Ka Hei

The Department's Ka Hei program, a five-year endeavor launched in 2014, will integrate innovative energy technology with meaningful learning experiences, all while reducing energy costs. As a comprehensive energy and sustainability program, Ka Hei will transform the learning environment, reduce operational expenses and provide engaging educational opportunities for our students and community.

Boosting STEM learning while upgrading campuses​A Phase-I update on the Ka Hei program from Dann Carlson, assistant superintendent of school facilities.



Status of Ka Hei roll out Click to view

Ka Hei overview: Capturing energy, absorbing knowledge

Ka Hei logoKa Hei, a specific type of snare made with ropes, is what the Hawaiian god Maui used to capture the sun in the Hawaiian tradition. Ka Hei also means “to absorb as knowledge or skill.” Coupled with revamped facility upgrades, an important component of Ka Hei is the suite of educational opportunities that will help engage students and staff in energy awareness and STEM education. (Click logo or here​ to meet the student designer of the Ka Hei logo, Tiffany Noda of Highlands Intermediate.)

The Department's Hawaiian Language Immersion Program educational specialists selected the name for this ambitious program. Ka Hei conveys our ​opportunity to not only harness the power of the sun to power our schools, but our goal to empower our students and teachers to adapt new ideas about sustainability for the benefit of our greater community.

The Department spends more than $62 million a year on electricity, gas, water and sewage fees — a 50 percent increase over the past 10 years. We are excited to improve our sustainability profile by lowering energy expenses, protecting the environment and reinvesting funds into the classroom.

Through a combination of energy efficiency measures, clean energy generation (including the Department's ongoing photovoltaic project, small-scale wind turbines, and other viable systems) and a comprehensive sustainability program, Ka Hei will improve the learning environment so students and teachers can perform at their best. The Department is partnering with OpTerra Energy Services to ensure success of this multi-year program.

This program will enhance the Department’s and individual schools’ existing initiatives to create an interactive learning platform that brings the worlds of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and sustainability to life. Ka Hei will leverage technology to bring real-world relevance to the learning experience that not only meets Hawaii Common Core standards, but can be implemented alongside existing lesson plans.

Students and teachers will experience science lessons through on-campus Living Laboratories and curricula that are hands-on, island-based, and relevant for college and career preparedness. From opportunities to shadow engineers and subject matter experts in the field, to analyzing energy data from a live feed on site, students and teachers will have greater access to the tools and ideas needed to build a more diverse, sustainable energy future for Hawaii.​

As part of Ka Hei, teachers will receive ongoing professional development sessions from several community partners. These workshops and their supplementary materials are designed to integrate the energy technologies being installed to modernize campuses and complement classroom learning.


  1. Reduce the cost and consumption of energy at all 256 DOE schools.
  2. Build a diverse portfolio of new, clean, on-site generation.
  3. Aggressively implement energy efficiency and conservation measures including demand response.
  4. Support the goals of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative​ to achieve 100 percent clean energy use in the state by 2045, and Board of Education Policy 6710​: Sustainability​.
  5. Leverage these transformational activities to create educational opportunities and stimulate the economy through local construction labor.


  • More than $24 million in estimated savings​ in operating expenses over five years.
  • 100 megawatts of on-site renewable energy generation potential.
  • 25 percent reduction in energy consumption over five years.
  • 30 percent reduction in water consumption over five years.
  • Creation of standardized and controlled classroom environmental conditions.
  • Integration of project-based curriculum focused on STEM and sustainability in every school. 
  • Creation of student career pathways in the energy and sustainability field.
  • Long-term economic development through direct and indirect local job creation.

Status of Ka Hei roll out Updated January 2017


  • 116 schools with completed lighting audits.
  • 5 schools with a sustainable cooling model under construction or in development.
  • 4 LED stadiums under construction, with 5+ more in development.
  • 2,212,600+ kWh projected savings from energy efficiency measures one year after construction completion.


  • 81 PV systems under contract for construction 81 Net-Energy Metering (NEM) applications have been submitted to and approved by Hawaiian Electric for 73 Oahu schools (note: some schools have more than one PV system).
  • 74 scheduled to have PV installed.
  • 9,290 kW aggregate PV system size for 74 schools.
  • 125 initial structural and electrical PV NEM audits completed (Oahu and Hawaii Island).
  • 150 preliminary reviews of PV NEM site selections completed (Oahu, Hawaii Island and Maui).
  • 12,660,000+ kWh projected renewable energy produced in one year after construction completion.


5 schools on Maui and Hawaii Island have completed microgrid audits that have identified energy savings from viable efficiency measures such as LED lighting, electronically-commutated fans, retro-commissioning, natural ventilation, high-efficiency air-conditioning retrofits, demand response and automated controls. Distributed generation sources such as PV systems and battery energy storage have been evaluated for their ability to meet each school's energy needs, and to reduce the cost of energy.

  • 1,828 kW aggregated PV systems.
  • 2,000 kWh total storage system.


  • 184 schools are participating in the curriculum program aligned with Hawaii Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards; 
  • 47 professional development sessions completed across Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Hawaii Island;
  • 1,153 educators have been involved with Ka Hei-related professional development sessions or activities;27,705 students who have experienced hands-on STEAM learning opportunities through Ka Hei lessons.
  • 325 students submitted designs for the Ka Hei logo design contest​.

Ka Hei FAQs

Answers to common questions about the Department's energy efficiency and sustainability program.​

Contact Information

Gilbert Chun

Phone: 808-586-3452

Email: Gilbert_Chun@hawaiidoe.org

Strategic Plan 2017-2020

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