Sunday, December 28, 2008


HECO in the dark about the blackout

by Larry Geller

Ask anyone what caused the recent power blackout, and they’ll tell you, “lightning.” Ask HECO, and they’re still not sure. Shouldn’t we be concerned that the Governor is turning our alternative energy future over to the same folks who don’t understand how to keep the power flowing with what they’ve got?

It doesn’t even take a storm. We all know that it can be a perfectly clear, sunny day on Oahu and poof, the TV blinks off.

Ok, but on Friday the sky lit up with lightning, a spectacular show. We don’t get that many thunderstorms here on Oahu. There was enough lightning on Friday that it was time to turn off the computers and TV because they could be damaged. Enough lightning that I’m sure many people were just waiting for the power failure to happen. They were not wrong.

Now, there are a million people more or less living on this island who could put two and two together and come to the conclusion that lightning caused the island-wide outage.

The only ones who seem clueless about this are HECO executives, or at least the one quoted by the Advertiser today:

HECO yesterday wasn't ready to say lightning was the cause of the blackout.

"We don't have any clear indication that there may have been any type of direct strikes by lightning," [HECO spokesman Darren] Pai said.

Honolulu Police officials told the city's Department of Emergency Management Friday night that they were able to determine that several of the transmission lines had been hit by lightning.

Pai said, "We do know that it is possible that if there was some type of near-miss that could have caused those lines to trip." [Honolulu Advertiser, HECO won't say whether lightning caused blackout, 12/28/2008]

Yes, and most of us know that it’s not necessary to have a direct hit. Doesn’t matter, the cause was clearly lightning. Two plus two equals what?

Pai said HECO also will be looking at whether the peak use of electricity early Friday evening might also have been a factor in the shutdown. [Star-Bulletin, HECO says outages impossible to stop,12/28/2008]

Sure, like people were cranking up the air conditioners on a cool rainy night? Give me a break. It was lightning, Mr. Pai. Lightning.

Kapolei and Makakilo apparently stayed lit up until about 8:30 when the system failed them, too. Why did that happen? Parts of Oahu remained without power through Saturday. Why?

This coming legislative session may be a good time to question whether the “ambitious” plan signed by the administration on October 20 that keeps HECO in charge of power distribution makes sense. Shouldn’t we be looking at something like this:


From their webpages:

The NYISO – New York’s Independent System Operator

The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) manages New York’s electricity transmission grid – a 10,775-mile network of high-voltage lines that carry electricity throughout the state. The NYISO also oversees wholesale electricity markets where more than $50 billion has been transacted since 1999.

The people of the NYISO understand their tremendous responsibility, and they take great pride in keeping the power flowing to 19.2 million New Yorkers. The state’s geographic location also means that the NYISO serves as the pivot point for the transfer of electricity to and from the Northeastern U.S. and Canada. The NYISO is a national leader in innovation and technology, and provides New York with the most sophisticated and comprehensive energy management system in the United States.

The NYISO is a not-for-profit corporation regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It is governed by a 10-member Board of Directors whose members come from the power industry, environmental organizations, and the fields of finance, academia, technology and communications. The members of the Board, as well as all employees, are independent; they have no business, financial, operating or other direct relationship to any Market Participant or stakeholder.

The mission of the NYISO, in collaboration with its stakeholders, is to serve the public interest by:

  • Maintaining and enhancing regional reliability
  • Promoting and operating a fair and competitive electric wholesale market
  • Achieving these objectives in a cost-effective manner
  • Providing quality customer service

But in Hawaii we just continue as we were:

Lingle said she was at a private Chabad dinner in Kahala celebrating the end of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights when the power went out.

“We had a lot of candles on the table,” she said.  So when the lights went out, Lingle said they just continued with the dinner. [Star-Bulletin, 12/27/2008]

It’s time to realize that we can expect no miracles. If we are to move towards more energy independence, we need to get up from our chairs and go make something happen. Putting our faith in a company whose shareholder interests are best served by making a profit from burning fuel is not going to work. What about scrapping the “ambitious” plan and installing a framework that will serve Oahu (and Hawaii) best?



Did you ever see that movie where certain electrical grids in a city were shut down then replaced with another source? And the process was performed on each grid until they controlled all of it. The ʻother sourceʻ in the movie being a shadow government or something.

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