Sunday, October 31, 2010


A seesaw is balanced part of the time

By Henry Curtis

At a recent presentation on energy policy I suggested that people who wanted Hawai`i to be independent of fossil fuels could sit around a table and come up with plans. The ante to sit at the table would be that you would have to state a way that Hawai`i could do it. Once at the table, individuals could change the way they would get Hawai`i off fossil fuels.

One persons in the audience said the panel should be balanced with people who do not think it is possible. The moderator agreed. That is just what is not needed: people who sap group energy by nay saying all proposals.

Recently one person told me they did not used to support the inter-island electric transmission cable, but then they talked to someone with the utility and realized that you need balance, some of everything. So as long as it is part of the solution then it is okay.

The fallacy of that argument lies in recent history. The Bush-Lingle-HECO Energy Agreement calls for 70% clean energy by 2030. It would allegedly streamline the regulatory process, increase HECO’s bottom line through a decoupling mechanism, and increase renewable energy.

Each issue would be decided by itself in a regulatory case before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

When the decoupling issue came up, HECO aggressively supported it. DBEDT argued that the PUC should conditionally approve it, the condition being that there should be renewable energy benchmarks the utility would have to make. The PUC didn’t see it that way. They gave the utility what it wanted.

The major renewable energy docket, with the lousy name “feed-in tariffs,” is bogged down. The utility dug in and fought against rapid deployment. The PUC again gave the utility what it wants.

Thus the balanced portfolio heavily favors the utility.

This balance can also be seen with state laws. There is no priority between the following renewable fuels: ethanol made from coal, heat generated from coal, biofuels made from petroleum, and photovoltaic panels. Each of them can be used as part of a balanced portfolio to get us off imported fossil fuels, at least according to the warped definitions that are used in Hawai`i.

The bottom line is, “green,” “balanced,” and “sustainable” are all vague terms that avoid the details of the path forward that is so needed.

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