HAWAII STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
A Hawaii State Department of Education Sustainable Energy Program
What is the Ka Hei program?
Ka Hei is a Hawaii State Department of Education (Department) program designed to
boost student success through the implementation of renewable energy sources,
campus modernization and increased real-world educational opportunities in science,
technology, engineering and math (STEM). It is a five-year program in partnership
with Chevron Energy Solutions and in collaboration with Hawaiian Electric Company.
How many schools does this program involve?
Ka Hei is a comprehensive program involving all 255 public schools in the State of
Hawaii. The program includes comprehensive energy efficiency and water
conservation initiatives, sustainability measures, microgrids, STEM curriculum, and
What does Ka Hei mean in Hawaiian?
Ka Hei is a specific type of snare made with ropes, and is what the Hawaiian god
Maui used to capture the sun in the Hawaiian tradition. Another meaning is “to
absorb as knowledge or skill.”
What is involved in the rollout of Ka Hei?
Over the past seven years alone, the Department’s electricity bill has soared from
$30 million to more than $46 million. In addition, over $16 million was spent on gas,
water and sewer charges the past year. Now, the Department is ready to move
toward a more sustainable future. The Department has created a framework for Ka
Hei to transform that budgetary drain into a financial asset, by using the clean-energy
positional in the Department’s facilities. Ka Hei will involve a rollout of distributed
clean energy generation, energy efficiency improvements and water conservation
measures for all public schools and department’s facilities.
What are the projected cost savings of the program?
As part of comprehensive assessments at each school that will commence this year,
Chevron Energy Solutions will conduct energy audits. These will create a baseline of
energy use, identify technical solutions to improve the efficiency of each facility and
model the technical and financial impact of the upgrade using collected data to arrive
at realistic and achievable energy cost savings across all 255 schools. While the
energy audits have not started, the initial assessment of the opportunity is estimated
to save more than $24 million in operating expenses over a five-year period, with
achievable reductions in energy use by 25 percent and water use by 30 percent.
How and why did the Department choose Chevron Energy Solutions for its
partner to implement Ka Hei?
Chevron Energy Solutions, a division of Fortune 3 company, Chevron, was chosen
after a competitive review and evaluation process for its successful track record of
developing and delivering comprehensive energy projects with location-specific
educational programs in more than 80 school districts across the nation.
Is Hawaiian Electric Company prepared to make this type of commitment to the
DOE, when the utility has had difficulty accepting photovoltaic (PV) requests
from individual homeowners because of grid saturation?
The DOE and Chevron Energy Solutions are working with Hawaiian Electric to find
solutions to anticipated limitations on distributed generation on some neighborhood
How is the Department working with Hawaiian Electric to bring new PV
Success of the program in part will rely upon Hawaiian Electric’s ability to allow for
interconnection of renewable energy systems. The innovative nature of Ka Hei will
allow the Department to assist Hawaiian Electric with some challenges integrating
renewable energy. The program will also be phased in over five years to minimize the
impact on Hawaiian Electric and its grids.
As part of Phase I, the Department plans on implementing microgrid solutions at
three schools – one each on Maui, Hawaii Island and Oahu. Preliminary engineering
will be starting shortly. The Department will not circumvent restrictions by Hawaiian
Electric. Instead, the Department intends to utilize the microgrid to maximize
renewable energy integration.
How does the microgrid solution work?
The microgrid solution enables the ability to become a net-zero energy site in a
reliable manner. The Ka Hei microgrid solution drives innovation by helping
overcome the challenges of increasing renewable integration onto the individual
island grids by providing benefits to both the schools and Hawaiian Electric circuits.
A microgrid is a group of interconnected electrical loads (e.g. a school’s energy
needs), distributed on-site generation (e.g. PV systems) and usually some type of
energy-storage device (e.g. batteries) that are contained within a defined boundary.
A microgrid is capable of acting as an independent power grid for that particular site
with the ability to function independently from the grid when necessary (e.g. during
an interruption of utility power), and can connect, disconnect, and reconnect to the
grid in a seamless, safe and reliable manner.
What follows Phase I of Ka Hei?
Following the initial rollout in Phase 1, the next phase will be to furnish DOE’s 255
schools with appropriate, and community-tailored, clean-energy generation. This will
involve deploying solar PV on the roofs and parking lots at most schools, installing
small-scale wind turbines, and other viable renewable energy generation systems
appropriate for school facilities. In addition, provisional scoping of all the available
renewable energy resources will be conducted.
What does the Department mean when it says Ka Hei will expand real-world
educational opportunities in STEM?
As an extension of the facility upgrades, the program will have a suite of educational
opportunities that engages students and staff in energy awareness and STEM
Components of the program include living laboratories, energy conversation handson learning, green energy simulators, STEM career exposure and student and school
contests. Data dashboards will provide classrooms (and specifically developed
lesson plans) with real-time feeds of actual installed systems in instructional formats
targeting specific grade levels. In addition to data dashboards, living labs will also
include hands-on kits, teacher/staff curriculum training workshops, studentengagement programs and educational awareness campaigns.
How are we networking with the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative to set and
Ka Hei is a pivotal piece to achieve the goals of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative. In
2006, Act 96 was passed and defined the State’s goal to provide a comprehensive
set of proposals to assist the State in achieving energy self-sufficiency. Two years
later, HCEI was created as a partnership between the State and the U.S. Department
of Energy, bringing together business leaders, policy makers, and concerned citizens
committed to leading Hawai‘i to energy independence. The HCEI target across the
islands is to have 70 percent clean energy by 2030. Hawaii State Board of Education
Policy 6710, which was first approved in 1980, was amended in 2010 with bold and
visionary language setting the DOE’s goal to reduce its reliance on fossil fuel-based
energy by 90 percent by 2040. Ka Hei will empower the DOE to surpass the State’s
clean energy goals and share in its best practices and lessons learned with HCEI as
well as other interested parties.