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Solar Power farm, Holaniku Hawaii.
Explore practical, social, technical, and political issues surrounding energy production and use in Hawaii.

Energy in Hawaii: Forefront of Clean Energy Technology and Policy

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We will explore practical, social, technical, and political issues surrounding energy production and use in Hawaii. Hawaii is at the forefront of changes in the electric grid and the uses of electricity, with an aspirational goal for 100% carbon-free electricity in 2045. Hawaii also has passed legislation that aspires to 100% fossil-free transportation by 2040. Significant growth of behind-the-meter solar generation with storage has led to opportunities for the better use of these resources for maintaining grid reliability, while also increasing concerns related to grid stability and social equity. Because of these factors, there is a heightened interest nationally from federal agencies, particularly Energy and Defense. We will consider the availability and viability of solar, wind, and geothermal resources, while also considering the economic impact on Hawaii of large-scale importation of oil for generating electricity and transportation. We will consider emerging questions related to the reliability and the resiliency of the grids on different islands in the State. All of these issues will be considered in the technical, societal, cultural, natural resource, and political milieu which is the unique nature of Hawaii. We will spend the first week on campus learning about energy and its context in Hawaii, then travel to various field sites in Hawaii, including a wind farm, a utility-scale solar farm, an oil-fired power plant, a waste-to-energy facility, wave turbine, an oil refinery, a synthetic gas production facility, a biofueled thermal generator, a geothermal plant, and areas where natural resources are impacted by energy resource utilization.   We will meet with relevant policy experts and public officials from governmental agencies, utilities, universities, and public interest groups. The course will conclude with group presentations by the students.

Important Logistics

Travel to, from and within Hawaii will be provided (except incidentals) and is made possible by the Bill Lane Center for the American West and Sophomore College. It is anticipated that travel will include at least two islands as the circumstances for each individual island tend to be different from one another.

Application Alert!

This course may use interviews as part of the application process—keep a close eye on your email after the deadline passes.

Meet the Instructors

    Bruce Cain

    Charles Louis Ducommun Professor in Humanities and Sciences and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment, at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and at the Precourt Institute for Energy


    Bruce Cain

    Bruce E. Cain is a professor of Political Science at Stanford University and Director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West. He received a B.A. from Bowdoin College, a B.Phil. from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and a Ph.D. from Harvard University.  Professor Cain was Director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley from 1990 to 2007 and Executive Director of the UC Washington Center from 2005 to 2012.  He has won awards for his research (Richard F. Fenno Prize, 1988), teaching (Caltech 1988 and UC Berkeley 2003), and public service (Zale Award for Outstanding Achievement in Policy Research and Public Service, 2000). His areas of expertise include political regulation, applied democratic theory, representation, and state politics.

    Terry Surles

    Terry Surles

    Dr. Surles has consulted or is currently consulting with the International Energy Agency, APEC, Northeast Asia Economic Forum, East-West Center, the United Kingdom Energy Research Centre, and the State of Victoria. For IEA, he worked in support of their activities in Southeast Asia focused on multi-national grids. For APEC, he contributed to the understanding of the growth of solar and wind in Vietnam, as well as energy analyses for China, Peru, Taiwan, and Korea.  In 2015 and 2016, he led the analysis of Department of Energy’s Grid Modernization Initiative for Booz, Allen, Hamilton, under a DOE contract.  He was an emergency hire as Interim Administrator for the Hawaii State Energy Office in 2017. Since 2012, he has been at the University of Hawaii and the California Institute for Energy and Environment in senior advisory roles in support of their work with state regulatory agencies. From 2010 to 2012, he was Desert Research Institute Vice President, leading program development and management for three research divisions and four research centers in environmental and energy sciences.  From 2006 to 2010, he was Technology Integration and Policy Analysis Program Manager at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute focusing on grid integration of variable renewable resources and energy storage technologies.  From 2004 to 2006, he was Vice President at EPRI focusing on air quality, health, energy/water nexus, and climate change issues.  From 2000 to 2004, he was at the California Energy Commission as PIER Program Director with emphasis on energy efficiency, renewable energy, grid modernization, and regional climate assessment.  For this position, he took leave from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he was Associate Laboratory Director for Energy Programs from 1998 to 2000, focusing on energy efficiency, energy storage, and climate change science and analysis.  In 1997, he was appointed by Gov. Wilson to be Deputy Secretary for Science and Technology at California EPA.  From 1978 to 1997, he was at Argonne National Laboratory with his final position being General Manager for Environmental Programs.  Major program areas included energy systems assessment, climate change science, risk analysis and assessment, emergency planning and response, and energy and environmental modeling. From 1974 to 1978, he was at Camp, Dresser, & McKee, with his final position as Vice President.  He has served on a number of committees, including seven appointments with the National Research Council as well as advisory groups for DOE and its laboratories.