Sunday, April 03, 2011


Power for and by the people of Hawaii—stop SB367

by Larry Geller

There’s a bill that needs to be stopped: SB367, which would dip into our pockets for the profit of a couple of Maui County landowners. The bill is scheduled to be heard by the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, 4/5/2011 2:00 p.m. in conference room 308. It’s easy to submit testimony. Think of your wallet. Click on that link and say something.

We need to change the direction that the state is moving in—and return power to the people instead of big moneyed interests. There are alternatives to the Neighbor Island wind project—in fact, alternatives that will produce continuous energy and don’t need those long, expensive and lossy undersea cables.

I’m not sure that HECO customers understand that they will be on the hook for the costs of the proposed undersea cables to bring Neighbor Island power to Oahu. And not just Oahu ratepayers, but all HECO customers.

It is not just Honolulu's electricity customers who will share the as-yet-unannounced costs of this $1 billion cable. As the legislation is currently written, all HECO ratepayers would share in these costs - including those residents of Lanai and Molokai who, while not receiving any of this wind-generated power, will share these costs as they see their home islands become an industrial wind power plant for Oahu.

Despite HECO's claims to the contrary, SB367 does not balance risk. It allocates that risk - and all recovered costs - onto ratepayers.

[Maui News, Viewpoint: Specifics of SB367 on undersea cable clarified, 3/27/2011]

In an email circulated yesterday, Life of the Land’s Henry Curtis urged action to stop SB367:

SB 367 SD3 HD1would create a PUC regulatory structure for undersea cables whereby ratepayers would carry all of the risk and the utility would make all of the profit.

* The utility argument was that it had to happen this year so that a cable company could be chosen this fall.

However, which islands will get proposed windfarms and which size the undersea cables need to be has hit a snag.

Last year the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) ruled that both FirstWind (Moloka`i) and Castle & Cooke (Lana`i) had to file with the PUC by March 18, 2011  term sheets laying out the cost of wind energy.

FirstWind defaulted and did not file a timely excuse. Almost 2 weeks late, FirstWind asked for an 8 month extension.

* The argument that Big Wind is the only answer is also in dispute. The Big Wind EIS Preparation Notice said that there are two alternatives, Big Wind with planning and Big Wind without planning.

Numerous comments to the EISPN challenged this.

DBEDT Office of Planning (March 1, 2011): “it is necessary for the draft EIS to explore alternatives”

US Environmental Protection Agency (Feb 28, 2011): “We recommend analysis of additional alternatives as early as possible”

Rather than rush thru a bad piece of legislation, we should wait until it has been determined whether Big Wind makes sense, and if so, under what conditions.

See also: Testimony needed on billion dollar undersea cable bills (2/9/2011)

The state’s energy direction should not be determined by those big companies that will profit while passing the risk on to the rest of us. Some have described this as “privatized profit and socialized risk,” though I’m not too fond of the phrase.

There are alternatives that languish while this Neighbor Island wind project advances in the Legislature. In the next article, I’ll mention what’s happening with some tidal power projects elsewhere. Note that wind power is intermittent.

Aside from the problems with the undersea cable proposal, we need to keep in mind that there are alternatives, many of which could make much more sense for Hawaii. Tidal power, wave power and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) provide continuous power. They are also out-of-sight and don’t meet with NIMBY objections nor ruin Hawaii’s attraction for tourists or make life miserable for residents.

Finally, this wind project may not be producing for some time. More from the Maui News article:

What is not clear is when the cable (or the Neighbor Island wind power plants) would be completed. DBEDT often suggests 2014, but its partner, the U.S. Department of Energy, has said 2020 in public meetings.

We could be stuck with it and paying for it while better alternatives could have come on line in about the same time frame.

So please take the time to read the articles, Google for more, and send in some testimony for Tuesday’s hearing.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.


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