

“Reducing exposure to diesel pollution is important for everyone, particularly children, one of our most sensitive populations.”

Converting vehicles away from diesel and updating fleets is another step toward the state’s goal of running municipal fleets on 100% renewable energy.

In December 2017, the four county mayors signed a commitment to make the move toward 100% renewable fuel sources in fleets, and three of those counties upped the time frame by 10 years during that agreement.

Kauai County committed to transition away from the use of fossil fuels by 2035.

Since that announcement, Kauai County has taken steps toward the goal, including the addition of 10 plug-in hybrid vehicles to the fleet in August.

In addition, COK is in the process of adding electric-vehicle charging to 36 spaces at the Lihue Civic Center, is continuing to develop plans for deployment of electric buses with funding from a federal grant and from state of Hawaii VW Settlement funds, is planning to purchase EVs in the current fiscal year and is working with other counties and the state to reduce costs and increase access to different models.

Kauai County is also funding an EV charger incentive program in 2020 to help encourage installation of EV chargers around the island.

“To a large extent, we are dependent on the availability of EVs from major manufacturers, and thus far there have been limited offerings outside of light-duty vehicles and busses,” said Kauai County Energy and Sustainability Coordinator Ben Sullivan.

“However, that is changing rapidly, and the county is monitoring the market to see when more battery electric vehicles become available. For example, we expect both police vehicles and class II and III trucks to be available in the next two to three years,” said Sullivan.

The EPA has implemented standards to make diesel engines more than 90 percent cleaner, but many older diesel engines remain in operation and predate these standards. Older diesel engines emit large amounts of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. These pollutants are linked to health problems, including aggravated asthma, lung damage, and other serious health problems.

From 2008 to 2016, EPA awarded $629 million nationally to retrofit or replace 67,300 engines and other equipment. More than 454 million gallons of fuel have been saved as a result of DERA projects. EPA estimates that total lifetime emission reductions achieved through DERA include 15,490 tons of particulate matter and 472,700 tons of nitrogen oxides.

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Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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