Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments

Greenhouse Gas Reductions for Marginalized Communities

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Honolulu, Hawaii

Federal Funding: $499,363
Project Timeline: February 2010 – December 2012

Project Summary

Honolulu, Hawaii, is one of the most fossil-fuel dependent regions in the United States, and its residents pay the country's highest rates for electricity. Through this project, the Department of Community Services (DCS), City and County of Honolulu, promoted behavior changes and efficiency retrofits to achieve long-term greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reductions. The project specifically focused on marginalized communities throughout the state that have been slow to implement efficiency and conservation measures. Reductions in energy consumption achieved through this program will reduce GHG emissions from both direct energy consumption and from reduced delivery of fuels to Hawaii.

With Climate Showcase Communities funding, DCS took a multi-faceted approach to reducing fossil fuel consumption while promoting the development and use of renewable energy sources. Included in DCS's approach were intensive community outreach, development of a Hawaii-specific energy audit, training, and deployment of household energy auditors, installation of weatherization kits, installation of real-time energy monitors, and engagement of individuals in a social network that fosters continued GHG reductions. The ultimate intended outcome for this work was a permanent change in individual behavior that resulted in quantifiable reductions in energy use and the consequent GHG emissions.

While DCS provided fiscal oversight, project reporting, and grant support, much of the on-the-ground work was completed by three partnering organizations. Blue Planet Foundation led community outreach and canvassing efforts, designed to swap 60,000 to 75,000 incandescent bulbs for energy-efficient CFL and LED bulbs, and reported on the effectiveness of these efforts. Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps co-designed the energy audit, trained youth to conduct energy audits, led energy audit activities, and co-published Hawaii-specific energy audit best practices and energy auditor software. Kanu Hawaii provided overall project management for the duration of the two-year project, co-designed the energy audit, designed and deployed real-time energy monitors in 300 households, and created a social network for ongoing engagement, among other tasks.

The project was expected to result in a reduction of GHG emissions of over 3,700 metric tons per year, residential savings of $660,000 per year, and reduced electricity use of 2.7 million kWh per year. The project results ultimately far exceeded the initial estimates.

The City and County of Honolulu completed their work with three partner organizations under the EPA Climate Showcase Communities Program to hold light bulb swaps, collect data from energy monitors, and recruit youth volunteers to conduct energy assessments. Over the course of the three-year program, the City and County distributed a total of 335 energy monitors, and 175 homes participated in energy assessments. About 15,000 homes received over 109,000 energy-efficient lighting upgrades.

The City and County surveyed participants that received an energy monitor or participated in a home energy assessment to determine the impact of their behavior change toward energy conservation. Overall energy savings for Oahu residents who participated in the project were 4% to 5%. Overall, the participants’ financial savings were estimated at $2.84 million. Responses to household surveys suggested that participants cite the energy monitor as the main reason they changed activities at home to affect their energy bill, but reinforcing the initial behavior changes is critical to establishing permanent energy conservation habits.

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Community Characteristics 

Population                                   903,231

Area                                          600 square miles

Government Type:                       County

Community Type:                        Urban, Suburban, and Rural

Median household income:           $68,655

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Final Results

Projected Cumulative Results

Annual GHG Reductions

4,456.2 mt CO2e

3,700 mt CO2e

Annual Residential Cost Savings



Annual Electricity Reductions

6,020 MWh

2,700 MWh

Jobs Generated



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Lessons Learned

The project started later than anticipated, which led to a slightly lower result for emissions reductions. The project team recommends the following three lessons:

  • Lighting retrofits had the greatest impact and can be a cost-effective way to address residential energy efficiency.
  • A major barrier is that families need to measure their energy use in order to understand what they are using and where they could be more efficient. Investing in an outreach or energy literacy program may help address this issue, while focusing on strategies and resources that families already have. This projected encountered some challenges with receiving energy data from the local utility.
  • It took most people about three months to achieve general awareness of energy efficiency using the energy monitor. Self-audits and energy monitor loans may be a more cost-effective option than purchasing equipment or professional energy audits. It is important to keep the needs of the customer in mind, and continue to engage with them throughout the process.

Overall, the project team noted that there was an inverse relationship between the efficiency benefits of an activity and the operational complexity of the activity. “The simpler the engagement was with the participants, the larger the impact was for the environment and community as a whole.”

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The project was expanded onto another island, Molokai. Results were similar in Honolulu and Molokai. Other communities hoping to do a similar project should keep in mind the needs of the community and also the specific characteristics of the region.

A bulb exchange campaign has a relatively high impact and is easy to replicate in other communities, large or small.

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Project Website

Blue Planet YouTube page Exit

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