An Interview with Josh Stanbro, City and County of Honolulu


As a local government junkie, former County Sustainability Division Chief, and temporary resident of Oahu, I was excited to have the opportunity to sit down with the City and County of Honolulu’s Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), Josh Stanbro, at the VERGE Hawaii Clean Energy Summit (check out my recent blog on the experience).

A Unique Set of Energy and Climate Factors

If you’re like me, you’re curious what a CRO in Hawaii and his Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency is working on. First, let me share a few facts I learned from Josh and other Hawaii leaders that mainlanders like me may not know about what makes Hawaii’s energy and climate landscape unique:

  1. Hawaii started its cross-agency Clean Energy Initiative 10 years ago to help the islands break their dependency on pricey oil imports, which costs Hawaii’s economy $5 billion/year.
  2. Hawaii is already experiencing storm surges, sea level rise and beach erosion as a result of climate change. Because it is 2,500 miles away from other land bodies, assistance during disasters is particularly challenging.
  3. Most of Hawaii’s buildings are already electric, so the challenge is in integrating more renewables and managing the loads.
  4. Military is big here and is an important and active leader in Hawaii’s transition to clean energy.
  5. Four days after the US pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, all the mayors in Hawaii committed their jurisdictions to the Agreement’s goals.
  6. Just this June, Governor David Ige of Hawaii signed four energy bills that will make the island chain the first U.S. state to become 100-per-cent dependant on renewable energy for electricity generation by 2045.
  7. With its aggressive goals and focused leadership, Honolulu is a hub attracting high caliber, can-do clean energy entrepreneurs that want to help the US be leaders in a low carbon future. Start-up support organizations like Elemental Excelerator make Oahu a welcoming home for budding innovators.

Driving Sustainable Mobility

According to Stanbro, “every time a barrel of oil comes in to get refined here, about a third goes to the grid – so oil fired power, a third goes to ground transportation, and a third goes to aviation.”

Popular Intersection in Honolulu

To my surprise, ground transportation recently became the greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions on Oahu. It is also a big priority in Honolulu’s Resiliency Strategy, which is due to be released in the first quarter of next year.

“We’re really looking at mobility as a service,” said Stanbro. “We’re building the largest public works project in Hawaii’s history. An automated, elevated, all-renewable electricity driven train that’s the spine and corridor for all transportation going forward.” Josh envisions a community that seamlessly ties new train service to other innovative modes of transportation including autonomous vehicles, electric scooters and bike shares.

More Insights for Other Local Sustainability Professionals

Josh and I also talked about the growth of solar, collaboration between the utilities and governments, and government’s role in supporting emerging new technologies. He even shared how he landed his unique role within the Mayor’s office. I highly recommend a listen of our entire conversation embedded above. I asked him what he thinks other local sustainability professionals should be briefing their local decision-makers about, and you might be surprised by his answer.

I want to say a big thanks to Josh for his time and for sharing his insights with me so I can share them with other local sustainability aficionados like you. I hope it helps keep you inspired as you work on implementing solutions in your community. As requested at the end of the interview, I’d love to hear what resiliency priorities are at the top of your community’s list, so please comment below!



As Prosper Sustainably continues to hit the streets in various communities, our goal is to continue sharing strategies, ideas and insights with those of you working to help hometowns prosper, sustainably. We invite you to join us us on Facebook, Youtube, and Linkedin. If you know colleagues that would appreciate a dose of inspiration, we would appreciate if you would share this with them!


Written by Angie Hacker, Vice President and Senior Consultant, Prosper Sustainably

I’m Angie. I’m a mom and sustainability consultant. I love communities and have been serving them for nearly 20 years, implementing solutions that protect the places that people call home. My family and I are now exploring communities around the world, meeting hometown heroes and thought leaders, and we are convinced. Solutions exist. In data, in technology, in policy, in plans, in projects, and in programs. They are a part of the tale future generations will tell about how we chose a thriving future. Let’s find them together. Let’s move faster and smarter. Let’s prosper, sustainably.

1 Comment
  1. Hi Angie. I work for Save the Children NZ and am developing adaptation programmes in the Pacific. The focus is community based approaches and I’m wondering if anyone is doing this well in outher SIDS. I want to learn from those leading the transition from destructive to circular systems. Samoa is probably the most ahead in my region and then the Micronesian countries. A lot of what they’re doing is infrastructure, policy etc. or very new. I am keen to see community or household level waste minimisation, water management, clean energy production, and any examples of where communities are making a living by doing entrepreneurial activities that improve environmental management. And coastal zone communities would be my ideal (sea weed farming?) Island cities is good too. I’m developing a concept for PV in Vanuatu. Do you have any suggestions? Or maybe there’s a conference or workshop I could attend?? I’ve been to the Pacific Resilience meeting in Suva a couple of times now. I need something more practical and want to know what’s going on in other places beyond the Pacific islands. You sound like you have a great overview of what’s happening. Thank you!!!

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