IDEAS For Us | January 5, 2015

Masdar’s ‘Describe your City’ Blog: Honolulu 2030

From January 17th to 24th, the city of Abu Dhabi will be hosting a week of sustainability to address the interconnected challenges that affect the widespread acceleration and adoption of sustainable development and clean energy.

As such, Masdar, a Mubadala Company, rapidly advancing renewable energy and sustainability, hosted a blog competition that asked participants to creatively describe their city’s future in 2030. The prompt was as follow:

Describe your city in 2030: what will occur due to changes in energy, transportation and water technologies, and how will they transform how you live?

Below IDEAS leader Samantha Ruiz describes her city, Honolulu, Hawaii.


I am 95 years old. I first ran the Honolulu Marathon on December 13th 1973 and have competed every year since. Today, December 13th 2030, Mayor Fasi, founder of the Marathon, would be proud. Honolulu is now known for this premier athletic event and its embrace of a culture of sustainability.

Foreign to some, Honolulu sits 2,500 miles from the nearest city outside of its neighboring islands. As the most isolated metropolis in the world, Honolulu was dependent on the outside world for nearly everything. 85% of our food had to be imported and 90% of our electricity generation was provided by imported petroleum.

Faced with this reality, our governor, along with Hawaiʻi’s county mayors and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs launched the Aloha+ Challenge – He NohonaʻAeʻoia. The declaration set targets for Hawaiʻi to achieve for clean energy, local food production, natural resource management, waste reduction, smart growth, climate resilience, and an increase in green jobs and education by 2030.

During this time, Hawaiʻi’s unique history allowed our elected officials and community organizers to look back in order to move forward.

In 1973, Hawaiian cultural traditions underwent a renaissance. The Polynesian Voyaging Society reintroduced the sophisticated culture of ancient Hawaiʻi through the sailing canoe known as the Hokuleʻa. Locals revived the ancient system of land governance known as ahupuaʻa – divided regions, fulfilling the needs of the people from mauka to makai (mountain to sea). These holistic practices were a way to use resources in a respectful, regenerative system.

Fast forward 40 years – add technological advances, multiply the wisdom of living ‘pono’ (righteous), subtract the mindset of Hawaiʻi as an outlier, and envision a future as a model state to the tenth power, and you have the perfect cocktail for innovative change in Honolulu – which is how it unfolded during the 21st century.

The first wave of change to Honolulu came with Hawaiʻi’s shifting energy landscape. As the cost of solar PV dropped, the demand to be powered by the sun increased.

Today, solar power is accessible for everyone. Since more than 50% of Honolulu’s residents live in condominiums or rental, legislators mandated the development of community solar projects that allows universal interconnectivity. This means all the old fossil fuel burning plants are retired. In 2022 our utility’s contract with the coal-fired power plant expired. As such, Hawaiian Electric Company invested in smart grid infrastructure rather than renewing the contract. Now our grid has achieved a 20% demand response capability for peak demand.

Incentives were offered to encourage investments in energy storage systems. On-bill financing allowed homeowners to reduce their energy consumption, leading to over 70% in energy efficiency savings.

Alternative methods for transportation also materialized. After the King Street Cycle Track opened in 2014, non-profits and city officials deployed a citywide network of on-street bike paths. Cycling rates throughout Honolulu have tripled. Public transit has also improved greatly. TheBus operates 100% on locally produced biofuels. The Honolulu Rail Transit Project is complete, and serves over 120,000 passengers throughout its 20-mile route.

Naturally, local food production sprouted throughout Honolulu. In 2020, local ordinances were passed to allow homeowners to create front-yard farms instead of lawns, creating localized food districts. For waste, a ‘pay-as-you-throw’ program was implemented to incentivize generating less household waste. A citywide composting program now gives all food waste to a statewide Farm-to-School program.

I am most impressed by Honolulu’s efforts to sustain the sublime progress that has been made via the green educational opportunities and workforce development now available.

Honolulu has created over 10,000 ‘green’ jobs. Additionally, Honolulu has leveraged a remarkable partnership with the University of Hawaii. The University now provides over 100 courses related to sustainability, fostered an energy efficiency partnership with the local utility, and established a Department of Energy & Sustainability.

As I approach the finish line, I would have never imagined 2030 to be so satisfying. The shift towards sustainability makes me appreciate this place more than ever before. We have come so far and the future is bright for generations to come.

You can find more information about Masdar and the ‘Describe your City’ blog competition here: