Moloka'i embraces energy-saving lights
BY Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer
As many as 90,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs will be given away for free on Moloka'i in coming weeks in an effort to illuminate every home on the island with the energy-saving lights.
Starting March 27, students, their mothers and teachers will begin handing out the lights at Moloka'i schools to people who bring in their old incandescent bulbs.
"We're attempting to make the island 100 percent CFL," said Kimberly Svetin, one of the volunteers working on the project.
"The beauty of this is if they distribute 90,000 on O'ahu, the bulbs disappear in an instant. On Moloka'i, they have a huge impact."
The project is being sponsored by several community groups that are partnering with the Blue Planet Foundation, a Honolulu-based nonprofit working to establish Hawai'i as a leader in energy independence. Blue Planet negotiated a purchase of the lights from Feit Electric Co., with the first shipment of more than 40,000 scheduled to arrive on Moloka'i in coming weeks.
Francois Rogers, Blue Planet special projects director, said the project may mark the first time anyone has attempted to get an entire island to use CFLs.
"We're kind of excited," Rogers said, noting it could lead to other projects on Moloka'i, such as a swapping of shower heads for ones that use less water.
"Everyone is working hard to get the word out."
Rogers said it was the Moloka'i community that came up with the concept and approached Blue Planet based on the foundation's earlier work with schools on the island. He said the groups are paying for shipping the bulbs to Moloka'i and are handling the distribution.
"It's about us helping them achieve their goals," he said. "They really wanted this."
In recent weeks volunteers have been touting benefits of the program through schools, visits to a farmers market, fliers and businesses on Moloka'i and last week turned on their Web site, www.greenmolokai.org.
The information being handed out calls attention to the energy savings that can result from using CFLs, bulbs that cost more than traditional incandescent lights but produce electricity savings over their longer life span. Moloka'i has some of the highest electricity bills in the nation, with rates for March at 33.2 cents per kilowatt hour, according to Hawaiian Electric Co.
During the spike in oil prices in 2008 the rates shot to more than 40 cents a kilowatt hour, reflecting the island's use of nine diesel-powered generators to generate electricity at its Palaau power plant.
Svetin said the volunteers estimate there are about 3,000 homes on Moloka'i with each having 30 bulbs per household. The bulbs should cut electricity use by 10 percent or more, resulting in a similar drop in bills, she said.
"The numbers are pretty staggering if every bulb was exchanged," said Svetin, who is president of Molokai Drugs in Kaunakakai.
"If we're able to drop our electrical usage on the island by 10 to 12 percent that's incredible."
A home with a $200 a month electric bill that switches to the bulbs might expect to get savings of $20 a month, or $240 a year.
The Moloka'i community groups and the Blue Planet Foundation estimate if all bulbs are changed, the island could eliminate 42,300 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and save 84,600 barrels of oil from being used. In doing so, they've come up with a project name, "Go Green and Carbon Clean."
Other details about the project, including how to dispose of the incandescent trade-ins, are being mapped out by the Moloka'i volunteers, Svetin said. The group also is looking into solutions for proper disposal of CFLs, which contain a small amount of mercury.
It also is conducting surveys to gauge the number of light bulbs in homes on the island. Some of this information will be used to measure the program's success later.
The program even has caught the eye of HECO, owner of the island's utility. HECO in the past has promoted use of CFLs, issuing coupons for discounts on the lights. In doing so it estimates it helped get about 1 million CFLs distributed in the state.
"They're doing a great job," said Peter Rosegg, a spokesman for HECO, which has signed on to the state's efforts to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy.
"I think they're going to save people a lot of money."
Besides the Blue Planet Foundation, other groups working on the project include SustAINAble Molokai, the 21st Century Community Learning Center, the Molokai Dispatch and the Maui Economic Development Board.