Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Hawaii's Utility Advocate

By Henry Curtis

Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) has asked the Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission to approve the HECO-Aina Koa Pono Biofuel Supply Contract (Docket 2011-0005). According to HECO, the technology that Aina Koa Pono will use has never been commercially proven.

On August 23, 2011 the Consumer Advocate filed their Statement of Position in the regulatory proceeding.

The Consumer Advocate asked questions: "Are there available options that can be considered as an alternative to the Supply Contract? What are the costs of those available options as compared to the Supply Contract?" (p. 23)

Considering alternatives makes sense because at this time the PUC and Consumer Advocate are reviewing a proposal by Puna Geothermal Ventures (Docket 2011-0040) to expand baseload geothermal energy using closed loop technology whereby their are no air emissions. PGV has proposed a price  that is 50% of the Aina Koa Pono price. One half of the price for proven technology.

The Consumer Advocate then answered their questions by ignoring the geothermal option: "Thus, at this time, it appears that the Companies' generating units are the primary feasible alternative to providing grid services." (p. 27)

The Consumer Advocate then elaborated on what the term "reasonable" means:

"The Consumer Advocate believes that the initiation and consideration of an environmental assessment ("EA") process pursuant to HRS §343-5 and any subsequent determination of whether there may be any significant effects on the environment which may necessitate an EIS is not within the Commission's statutory authority. The Commission's authority in the instant proceeding is confined to determining the reasonableness of the terms provided within the proposed contract between the HECO Companies and Aina Koa as it relates to the determination of the utility's revenue requirement and resultant impact on applicable rates." (p. 49)

Finally, the Consumer Advocate adopted unsubstantiated HECO allegations that

 "It has been recognized in various forums that while Oahu has the largest customer base of the electric utility companies,  Oahu does not have some of the potential energy resources that the other islands have." (p. 43)

# # #


Maybe I'm missing something here. Puna Geothermal and its production are confined to the Big Island. HECO is responsible only for Oahu's power. So why are we considering Puna Geothermal in the context of HECO's Oahu generator fuel? Is there a recognized source of geothermal energy on Oahu that Puna Geothermal's techology could utilize? If so, where?

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