Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Blue Planet Foundation

By Henry Curtis

Hawai`i State Legislature (2011): Legislative Priorities

This past Saturday the Environmental Caucus of the Democratic Party met. There were a number of presentations including one by Blue Planet’s Jeff Mikulina.

Blue Planet Foundation’s top three issues for the 2011 State Legislature

Jeff Mikulina stated that there are three drivers for energy legislation: security, cost and climate.

(1) The Clean Energy Investment Fund. In the past year the barrel tax has raised $14.5 for the general fund, $3.5M for agriculture and $5.6M for energy. The energy money is used to fund the DBEDT Energy Office and for the UH Hawaii Natural Energy Institute. This year all of the money should go towards energy and agriculture. The barrel tax should be increased in order to raise $120M/year.

(2) The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) should handle only rate issues. They should be the hammer in rate cases: rewards for the utility reaching specific goals, symmetrical penalties for failure to reach the goals. A new entity --the Hawaii Energy Authority (HEA) -- which was suggested by then candidate Neil Abercrombie, should deal with policy, planning and reliability. HEA should deal with grid standards, reliability standards, curtailment issues, manage all interfaces to the grid, handle long-term planning, determine when and where improvements are needed in transmission, storage, and efficiency. In Texas a non-utility entity acquires all renewable energy and passes it into the grid. The utility should become a transmission and wires company.

(3) Energy efficiency is the largest, cheapest, safest, fastest option. The solar roofs law (mandated new solar water heaters or gas heaters for all new houses) has resulted in an increase of new homes with solar water heaters. In 2009 just 35% of new homes had solar water heaters. This has risen this year to 79%. That is great. The loophole allowing gas instead of solar should be eliminated or significantly restricted. Just as there are "green tags" for renewable energy there should be "white tags" for energy efficiency, with perhaps a financial payment for installing energy efficiency devices.

The Formation of Blue Planet

Henk Rogers reevaluated his life following a heart attack in 2005. He decided to parlay his money and business connections into solving three issues: getting the Earth off carbon-based fuel, ending war, and sending a message between the universes (this one will end with a Big Collapse, the next one will start with a Big Bang, how to transfer info between them?).

He founded the Blue Planet Foundation as a vehicle for his money and connections so that Hawai`i could get off oil or fossil fuel or carbon. Using mostly his money, Blue Planet was seeded with $2,800,000 in its first two years of operations. Blue Planet Foundation focuses on a top-down strategy.

"Founded by Henk Rogers, its mission is to reduce if not eliminate Hawai`i's dependence on fossil fuel. [Henk Rogers]: 'I started the Blue Planet Foundation because its related to my first mission in life which is to end the use of carbon based fuel in the world'" (Hawaii's Energy Situation: Blue Planet Foundation Mission video 1:23-1:37)

Blue Planet Advisory Board

The Blue Planet Advisory Board members are a who’s who among Hawai`i’s elite. The Advisory Board Co-Chairs are

* Senator Daniel Inouye, who was elected to the State House of Representatives and State Senate during the Territorial days, then served in the US House of Representatives (1959-62), and has been in the US Senate since 1962; and

* David McClain (13th President of the University of Hawai`i, 2004-09, who tied UH to secret UARC (University Affiliated Research Center) military research;

* Another member of the Advisory Board is Maurice Kaya (who left DBEDT following a state audit which was very critical of DBEDT Director Ted Liu).

Blue Planet Foundation Board of Directors

The Blue Planet Foundation Board of Directors includes Henk and his wife Akemi, several former business colleagues, and some major Hawai`i power brokers including

* Former Hawai`i Governor Benjamin Cayetano;

* Former Hawai`i Governor George Ariyoshi

* Dr. Peter E. Crouch, Dean of the UH College of Engineering;

* Stanley W. Hong, Esq., former President of Waste Management of Hawaii, Inc. who served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii and the Hawai`i Visitors Bureau;

* Elizabeth Kapu'uwailani Lindsey, Ph.D., an award-winning filmmaker and cultural anthropologist, and a former Miss Hawai'i who was married to Doc Buyers (1928 – 2006), Chairman and CEO C. Brewer & Co.; and

* Maxine Burkett, a UH Law Professor who was hired as a tenured professor. She serves as the inaugural Director of the UH Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy (ICAP), a Sea Grant College Program.

Energy not Environmental Group

"Jeff Mikulina ...bristles at the suggestion that his organization is an environmental group.”

Blue Planet Summit

Blue Planet sponsored a conference at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa in Ko Olina (April 3-5, 2008). The keynote speech was delivered by Hawaii's Lieutenant Governor James R. "Duke" Aiona, Jr.

Senator Daniel K. Inouye: "I'm pleased to be affiliated with the Blue Planet Summit. It will provide a unique window on the world with Hawaii in the spotlight for its diverse test beds in renewable energy efficiency, generation and distribution. From local to global, the energy challenge is upon us, and it will take political will and discipline to institute sustainable change. There is much work to be done."

Honua Award

Blue Planet Foundation gives a Honua Award each year. Past recipients are Blue Planet Advisory Board member Maurice Kaya (2008), Sopogy CEO Darren Kimura (2009) and Kaneohe Marine Air Corps Commander Colonel Rice (2010).


Blue Planet Foundation provided speakers and keynote speakers to a number of conferences including: Puna Geothermal Venture's Kuleana Business Conference and Trade Show (May 6, 2009), Tech Hui Conference (July 20, 2009), Hawaiian Business Conference & Economic Expo (January 11, 2010 to January 13, 2010), Hawaii Renewable Energy Development Venture's Tech Enterprise Conference (June 24, 2010), Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo (August 30-September 2, 2010), World Congress on Zero Emissions (September 13-17, 2010).

Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI)

In October 2008 the Hawaii Clean Energy Agreement (HCEI) was signed by Governor Linda Lingle, Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), and the Department of Commence and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) Division of Consumer Advocacy (Consumer Advocate). The Agreement advocated automatic approval, expedited permitting, extending the federal biofuel tax credits and extending them to palm oil, allowing the utility to switch to biofuels without triggering review under the EPA’s New Source Review (NSR) process and excluding the Kilauea eruption from air permit review.

Blue Planet Foundation seeks to work quietly, often behind closed doors, to effectuate change. Thus they immediately and publicly endorsed the Energy Agreement while disagreeing privately with some of the things in the agreement. The day the Energy Agreement was inked, Blue Planet sent out a press release:

Blue Planet Foundation News Release (October 20, 2008): “Blue Planet Applauds Historic Energy Agreement. The Blue Planet Foundation today praised both Hawaiian Electric Company and the State of Hawai'i for their revolutionary agreement regarding Hawaii's energy future. ...The Blue Planet Foundation billed the agreement as a revolution in how Hawai'i will generate and use energy in the future. 'This is more than a step in the right direction, this is a leap,’ said Henk Rogers, Founder of the Blue Planet Foundation. ...'Today's agreement represents transformative change,’ said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation.”

Letter to the Editor by Jeffrey Mikulina, NY Times (December 9, 2008):Gov. Linda Lingle's administration has teamed with the Department of Energy to develop the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, a package of aggressive policies to transform how we generate and use energy in the islands.”

Senator Daniel Inouye: The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative is an important step in furtherance of our commitment to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

Regulatory Actions

Blue Planet Foundation has intervened in a half-dozen regulatory proceedings before the PUC. They have hired high-powered consultants and have also been willing to host meetings for parties other than the utility. The regulatory proceedings that they intervened on are Feed-in Tariffs (2008-0273), Decoupling (2008-0274), PV Host Pilot Program (2009-0098), Integrated Resource planning (2009-0108), Interconnection of Distributed Generation (2010-0015), and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standards (2010-0037).


The Blue Planet message has been updated and transformed over the past 2-3 years that Blue planet has existed.

Blue Planet endorsing the Energy Agreement which called for federal tax credits for palm oil biodiesel and using them in HECO’s power plants. In private conversations Blue Planet, after some prodding, stated that they opposed palm oil biodiesel to fuel utility power plants. Eventually their position evolved and they became publicly against palm oil biodiesel.

Blue Planet Foundation (May 2009): “House Bill 1464 is an omnibus clean energy bill that contains policies to increase the amount of clean energy required to be produced by the utility ...but the law unfortunately still allows imported biofuels, such as biodiesel produced from tropical palm oil plantations in former rainforest areas, to be included as renewable energy.”

Inter-Island Cable

Robbie Alm (HECO): “an interisland cable system ...must be built”

KITV: The power would come from wind farms proposed for Lanai and Molokai and delivered by underwater cable to Oahu where it could provide one third of the electricity. ...‘We put aside our different perspectives on issues to in order to reach our common goal and we know it won't be easy,’ Gov. Linda Lingle said. ...‘You have the support of the people. It's not going to be easy but we must do it,’ said Sen. Daniel Inouye.”

At first Blue Planet endorsed the cable, and then modified their position by stating that they would defer to residents of Moloka`i and Lana`i.

Hawaii dreams to be renewable, plugged-in islands By Mark Niesse, Associated Press (March 28, 2009): ‘There's a way to do it with minimal impact. The cable is the least of the environmental concerns,’ said Jeff Mikulina, executive director for the Blue Planet Foundation, whose mission is to make Hawaii energy independent. 'If we have private investors who are interested in doing this, then by all means let's do it.'"

Maui News (October 30, 2009): ''The main challenge is having an honest discussion and not saying it's a foregone conclusion,'' Mikulina said. ''The other challenge is, who's going to pay for it?''

Clean Energy Splits Environmentalists By Michael Levine, Civil Beat (May 20th, 2010): "Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, a clean energy advocacy group. ‘The car is about to go off the cliff and we're arguing about which radio station we're listening to.’ ...He says Blue Planet has yet to take a formal position on the cable, but would 'obviously' support it if the wind farms are built. He chalked up disagreements to the economics of an 'expensive bit of infrastructure,' but said Hawaii will need large-scale projects as well as a smart grid and decentralized power generation."

State moves ahead with undersea interisland cable for energy, KGMB/KHNL (June 10, 2010): "When you look at what's happening in the Gulf today, thank goodness we don't have oil offshore," said Jeff Mikulina of the Blue Planet Foundation. "But we do have plenty of wind. And windspills aren't so bad."


The Energy Agreement states: "The parties agree to analyze the expansion of the undersea cable system to the Island of Hawaii and to assess the potential of the expanded undersea cable to facilitate the development of additional renewable energy resources on the Island of Hawaii. The intent of this effort is to identify the ability to utilize ...geothermal ...resources to meet the electricity needs of the ratepayers of the Hawaiian Electric Companies. "

Environment: Hot Tempers in Hawaii (Time Magazine, Aug. 13, 1990) "The fight over geothermal energy has become one of the most divisive issues in Hawaii's history, pitting scientist against scientist and triggering demonstrations bigger than anything the state has seen since the Vietnam War. Last week trials began for 119 protesters hauled off in handcuffs in March for trying to block the gates at the test drilling site in the Wao Kele O Puna forest. ...'To suggest that the state of Hawaii is a villain for recklessly demolishing its rain forests is insulting and unfair,' said Senator Daniel Inouye in June, while asking Congress to appropriate $15 million for Hawaiian geothermal research."

Henk Rogers of Blue Planet Foundation spoke about geothermal at the Puna Geothermal Venture sponsored Kuleana Business Conference and Trade Show (2009): “Why are we tripping over our feet stopping ourselves from doing it? If New Zealand and Iceland can do it, why can’t we?”

Blue Planet Foundation founder Henk Rogers: We have all the geothermal you could possible need. There is enough of it on the big island to feed all of Hawaii. Native resistance to tapping into Pele is what prevents us from building a cable and connecting that to O'ahu. That is kind of crazy right? It is kind of crazy.” (Sep 18, 2009)

Energy Efficiency

Henk Rogers: "When people watch this show [Hawaii Home Energy Makeover] I would like them to understand that they have a part to play in the change that has to happen in Hawai`i and everybody has to contribute and the low hanging fruit is energy efficiency." (Hawaii Home Energy Makeover video: 46:28-41)

Jeff Mikulina: "I mentioned solar hot water, a great example the Romans figured out how to do this pretty well by lining their aqueducts with black granite on the way to their baths, not exactly cutting edge technology and we know that it works" (Hawai`i Conservation Fair 2009  video: 2:40-2:51)

The Moloka`i CFL Campaign

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) is closely tied to Senators Inouye and Akaka. At their 9th Annual Meeting (October 12-14, 2010) was held at the Hawai`i Convention Center served as an opportunity for a number of affiliated and interrelated organizations to show case their activities under the auspices of CNHA.

Blue Planet Foundation’s Gary Gill was the only presenter at the conference to talk about energy self-sufficiency. Robin Danner discussed the Blue Planet and CNHA campaign to offer CFLs to the residents of Moloka`i.

Blue Planet received a CHNA Award presented by CNHA CEO Robin Danner, who, in turn, was featured on the Blue Planet’s TV Show.

CNHA’s Energy Program Reaches Out to Waianae Valley Homesteaders: "The Blue Planet Foundation facilitated the partnership between CNHA and homestead community associations by providing a community organizing grant that ensures HEP’s main method of outreach remains. The local nonprofit has an agreement with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) to develop programs that attract capital resources to homestead areas statewide. In addition to the Homestead Energy Program, the nonprofit is also working on a capital pool to finance community facilities and charter schools."

Feed-In Tariffs

Blue Planet Foundation digs in and fights for its position at the regulatory level while maintaining a friendly “we are all on the same side” public image. This can be illustrated in the struggle to adopt feed-in tariffs.

Net Energy Metering (NEM) allows a self-generator to use the grid as a battery. During the day a customer is generating more energy than they need and they sell the excess to the grid. At night the customer is taking energy from the grid. The system uses one meter and the customer pays only for the net energy used. At the end of the year the system is zeroed out – any excess energy given to the grid without compensation. Therefore the installation is sized to minimize free electricity given to the utility. Under federal law, ratepayers may not receive payments from the utility is they give more electricity than they get.

Feed-In Tariffs (FiT) gets around this problem. Ratepayers have two meters. One is the traditional meter whereby the ratepayer buys electricity at the regular rate from the utility. The other meter sells electricity to the grid at a rate set by the PUC whereby the average ratepayer can recover their costs and make a small profit. In addition, there are well established and transparent contracts that allow for customer’s systems to quickly and efficiently integrate into the grid. Feed-In Tariffs have been used in Germany and Spain to lead to quick increases in renewable energy. In late 2010 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved an avoided cost scheme that allows for the legal establishment of FiTs in the U.S.

Blue Planet Foundation Reply Brief (June 26, 2009):  "The Opening Brief filed by the HECO Companies and Consumer Advocate on June 12, 2009  does not discuss the challenges to Hawaii's energy future stemming from the state's dangerous over-reliance on imported oil for transportation and electricity production. ...Nor does the HECO Opening Brief discuss the equally significant economic and environmental opportunities from a clean energy economy in Hawaii. ...the HECO Companies do not occupy the ‘middle ground’ in this proceeding. ...In terms of increased system penetration of renewable energy, the middle ground likely lies between the HECO Companies' estimate of replacing the NEM program with less than 12 MW annually of renewable energy on Oahu, and the estimate of 122.5 MW annually Statewide from an FIT proposed by intervenor parties. ...In the face of Hawaii's dangerous dependence on imported oil and the promise of economic revitalization from the State's swift transition to a clean energy economy, a proposal to replace the NEM program with less than 12 MW of renewable energy each year from an FIT on Oahu is a essentially a proposal to ‘remain at the starting line.’ It cannot reasonably be considered to be the ‘middle ground’ in this proceeding.”

The Commission adopted HECO’s limited Feed-In Tariff program.

Blue Planet's Comments (May 20, 2010): “Blue Planet respectfully urges the Commission to reject or modify the HECO Companies' proposed Tier 3 tariff filed April 29, 2010 (‘HECO Tariff') to the extent the tariff and its specific provisions unduly emphasize system reliability, economic curtailment, or ratepayer concerns. ...The goal of the FIT is to accelerate renewable energy use and development to meet Hawaii's energy objectives, and Blue Planet urges the Commission to adopt a tariff that is properly focused on achieving this overarching objective of the FIT program.”

The Commission adopted HECO’s proposal for Tier 3 (larger) systems.

Only a handful of ratepayers have signed up for FiT confirming the the broad based critique of HECO proposal.

Revamped tariffs streamline selling of power to HECO, Honolulu Star Advertiser (October 14, 2010): “The ‘feed-in tariff’ regime approved by the Public Utilities Commission yesterday allows companies generating up to 500 kilowatts of renewable energy to use a standard contract for pricing, terms and conditions when selling power to HECO’s utilities on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. ...Under its current structure the FIT program has separate rates for projects of up to 20 kilowatts and those producing from 20 kilowatts to 500 kilowatts. For example, a person selling power to HECO from a small photovoltaic system would be paid 21.8 cents per kilowatt hour. A person with a larger system would be paid 18.9 cents. For comparison, a typical HECO customer on Oahu pays 25 cents per kwh to buy electricity from the utility.

The Blue Planet Foundation, a Honolulu-based nonprofit working to establish Hawaii as a leader in energy independence, applauded the PUC’s decision. ‘It’s a victory in the effort for renewable energy,’ said Jeff Mikulina, Blue Planet’s executive director. ‘This makes it very simple to develop alternative energy systems. It’s our clean energy future that we’re excited about.’"

Blue Planet Foundation talks at various times talks about eliminating carbon-based fuel; oil; oil and gas; and/or fossil fuel. Carbon-based fuels include food; biofuel; and biomass and waste-to-energy based electricity such as H-Power. Oil includes both petroleum oil and vegetable oil. Blue Planet Foundation has placed greater emphasis on using a simple message, than on an accurate and consistent message.

Henry Curtis

This is the third in a series about Hawai`i groups. Previous posts were Life of the Land: A Brief History, and Hawaii’s Thousand Friends Celebrates the Big 30 in January.

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Hawaii did not have a Congressmen during the territorial days. Hawaii got that at statehood. So Inouye's bio is inaccurate. Maybe the fact-checking is too grassroots for a top-down strategy?

Correct me if I am wrong, but the barrel tax has resulted in an additional 3 cent per gallon tax in addition to previously existing county, state and federal gas taxes. So is Blue Planet Foundation now calling for a 5X increase in the barrel tax to effectively something like 15 cents per gallon of gas, on top of already close to 50 cents per gallon gas tax between county, state and federal? http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data_publications/petroleum_marketing_monthly/current/pdf/enote.pdf

Thank you for the partial correction.

Daniel Inouye was the Majority Leader in the Hawaii House of Representatives (1954-1958), a State Senator (1958-1959), a member of the House of Representatives (1959-1963), and was elected to the US Senate in 1962 (serving from 1963-).

Hawai`i did have representation in the U.S. House of Representatives limited to a single, non-voting delegate:

Robert William Wilcox (1900–1903)
Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole (1903–1922)
Henry Alexander Baldwin (1922)
William Paul Jarrett (1923–1927)
Victor Stewart Kaleoaloha Houston (1927–1933)
Lincoln Loy McCandless (1933–1935)
Samuel Wilder King (1935–1943)
Joseph Rider Farrington (1943–1954)
Mary Elizabeth Pruett Farrington (1954–1957)
John Anthony Burns (1957–1959)

Henry Curtis

I disagree with Blue Planet, Sierra Club, et.al. that the Hawaii state bureacracy needs more funding than it already has to make sound energy policy. Further taxes are not needed to make the transition to a renewable or "clean" energy policy that is viable.

The Commission has approved Tier 1 and Tier 2 feed-in tariffs, which are now available to potential tariff applicants.

However, the Commission, to my knowledge, has NOT approved Tier 3 feed-in tariffs as of this date.

Warren S. Bollmeier II, President
Hawaii Renewable Energy Alliance

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