Brandon Hayashi ’93

Energizing Solutions

By Catherine Black ’94

When Brandon Hayashi ’93 decided he wanted to be a part of the solution to the world’s energy crisis, it was a decision he stuck to against all odds. At the time, he was finishing up a Master of Science in international management at the University of London with a focus on energy efficiency. He planned to join the growing hybrid auto industry, but he then had a realization that this field wasn’t producing the deeper changes he believed in: “It wasn’t actually doing good, it was just doing less bad,” he explains.

The hapa Japanese-Italian from Kane‘ohe had, by that time, lived and traveled in Europe and Asia with his kiwi wife, Fiona. New Zealand seemed like a natural choice for his line of work because of its progressive carbon emissions policies, so the couple moved to Aotearoa in late 2007 and Hayashi set out to find his dream job. “It was a really humbling experience,” he remembers. Although he was a finalist for many positions, they all went to locals. “With a two-year-old son and a wife who would soon give birth to our second child, I needed to put food on the table.” So he waited tables and networked at a restaurant frequented by influential businessmen and politicians, until he met a South African who was building a clean energy company. Soon they were business partners, lining up investors and demonstration projects — until the 2008 economic crisis hit. On the brink of its debut, the venture was canceled.

At this point, many people would have buckled and given up on their calling, but undaunted, Hayashi decided to try his luck in Hawai‘i. Back on familiar turf, he landed a position with Energy Industries, an established local company with a focus on both energy efficiency and renewable energy.

And he took off: within a year he was a Kanu Hawai‘i board member, co-chairing its inaugural Clean Energy Challenge. He was also named President of the Rebuild Hawai‘i Consortium — a publicly funded program to promote clean energy awareness and best practices — and appointed Energy Efficiency Working Group Chair at the Hawai'i Energy Policy Forum.

After years of persistence that put his commitment to the test, Hayashi could flex his passion. His international expertise is certainly needed in Hawai‘i, the most fossil fuel dependent state in the nation.

“I think this is so much more important than I can put into words, because we live on islands. Every single thing we ship in depends on energy to get here,” says Hayashi, adding that, “We spend $6 billion per year on energy in Hawai‘i…can you imagine if we could save even just $1 billion of that for other things like education?”

Hayashi believes that there is enormous hidden potential in becoming more energy efficient (reducing overall consumption), rather than just switching to renewable sources. And that’s where his own energy is focused now: building support and awareness around this issue so that others, too, can become a part of the solution.