Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Take alternative energy development away from HECO and let's get on with it

How come Hawaii isn't using more alternative energy sources? Wind, wave, geothermal, photovoltaic, hydro? For a place that has such abundant sunlight and rain, we seem to be shamefully behind the curve. Perhaps consumers think that they have no choice but to pay increasingly high electricity and water bills. With some of the highest charges for energy anyplace in the country, shouldn't we be doing something different?

Consumers of Hawaii arise--you have nothing to lose but the outrageous utility bills you pay. And nothing's getting cheaper in Hawaii these days, so why not work at reducing this expense, because there are alternative ways to get our electricity without burning expensive oil? We should do this.

In the real world outside of Hawaii people are working hard to reduce their energy costs and dependence on imported oil. Hawaii can do the same.

Our government chases futilely after a high-tech dream while not using technology for our own benefit. Go figure. How can we be the high-tech center of the Pacific if we aren't leaders in using high-tech ourselves? Alternative energy generation isn't even so high-tech anymore, it's dropping down to commonplace while we are ignoring it. Wind power and wave power are not unproven technologies--mainstream companies like General Electric and Siemens are industry leaders in wind and wave power, respectively.

How to make the transition in Hawaii?

First off, we can do something simple. We should be using rain water in places that have it. It's a free resource that can be saved and used to flush toilets, wash cars, water lawns, and more. With a bit of filtering it can do the laundry. With a bit more, it can be drinking water.

This should be easy. Of course, there are places that are "off the grid" that already use their abundant rainfall. We should be using it in Manoa, Nuuanu and other places where we have the rain. Imagine no more water bills! And no worries when the water rationing comes, as it must if we keep building new homes at the current pace.

HECO knows that biofuels won't work in the long run. It's too energy inefficient to raise them. And guess what--it will take water. So better learn to make use of the free water you have before housing, golf courses and even biofuel production demand the municipal water you're now using.

Using rain water isn't directly related to making electricity, but it is part of the complete picture of reducing our dependence on renewable resources.

Give up on HECO as an alternative energy promoter

What is more ridiculous than depending on the electric company to lower its profits?

We should give up waiting for HECO to lead us to energy independence. That's not a good plan.

Getting HECO to spend money on energy efficiency programs and renewable energy programs is not likely to meet with success. The legislature has even tried to get them to spend the money they collect from customers for energy efficiency programs, but I understand that they haven't complied.

Why not set up alternative companies to provide alternative energy? They would have the incentive to succeed. And yes, they would compete against HECO on all islands. These companies could do wind, water, or smaller industrial, retail or residential systems and would benefit from tax incentives.

At the same time, HECO's ability to maintain its profits protected from fuel costs should be reduced by gradually cutting the fuel surcharge. If they raise rates, then consumers will be more inclined to push alternative and renewable options and to purchase energy from alternative companies when available. Of course, we'll need a net metering law so that homes and businesses can send their homemade power back onto the grid and eliminate HECO charges altogether.

If HECO would like to compete against the new companies by providing renewable energy itself, of course it is free to do so, but would not share tax incentives necessarily. Our electric companies already have the income to do anything they like.

Disconnect HECO from the legislature

We can't expect our elected officials to make decisions that favor us (as they should) over corporate interests such as HECO's when corporations are in bed with legislators. HECO and its PACs not only contribute to legislators, but HECO employees are "embedded lobbyists" at the legislature. That's right, HECO employees, either on payroll or on leave, work side by side with legislators in their offices. They not only have the chance to influence legislation but they can act as spies.

So another way ordinary citizens can help take control of our energy future is to call or write House and Senate leaders and ask them to evict HECO and other corporate lobbyists from legislative offices. (Speaker of the House Calvin Say: phone 586-6100, fax 586-6101, e-mail repsay@Capitol.hawaii.gov; Senate President Colleen Hanabusa: phone 586-7793; Fax 586-7797 email senhanabusa@Capitol.hawaii.gov).

Flash--this just in (really): I just heard a couple of hours ago that Senator Hanabusa, the new senate president, may have an embedded lobbyist from HECO working in her office this coming session. The rumor is still unconfirmed (and there's still time, Senator, to do the right thing and kick him out if this rumor is true!).


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