Aina Koa Pono Slams State Regulators for Rejecting Biofuels Contract

Source: Aina Koa Pono

A local biofuels company whose contract was just rejected by state regulators says it may take its business to the mainland.

Aina Koa Pono called the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission's rejection of a $350 million contract with Hawaiian Electric Co. short-sighted. The company said the ruling flaunts energy mandates, effectively killed any future biofuels program in Hawaii and furthered the state’s reputation as a difficult place to do business.

Last month’s PUC ruling said the cost of Aina Koa Pono’s fuel was “excessive, not cost-effective, and thus, is unreasonable and inconsistent with the public interest.”

The contract is the first of several local biofuels projects to be reviewed by the PUC. Hawaiian Electric's recent push to use biofuels in its generators to meet state clean energy mandates has attracted controversy for the cost it could entail for Hawaii residents who already pay the highest rates for electricity in the country. Critics argue that cheaper renewable sources, such as solar, wind and geothermal, should take precedence.

In light of the decision, Aina Koa Pono is negotiating with a mainland buyer for the fuel it plans to produce from a proposed biofuels plant in the Kau region of the Big Island, according to Kenton Eldridge, co-founder of the company. Aina Koa Pono hopes to use feedstocks, such as sweet sorghum, to produce the biofuels.

PUC commissioners did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

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