Friday, July 05, 2013


Walking the Walk

By Henry Curtis

Sophie Cocke wrote in Civil Beat today “Is Hawaii's Interisland Cable Plan Dead?”  Hawaiian Electric Co. says it is years ahead of schedule in meeting renewable energy goals. And it won't have to rely on controversial interisland cables to bring power from the neighbor islands to Oahu, the company says. [ ]  A new report [ ] says that Oahu can meet its renewable energy requirements on its own. As recently as last month, Robbie Alm, executive vice president of HECO, told Civil Beat that the utility couldn't reach 40 percent renewable energy by 2030 "without wind and cable." [ ] HECO spokesman Peter Rosegg attributes the change in outlook to the utility's recent request for low-cost renewable energy projects on Oahu.  [ ] The average combined prices of the projects, which include four solar projects and one wind farm, is about 16 cents per kilowatt hour, according to HECO. The price is lower than fuel costs — which are about 21 cents a kilowatt hour on Oahu — and less than past renewable energy contracts. Rosegg said that the lower price should pressure other developers to also reduce their bids.

The Report can be read many ways. As HECO has asserted, the Report is a birds-eye view from the 20,000 foot level. The details are still needed. And as currently filed HECO documents show, the reality is a utility that still believes in central station command and control strategies where the utility dominates the future.

HECO has filed documents in open PUC regulatory proceedings which state that HELCO can meet renewable energy requirements but HECO can not. This they allege is because Hawai`i Island has excessive renewable energy resources while Oahu lacks renewable resources. They assert that HECO and HELCO combined can meet renewable energy requirements. Therefore HELCO will buy high priced biofuel from Aina Koa Pono and HECO ratepayers will subsidize the price. In essence HECO ratepayers would be purchasing renewable energy credits from HELCO.

But at the same time, according to recent HECO pronouncements, HECO could save ratepayer money buy buying cheap renewable energy resources that are now available on O`ahu.

Therefore to meet renewable energy goals, HECO ratepayers could either save money or spend more money.

The Report suggests doing both!

So  why does HECO’s newly filed Report support the Aina Koa Pono proposal that is before the PUC?

Why is HECO claiming they no longer need the cable, but are going ahead with requesting cable bids anyway?

Perhaps because over the last few years HECO has significantly beefed up their PR division. Ratepayer money to spin one reality while the company does what it always has done.

That is why the Company largely refused to answer questions posed by the 68-member Advisory Group hand-picked by the PUC to monitor and advise the utility as they were drafting their report.

By contrast L.A.’s Department of Water and Power is rollingout the country’s biggest urban rooftop program, which will pay residents for solar energy they produce in excess of their own needs. That will give residents a reason to install more solar capacity on their roofs than they can use in their homes.

Former Obama Energy Secretary Stephen Chu would like utilities to start installing solar panels andbatteries storage units in people's homes. [ ] They will say, allow us to use your roof, allow us to use a little corner of your garage, and we will equip you with solar power. We own it. We maintain it. We're responsible for it. You don't have any out-of-pocket expenses. You just buy electricity at the same rate, or maybe even a lower rate. In addition to that, you have, you know, like five kilowatts of energy storage in your home. And five kilowatts - when you're in a blackout situation and you want to keep your refrigerator going, you want to keep a couple of energy-efficient light bulbs lit at night - that goes a long way.

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I still sit befuddled as to how HECO can possibly justify a partnership with Aina Koa Pono to buy bio-fuel priced on a formula that assumes petroleum costs $200 per barrel and then demand that rate payers across the State pay for the energy that goes to Hawaii Island. Apparently this enormous boondoggle is still alive! FrankenFuel!

When HECO can explain this whopper, then I'll listen to its other pronouncements about alternative energy strategies.

Too bad ratepayers canʻt go on strike.
But then again if momentum builds for something, thereʻs no stopping it and a strike might not seem as impossible as it sounds.

If HECO takes 14 plants offline, how will they supply the energy to run the Choo Choo Train? That thing will gobble kilowatts like a fat kid at an all-you-can-eat spam musubi buffet. Sunshine Train? Moonshine Train?

5 kilowatt hours is the unit of energy storage. Important to get that right.


3 plants on Oahu dude....not 14

So HECO will shut 3 plants? OK, but I don't think that answered the question. If the current system is at or near capacity, how will they run the rail 20/7/365 with fewer plants? And really...."dude"?

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