Cynthia Thielen

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Representative Cynthia Thielen
Assistant Minority Leader
50th District (Kailua/Kaneohe Bay)

The atmosphere was electric at President-Elect Obama's Transition Offices at 6th and D Streets in Washington DC. I was part of a diverse group of ocean energy advocates who were meeting with President Transition Team (PTT) members to promote and brief them on ocean renewable energy. Our group included environmental and non-profit organizations, major utilities, academics and renewable energy developers, entities that didn't normally join together on a common goal. After passing through well-run security, we were escorted to our conference room, passing a number of other filled meeting rooms where other PTT briefings were underway.

We presented the Ocean Renewable Energy Shared Vision and Call for Action to the Presidential Transition Team. Mainland supporters included Environmental Defense Fund, Surfrider Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pacific Gas & Electric, Florida Power & Light, Oceanlinx, Ocean Power Technologies, Oregon State University, Oregon Wave Energy Trust and others. Signing onto the documents' Principles from Hawaii were the University of Hawaii, at Manoa, Hawaiian Electric Company and Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.

We explained the specific policy objectives to the PTT: The United States should increase electrical generation from ocean renewable energy sources, specifically from wave, tides and ocean currents; both State and federal policy should encourage environmentally responsible pilot demonstration projects; the federal and state governments should increase research and development funding and cooperate on unified environmental documents. Better transparent and coordinated federal, state, and interagency planning is needed for ocean renewable energy development. A further major concern, (but not affecting Hawaii's wave energy waters that are within state jurisdiction), was the federal jurisdictional dispute between Minerals Management Service and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

I explained to President-Elect Obama's Transition Team about Hawaii's excessive dependence on fossil fuel and its high utility prices. I further discussed the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative and its objective of 70% clean energy by year 2030, explaining that we can't meet this objective without tapping power from the ocean. The PTT asked for more immediate information about what the Obama Administration should do to support this technology and to create immediate "green jobs."

We "debriefed" at a K Street attorney's firm for over four hours to prepare the action paper. We later continued work on the action paper from around the nation in time for the PTT's deadline.

The action paper, submitted to the PTT calls for strong support from the Obama Administration for the emerging ocean renewable energy industry, specifically from waves, tides and ocean currents. Instead of delaying and letting the industry and green jobs go overseas, as it is at risk of doing, the action paper calls for immediate support and leadership. Short-term stimulus funding of $50 million would support pilot projects and create immediate jobs. The action paper specifically noted that Hawaii could be an appropriate location for such a project.

The action paper called for further funding for university research centers, established under Section 602 of the energy and Security Act of 2007. The University of Hawaii's Marine Renewable Test Center is one of the centers established under this federal law, and I advocated for that inclusion.

I came away from the Presidential Transition Team meeting with a lesson learned. Hawaii must be at the table if it is to develop our ocean power, create jobs, and light up our islands with green energy instead of fossil fuel.