Island energy transition: Assessing Hawaii's multi-level, policy-driven approach

Taedong Lee, Mark B. Glick, Jae Hyup Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Islands are characterized by isolated energy systems and a reliance on fossil fuel imports which comes with significant economic and environmental consequences and difficulties. Specifically, climate change, energy security and reliability, and price volatility are contributing factors to transformational socio-technical change in energy systems. This study applied a sustainability transition management framework to conceptualize an island energy transition as a multi-level and purposive policy-driven sustainability and self-sufficiency socio-technical intervention. Using this contextual approach, we reviewed the means and scope of change, taking into consideration the prerequisites for developing an intelligent energy region from the inception of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative in 2008 to date. Based on a case study with document analysis and in-depth interviews with energy stakeholders, we assess progress on Hawaii's energy system transformation and associated socio-technical innovations. Through the lens of the multilevel perspective analytical framework, the case study results demonstrate how regime-level policies have stimulated actions at the niche-level to overcome significant policy and technological hurdles. Regime and niche-level actions in Hawaii's energy transition can inform potentially replicable sustainable energy policies in other islands as well as inland communities, states, and nations. This research contributes to energy policy literature by providing (1) a conceptual framework of an island energy transition; (2) a review of policy and technology solutions at the state and local level to support change; (3) a case study of a first-of-its kind energy innovation collaboration; and (4) policy implications for emerging island energy transition efforts worldwide.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109500
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Feb

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea [ 2019S1A5A2A01047251 ], South Korea, and the Asia-Pacific Law Institute of Seoul National University, South Korea , in 2019.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment

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