St. John’s Episcopal Church in Kula, Hawaii, is a Certified Cool Congregation at the 40% and above level of carbon reductions for their successful solar installation. They tracked energy use over a 10-year period and attributed their reduction partly to increased awareness of energy use.
“I give thanks for the St. John’s Green Team, which fully embraces the notion that we are all called to active stewardship of creation. They bring to the community an awareness of many ways in which our members can preserve, nurture and revel in the goodness and beauty of God’s creation. Kudos and blessings, team!”
The Reverend George C. Wong, Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Keokea
Read more about their accomplishments in the words of Janet Makua, a member of the congregation,
“In 2015, the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii was approached by the State of Hawaii to consider participation in its GEMS program, whereby rooftop solar systems could be installed at no cost to a qualifying organization. A third-party investor would receive the tax benefits of this program for 20 years. At the end of that period, the solar equipment would either be given to the organization or removed by the installer at no cost to the host.
The Diocese responded with data on energy usage at interested parishes and was thereby qualified for up to $2.3 million. St. John’s Kula then entered into an agreement with Haleakala Solar, the largest solar company in the State of Hawaii, for the installation of solar panels on both the parish hall and rectory. St. John’s also entered into a net energy metering agreement with the local electric utility. The solar equipment was installed and became operational in September 2017.
We have applied for Certification as Cool Congregation for the parish hall only. There are too many variables affecting energy usage in the rectory to make an assessment of the impact of that solar installation. The occupancy varies from none to several occupants.
“The Project” covered by this application is in two phases. Phase 1, the installation of solar, was initiated in 2015 by the rector at that time, Kerith Harding, and the Junior Warden, Mark Ausbeck, with the approval of St. John’s Vestry.
Phase 2, a retrospective evaluation of the energy savings related to that installation, was undertaken in 2022 by the St. John’s Green Team, chaired by Zoë Mounts, a high school student at Seabury Hall.
The congregation is saving approximately $3000 per year in utility costs.
In order to determine our reduction in grid energy usage (utility supplied, largely from fossil fuel), we compared the monthly kwh provided by the utility before our PV installation with that same monthly figure following installation. Since our solar was installed in September 2017, we looked at a monthly average for the 56 months after that period (September 2017 – April 2022) and compared it with an equivalent number of months before our solar installation, beginning in 2013. That reflects an average grid usage of 649 kwh/month before PV and an average of 384 kwh/month following installation. That is a 40.7% reduction!
It appears that our solar installation increased our consciousness of energy consumption, and our usage has declined steadily. Certainly, Covid had something to do with this trend, but it seems to have survived into 2022, suggesting more was at work than Covid.
We were motivated by the inspiring projects of other churches found on the Cool Congregations website, as witnessed by members of our Green Team, formed in 2021 in response to encouragement by the diocesan Creation Care and Environmental Justice Task Force. Our primary interest was about Creation Care and stewardship of our earth.
At first, our congregation was inspired to action by cost savings, but over time we have become concerned about the environmental impact of our congregational facilities. Evaluating the impact of our solar installation resulted from the desire of St. John’s Green Team leadership to understand the environmental effectiveness of our actions. This interest was about Creation Care and stewardship, not cost savings or comparison with what anyone else may be doing. We wanted to know in some detail what we are being thankful for. And we are indeed thankful!”
Travis Idol, the Executive Director of Hawaii Interfaith Power & Light applauds the congregation,
“Hawaii Interfaith Power and Light is delighted to learn about and share the good news of how faith communities in Hawaiʻi have been living our their commitment to Care for Creation by reducing their energy use and embracing renewable energy at their church. The experience and success of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Kula shows how working together at the church, diocesan, and state level can help us meet our long-term goals of a 100% renewable energy future. We hope their story can help inspire and motivate others faith communities to begin the process of exploring their own energy use and how they can respond faithfully to the climate crisis. We stand ready to help them in this journey and share the good news with others.”
Hawaii Interfaith Power & Light website. Contact Travis Idol for more information at email@example.com