Friday, April 19, 2013


A good business to be in? Make money by not generating electricity

by Larry Geller

I know I should leave writing about energy issues to Henry Curtis, I admit to being confused about what goes on between HECO, the PUC and all the other players.

By “players” I mean all those who are playing around with what we pay each month for electricity.

Hawaii rate payers fork over about three times the national average to run our electric toothbrushes. It seems unfair that we should get a headache while brushing our teeth.

The whole game seems stacked against us. HECO always wins, we always pay.

As I understand it, as people put solar panels on their rooftops, they of course buy less electricity from HECO. So HECO can then raise the rates on the rest of us in order to keep their profit, which is guaranteed to them regardless.

I do understand that for the foreseeable future we need to keep spinning generating capacity, because solar and wind energy diminish as the sky darkens or winds fail. But still, what we have here is a scheme that guarantees those of us who cannot put in solar panels, or who pay for electricity used by the city (for example) through our taxes, will see increasing, not decreasing, costs as Hawaii reduces its dependence on fossil fuels. It’s stunning to me that the proposed undersea cable project will not only blight the Neighbor Islands with wind farms for the benefit of Oahu consumers, but that Oahu ratepayers will have to fork over the big bucks to pay for that scheme.

Speaking of a headache, if that cable goes in, you won’t want to open your electric bill each month. That doesn’t compute any way I look at it.

This is not the way it was supposed to work. I don’t think that’s the way it should work. We must be fools if we let this go on.

The latest is that The Gas Company wants to bring in LNG (liquefied natural gas), which is cheaper than petroleum. Cheaper sounds good, though if the LNG is produced by fracking, it is extremely bad for the environment—even threatening the viability of water supplies. And it could delay the switch to renewable sources of energy.

(I’m still a fan of wave power, and wish that investment would be directed in that direction to make it happen sooner.)

HECO supports The Gas Company’s plan.

Why? Hmmm? I wonder if this means our rates will go up, not down again?

Isn’t it a strange setup when a company can be compensated well for doing less? I can’t think of any other business that works that way.


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