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Products: UHERO Reports

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Financial Benefits to a University of Hawaii Education

Each year in the State of Hawaii, over 11,000 graduating seniors must decide whether to attend college or join the workforce. This report estimates the potential rate of return for associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and post-graduate degrees from the University of Hawaii (UH) system using a standard approach.

UHERO Report


Assessing the Costs of Priority HISC Species in Hawaii

Over the past decade, funding for the Hawaii Invasive Species Council (HISC) has ranged from less than $2 million per year in the three years following the recent economic downturn, up to almost $6 million in FY2015. The HISC website provides total award amounts for past projects, but it is difficult to attribute exact dollar amounts to specific species for projects that target multiple species. As a starting point, we consider the number of times each invasive species was designated as a target over the period FY2005-2015. While this list does not necessarily represent species that generated the largest economic damages or species for which the most spending has occurred, it is a list of species getting the most attention by HISC. For the most part, the top ten have remained fairly consistent over time, although in recent years, axis deer, albizia, and ivy gourd have received noticeably more attention.


The Evolution of the HI Growth Initiative

Supporting innovation as an engine of economic growth is an essential component of the state’s overall economic strategy. The Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism and its attached agencies, the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation (HSDC), the High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC), and the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) are responsible for advancing innovation-oriented projects that improve the living standards of Hawaii residents by generating opportunities for high-wage job creation.

Project report

Recent Trends in Hawaii's Green Economy: Agriculture, Energy and Natural Resource Management

This report provides an update to the 2012 “Foundations for Hawai‘i’s Green Economy: Economic Trends in Hawai‘i Agriculture, Energy, and Natural Resource Management.” Although economic information has long been collected for many sectors in Hawai‘i, including agriculture and energy, the 2012 project was the first to collect indicators specifically for the natural resource management (NRM) sector. With financial support from Hau‘oli Mau Loa Foundation and research assistance from The Nature Conservancy, the University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization was tasked with collecting and analyzing information from three sectors that are key to future sustainability in Hawai‘i - energy, agriculture and natural resource management.

project report

New Perspectives on Land and Housing Markets in Hawaii

Land leasing is common in Honolulu, with many owners of residential, industrial, and commercial buildings leasing land. This report examines land and housing markets in Honolulu and the mainland United States to understand better why prices and lease rents are so much higher in Honolulu than most other US cities. Three stylized facts stand out:  

  • Census data show that Hawaii home prices were already exceptionally high in 1950.
  • Over the last six decades, inflation-adjusted land and housing prices in Honolulu register small annual real increases.
  • Honolulu’s inflation-adjusted land and housing prices have been highly volatile in the medium term since the 1960s, forcing market participants to bear high levels of risk.

Project Report

Making an Optimal Plan for 100% Renewable Power in Hawaii

The State of Hawaii has adopted the unprecedented goal of building a 100 percent renewable power system by 2045. This report identifies some of the central challenges in achieving this goal and uses the SWITCH power system planning model to identify solutions to these challenges. A 100% renewable power system must balance electricity supply and demand on two main time scales: diurnal (providing enough power each hour of the day) and seasonal (providing enough total energy on each day of the year). The diurnal balance could be achieved by installing large amounts of primarily solar production capacity, then using batteries, demand response, biofuels or hydrogen production to shift power production and/or consumption between day and night. The seasonal balance may be more challenging. Energy demand during days or weeks with low sunlight could be met by building extra solar and wind capacity, using biofuels, or using hydrogen produced during sunny months. Demand response will likely be less expensive than the other options for day-night energy balancing, and customer-sited solar may be competitive with utility-scale solar; consequently electric utilities may need to become energy integrators and market managers, rather than bulk power providers.It is unclear how much biofuel the State could use without compromising other environmental and energy independence objectives; consequently hydrogen energy storage merits serious consideration. SWITCH or similar models can be used to identify optimal long-term plans; however, a new incentive system is needed to encourage the State's utilities to develop and implement such plans, regardless of who will own the generating equipment.

white paper

Efficient Design of Net Metering Agreements in Hawaii and Beyond

In Hawaii, like most U.S. states, households installing rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems receive special pricing under net-metering agreements. These agreements allow households with rooftop solar to buy and sell electricity at the retail rate, effectively using the larger grid to store surplus generation from their panels during sunny times and return it when the sun isn’t shining. If a household generates more electricity than it consumes over the course of a month, it obtains a credit that rolls over for use in future months. Net generation supplied to the grid in excess of that consumed over the course of a full year is forfeited to the utility. 

Project Report

Economic Impact of the Natural Energy Laboratory Hawaii Authority Tenants on the State of Hawaii

The Natural Energy Laboratory Hawaii Authority (NELHA) contracted UHERO to estimate its economic impact on the State of Hawaii. NELHA currently accommodates 37 tenants ranging from companies bottling deep sea water to solar and biofuel companies. These tenants pay close to $2 million in rent, royalties and pass through expense directly to NELHA. In addition, they employ hundreds of people, purchase goods and services from local businesses, and invest in capital improvements at NELHA.

This research determines NELHA’s contribution to local business sales, employee earnings, tax revenues, and number of jobs in Hawaii from the expenditures of its tenants in 2013. NELHA provides additional benefits to the state of Hawaii that this study does not capture but are important to consider when evaluating NELHA’s overall footprint on the economy.


The Economic Impact of Astronomy in Hawai‘i

The astronomy sector in Hawaii generates economic activity through its purchases from local businesses, its payment to its employees, and spending by students and visitors. In collaboration with the Institute for Astronomy, a survey was designed to obtain information from astronomy related entities about in-state expenditures. The collected survey data was used to estimate the astronomy sector’s total economic activity in each of Hawaii’s counties for the calendar year 2012. Following a standard Input-Output approach, we define economic impact to be the direct, indirect, and induced economic activities generated by the astronomy sector’s expenditures in the state economy, taking into account inter-county feedback and spillover effects.

Local astronomy related expenditures in calendar year 2012 were $58.43 million, $25.80 million, $1.28 million, and $2.58 million in Hawaii, Honolulu, Kauai, and Maui counties respectively. Total astronomy related spending in the state was $88.09 million. Including indirect and induced benefits and adjusting for inter-county feedback and spillover effects, the astronomy sector had a total impact of $167.86 million statewide. The largest impact was found to be in Hawaii County ($91.48 million), followed by Honolulu County ($68.43 million). Impacts were found to be relatively small in Maui County ($5.34 million) and Kauai County ($2.61 million). In addition to contributing to output, astronomy activities generated $52.26 million in earnings, $8.15 million in state taxes, and 1,394 jobs statewide.


Benefits and Costs of Implementing the IAPMO Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement in Hawaii

We calculate the benefits and costs of implementing the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) 2012 Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement (GPMC) for various building types in Hawaii, with particular emphasis on water-use efficiency provisions in the code. Benefits of the GPMC are measured as water savings, where baseline usage is estimated in accordance with the 2012 Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC), which has been recently adopted by the state and will soon be adopted by the counties. We also monetize those benefits at the household level (water bill savings) and at the state level (cost savings to the water supply boards and departments throughout the state). Based on discussions with plumbers, building contractors, developers, architects, mechanical engineers, planners, and other water specialists, as well as an assessment of prices at major home improvement stores and other online retailers, we estimate the costs of GPMC compliance for new structures planned for Hawaii over the next decade. If the GPMC is implemented, the payback period is two years and the net present value assuming a discount rate of zero is $15.13 million. For a discount rate of 5%, the NPV is $11.29 million.


PURPA and the Impact of Existing Avoided Cost Contracts on Hawai'i’s Electricity Sector

The United States has been trying to reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuel since the 1970s. Domestic fossil fuel supply initially peaked in 1970, and the oil crises of 1973 and 1979 accelerated domestic policy and investments to develop renewable sources of energy (Joskow, 1997). One such policy—passed in 1978 by the U.S. Congress—was the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA).

In this policy brief, we identify the existing PURPA-based contracts in Hawai'i and use a Hawai'i-specific electric sector generation planning model, The Hawai'i Electricity Model (HELM), to estimate the impact that PURPA contracts have on both total system cost and the mix of generation technologies. We study a variety of scenarios under the maintained assumption that the state will achieve the Hawai'i Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires that 40% of electricity sales are generated using renewable sources by the year 2030.