Heart-fueled and Hands-on

Employee volunteers hiking deep into a forest to help remove invasive species and protect the aina (land).

Sept. 5, 2017

The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii encompasses two active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Its 323,000-plus acres include climates from lush tropical rain forests to the Kau Desert, a barren stretch of lava remnants and volcanic ash.

Offering dramatic volcanic landscapes and glimpses of rare flora and fauna, the Park protects a wide diversity of ecosystems and habitats for numerous native Hawaiian plants, animals and insects. It’s also affected by the Hedychium garnerrianum or Himalayan ginger, an invasive species recognized as one of the “world’s 100 worst.”

The Himalayan ginger thrives in tropical climates and can quickly colonize untended areas, where its sticky seeds are spread by animals — including passing humans. Unchecked, the weed can crowd out native seedlings by forming dense mats across the ground.

Last year, volunteer employees and ohana (family) from Hawaii Electric Light hiked into the park and traveled deep along its trails to help alleviate the spread of Himalayan ginger. Using handheld tools and muscle power, they removed the weeds from forest areas while learning more about the aina (land), its varied ecosystems, as well as its cultural resources and significance.

The work was long, dirty, sweaty and tiring, but the Hawaii Electric Light team of adults and keiki (children) trekked on and continued its task throughout the day. They came away with a deeper understanding of and connection with the aina they were protecting.

Our companies’ volunteers include employees, family members, and friends of all ages.

This hands-on involvement with caring for our Hawaiian island homes and community is mirrored across all three of our companies. At Maui Electric, our employees regularly help to pick up trash along highways, prepare and serve food at local shelters, and regularly visit schools to talk to keiki about electrical safety. At Hawaiian Electric on the island of Oahu, employees participate in beach cleanups, mentor students in STEM education and careers, and get waist-deep in mud helping to restore native Hawaiian fishponds and other sacred sites. And this is just a short list of the many events and activities all three companies’ employees participate in.

In 2016, more than 4,800 employees and extended ohana volunteered more than 16,300 hours of service; contributed over $1,000,000 to worthy causes; and donated over 1,300 pints of blood. Deeply committed, our employees are “heart-fueled” and “hands-on” when it comes to serving our communities.

This level of commitment is reflected not just in their volunteer efforts, but their day to day work as well. The Hawaiian Electric Companies have worked hard to stay ahead of the State of Hawaii’s ambitious goal to have 100% of electricity generation come from renewable energy resources by 2045. According to our Sustainability Report, more than 25% of our generation came from renewables last year including biomass, geothermal, hydro, photovoltaic solar, wind, biofuels, and customer-sited, grid-connected sources.

In 2016, more than 6,700 private solar rooftop applications were approved, with cumulative PV installations measures in megawatts (MW) at 586 MW.

We’ve worked to modernize our electric grids across all our service territories, advancing our systems from increasing renewable energy integration to incorporating energy storage. Moreover, we’ve actively promoted the Electrification of Transportation in Hawaii — recognizing that a true, 100% renewable future must include the reduction of fossil fuel use in the transportation sector as well.

We’ve installed 12 electric vehicle fast-charging stations across Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island, and provide online EV resources for new and current electric vehicle owners. Our companies also continue to power our fleets with B20 biodiesel, which cut more than 457 tons of damaging CO2 emissions last year.

Our stewardship of the environment includes efforts to protect numerous native and endangered species in Hawaii, as well as efforts to minimize invasive species — in 2016, we cut, trimmed and treated more than 17,800 Albizia trees, known as one of the fastest-growing trees in the world, with brittle limbs that can easily fall and cause safety hazards during strong winds. Albizia is also the cause of many power outages when its branches touch or get caught in our overhead power lines.

Our employees’ commitment are deeply rooted, as we are physically and emotionally invested in the well-being of our island homes. To read more about our past and ongoing efforts, read our Sustainability Report.