by Hawaii Powered | April 18, 2022
Meet Colton Ching, who leads Hawaiian Electric’s efforts to power the grid with 100% renewables by 2045. Colton serves as our Senior Vice President of Planning and Technology, leading our efforts to move toward a Hawaii Powered future, which includes the procurement of cost-effective, reliable and resilient renewable generation. Colton was born and raised on Maui and is a graduate of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he received a degree in mechanical engineering. He has 31 years of utility experience and previously served as vice president of Energy Delivery, as well as vice president of System Operation and Planning. Outside of his work at Hawaiian Electric, Colton serves on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Power & Energy Society External Advisory Board, Department of Energy Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems (ARIES) External Advisory Board, the Pacific Energy Institute Advisory Board, the Metro Board of Directors of the YMCA of Honolulu, and the Executive Board of the Aloha Council of the Boy Scouts. He is also one of 13 inaugural cohorts in the Omidyar Fellows Leadership program.
We interviewed Colton about his background, passion for clean energy, and what excites him most about our path to a more sustainable future. Read on to learn more about Colton and his approach to Hawaii Powered.
How has your upbringing in Hawaii impacted your work today?
I was born and raised on the island of Maui. As a kid, I spent my weekends and summers outdoors camping, hiking, hunting and fishing. I didn’t appreciate how special and precious Hawaii’s environment really is until I became an adult. That experience is a reminder to me that decisions we make today need to protect and preserve our environment. In addition, experiencing the impacts of Hurricanes Iwa and Iniki gave me a front-row seat on how fragile our electrical systems are to the effects of Mother Nature, and how dependent we all are on an ample and reliable supply of the electricity. My work today, and the work of all of us at Hawaiian Electric, involves the challenge of balancing both important objectives.
What was your path to a career in sustainability and clean energy?
I started my career designing and building new fossil-fired generating plants. But as I began working on strategy and planning work, it became clear in the mid-2000s that a strategy to remain on petroleum fuels had long-term risks and no clear strategy of success. The tipping point for me was in 2008, when we saw oil prices skyrocket due to the global recession. It clearly illustrated that our grid’s reliance on fossils fuels and lack of energy diversity was both harming the environment and causing customers’ bills to fluctuate wildly with global oil prices. It was then that I made the decision to shift our plans to accelerate ways to reduce our use of fossil fuels and increase our adoption on renewable energy.
What excites you most about Hawaii Powered?
Hawaii Powered is guided by Hawaiian Electric’s integrated grid planning (IGP) process, which brings diverse groups together to build a resilient and reliable grid from local, renewable energy sources with various technologies and scales. We want our customers and communities to know that they have a voice in shaping the energy landscape as we work toward a decarbonized, clean energy future. We’re trying to develop island grids that generate power by prioritizing Hawaii’s local resources, supporting our own energy independence.
We have the unique opportunity to advance social equity by listening to and incorporating community concerns and ideas as we plan for our clean energy future. There’s so much value in hearing different perspectives to determine energy needs and ways to meet those needs. I’m most excited by our commitment to doing our best to ensure that people and communities come first every step of the way.
Learn more about Hawaii Powered and our clean energy future at www.hawaiipowered.com.