Saturday, April 18, 2009


Report on Hawaii alternative energy activities

by Larry Geller

The Feed-In Tariff hearings ended Friday. The hearing, that Henry Curtis attended and briefly reports on below, took all of April 13-17, a whole, intensive week.

Stakes are high both for the utility companies and for the rest of us, who have been paying absurdly high energy rates because of the utilities’ reliance on oil rather than renewable sources.

This report, covering several energy-related subjects, is from Henry Curtis, tireless advocate from Life of the Land. Before you read this, I’d like to suggest that you check out their website and consider supporting what Henry is doing. It’s amazing to me that he can press on so consistently and relentlessly, on our behalf, with so little resources.

So go to their website, figure out how to send money, and stand up for a sensible energy policy that favors the people of Hawaii rather than the giant fossil-fuel burners. I’ll ask you again after Henry’s report.


In Europe, the use of Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) have been used successfully to rapidly increase the use of renewable energy. In essence, energy producers are guaranteed a set price (above the retail rate to sell renewable energy to the utility.

The Public Utilities Commission held an Evidentiary Hearing this week. Because it would be impractical to allow each party to cross-examine each of the 21 parties, the PUC has brought in outside highly qualified consultants (Scott Hempling) to ask questions on behalf of the Commission to all parties.

Click to see our position:   Life of the Land Closing Statement

Shenanigans continue at the HECO-Imperium Palm Oil Biofuel Contract contested case proceeding continues. Each party had to write their Opening Brief three weeks after the release of the transcripts for the October Evidentiary Hearing.

For some reason, the court reporter gave HECO the transcript two weeks before giving it to us. HECO then requested to revise their contract with Imperium on the grounds that Imperium could not meet the terms of their signed agreement with HECO.

The new Evidentiary Hearing was held in March. And when were the transcripts available?

According to the court reporter, Thursday, proceeding Good Friday, proceeding the 5-day Feed-in Tariff Evidentiary Hearing. HECO can handle this process because the outside law firm hired by HECO for the Biofuel Docket is different than the outside law firm hired by HECO for the FiT docket.

Thus they can work on the Biofuel Brief while we can't. (We haven't even been given a copy of the transcript yet). We will be asking the PUC for an additional 10 days to allow all parties a reasonable amount of time to file Briefs.

Luckily the PUC has a new Data Management System, which we and other intervenors are testing before it becomes public). This has enabled us to down load the massive files associated with the rate case. (All documents associated with all regulatory proceedings over the past 10 years can be downloaded).

HECO, MECO & HELCO is replacing their three Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) processes with one CESP process.

However, during the 1-2 years between the close of the IRP and the development of the CESP, all the massive HCEI Transformation and Biofuel Supply Contracts will occur.

This means that the public is not privy to the massive number of moving parts of the new jigsaw puzzle called ''Clean Energy'' (which is not even defined under HCEI).

As Life of the Land was the only party to the IRPs which filed a statement with the PUC noting that we were losing our due process under the old system, the PUC required HECO to consult with Life of the Land about the new process.

It was up to us to point out to HECO that they have already failed to meet the first deadline in the new process: meeting with the public and filing a proposed framework to the PUC by March 30, 2009. That has been pushed back so HECO can concentrate on ramming all of these separate dockets through the Regulatory Process.

The State Legislature has just cut 17 vacant and new positions from the PUC. These positions were going to be used by the PUC to handle the onslaught of new energy filings.

The Legislature is also considering banning new fossil fuel power plants but many versions of the bill have exempted anyone actually planning to build a fossil fuel power plant.

The State legislature is also considering a governmental task force that would examine both agriculture and energy. This is key is we want to examine the issues holistically.

The Smart Grid docket is moving forward and we are a party.

The Federal Energy Management Commission (FERC) proceeding re Grays Harbor proposal to build a 100MW wave/wind farm off La`au Point Molokai has 6 parties: the applicant, 4 federal agencies and Life of the Land. Two federal agencies: FERC and the Mineral Management Service (MMS) have agreed to end their dispute about who controls offshore renewable energy development. As a result, FERC has closed all preliminary permit applications including Grays Harbor.

The last paragraph is about the wind/wave farm proposed to be located in the middle of our whale sanctuary. You read about that first right here on Disappeared News in December, 2008. Only Henry has intervened in the process. No one asked him to do that. Please support Life of the Land. We shouldn’t have to trade whales and our fishing areas for the profits of a Washington State company.

The Advertiser got on the story only in March, 2009, after the comment period was over. Thank goodness Henry had already intervened, otherwise we’d be watching helplessly as the permits are issued and the project goes forward. Please support Life of the Land.

Now, you might be wondering, as I am, what CESP stands for. It means “Clean Energy Scenario Planning” and is part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative. I took a look at some HECO slides which include a description of the process starting on page 9, and my heart sank. Anything this complex is likely to be dominated by the organization with the most resources to devote to it (i.e., HECO), so we’ll have to see how it goes. Having a good feed-in tariff may be a partial antidote to utility domination of the planning process.

Giving lots of support to Life of the Land may help also. In a way, I’m glad Henry is doing this work, and not me. It’s remarkable that he first of all understands all of this, and second that he is dedicated enough to repeatedly defend the public interest against the machinations of large corporate interests.


What ever happened to the “consumer advocate” that’s supposed to represent consumers in PUC proceedings?

Yes, Virginia, there is a consumer advocate. An Easter bunny too, and maybe a Great Pumpkin who rises from the pumpkin patch on Thanksgiving. You just gotta believe.

It has been argued that the Consumer Advocate represents the governor rather than the consumer or ratepayer. Just like Santa doesn't make toys in his workshop, he works at the department store picking parents' wallets.

Neither is fictious, but their purpose is the reverse of the myth.

The Consumer Advocate was the one who let bogus market studies on the Superferry get a pass. That's all the excuse the PUC needed on it.

Of course as we all know and have seen the CA gets an "F" for effectiveness... I'm just asking for the attendance record- he/she seems to be absent or at least cutting class

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