Latest Articles

  • Hawaiian Electric CEO: We Will Continue to Pursue LNG

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Hawaiian Electric Industries CEO Connie Lau made it clear during her closing speech Thursday at the Maui Energy Conference that the company will continue to pursue liquefied natural gas as a “bridge fuel.”

    Moments earlier she highlighted how “amazingly aligned” virtually everyone seems to be in terms of the end goal of getting off imported oil and transforming the energy landscape.

    Lau acknowledged that people may disagree over how Hawaii gets there — and the pace. A temporary shift to LNG is definitely one of the areas in which there’s disagreement, particularly over the necessary infrastructure costs and concerns over the “fracking” process that is used to produce some natural gas.

    Hawaiian Electric Industries Chairwoman and CEO Connie Lau speaks at the Maui Energy Conference, Thursday.

    Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

    Her remarks closed the conference with the same tone and focus that HECO President Alan Oshima and NextEra Energy Hawaii President Eric Gleason had opened it with the previous day. It was a message of hope, of improving customer relationship and assuaging fears over NextEra’s purchase of HECO.

    When she and NextEra CEO Jim Robo jointly announced their $4.3 billion deal in December, the expectation was that it would close within a year. But the new head of the Public Utilities Commission, Randy Iwase, has since said that the regulatory process will likely take 18 months.

    A critical player in that review is the state Division of Consumer Advocate, headed by Jeff Ono,

  • Geothermal Study Planned for Hualalai Volcano

    · By Chad Blair

    The Hawaii Tribune-Herald has this item on big geothermal plans on the Big Island. Excerpt:

    The search for geothermal energy under the dormant Hualalai volcano is moving forward.

    A University of Hawaii researcher has asked the state Board of Land and Natural Resources for a geothermal exploration permit to conduct a noninvasive geophysical study of the west rift zone of Hualalai, just north of Kailua-Kona.

    The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, researcher Nicole Lautze, with the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, said in her application. She did not return a phone message left at her office by press time Monday.

    The Land board is scheduled to consider the application Friday. The meeting is held in Honolulu and begins at 9 a.m. …

    Hawaii, as you may be aware, is overly dependent on imported fossil fuels for its energy needs.

     

    Volcanic emissions on the Big Island.

    Flickr

  • Care to Weigh in on the Deal Between NextEra and Hawaiian Electric?

    · By Chad Blair

    NextEra Energy and the three utilities that fall under Hawaiian Electric — Hawaiian Electric Company, Hawaii Electric Light Company and Maui Electric Company  — have announced a series of 13 open house informational meetings across the state next month.

    Why?

    “To introduce residents to NextEra Energy and the benefits of the companies’ pending merger as well as to provide members of the public with the opportunity to provide input directly to company officials,” according to a press release.

    The NextEra-HEI deal is a big deal, one that is pending before the Public Utilities Commission and one that has attracted lots of concerns.

    The companies are spinning the positive. (Indeed, their website is www.forhawaiisfuture.com.)

    The Hawaiian Electric building in downtown Honolulu.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    “NextEra Energy shares Hawaiian Electric’s vision of increasing renewable energy, modernizing its grid, reducing Hawaii’s dependence on imported oil, integrating more rooftop solar energy and, importantly, lowering customer bills,” Eric Gleason, president of NextEra Energy Hawaii, said in a press release. “We recognize that addressing Hawaii’s energy challenges requires Hawaii-specific energy solutions, and that is why we look forward to meeting with and listening to residents across Hawaii.”

    Each meeting will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., where representatives from NextEra Energy and HEI will share their thoughts and listen to yours. The dates and locations are as follows:

    April 7

    Central Maui: Maui Electric Auditorium
    South Maui: Kihei Community Center

    April 8

    West Maui: Lahaina Civic Center
    Lanai: Lanai Community Center

    April 9

    Molokai: Kaunakakai Elementary School

  • Much-Touted Green Energy Program Falls Far Short of the Hype

    · By Patricia Tummons

    When the Hawaii Legislature passed Senate Bill 1087 in 2013, the bill was hailed as a way to democratize access to energy-saving technology, such as rooftop photovoltaic installations. Nearly two years later, as the program anticipated in the legislation is beginning to take shape, its scope is far more modest and bears little resemblance to the hype.

    “It is in the public interest to make cost-effective green infrastructure equipment options accessible and affordable to customers in an equitable way,” the bill stated.

    “A green infrastructure financing program administered by the state that capitalizes on existing ratepayer contributions for green infrastructure equipment can serve a critical role in ensuring all Hawaii electricity ratepayers receive the greatest opportunity for affordable and clean energy,” the legislators went on to say.

    Solar systems for low-income residents and renters were envisioned in the GEMS program through on-bill financing.

    Civil Beat

    The bill sailed through to passage, becoming Act 211 of the 2013 session. Testimony at the several committee hearings it received was almost universally laudatory. The only discouraging word came from Aaron S. Fujioka, then the administrator of the State Procurement Office. Every time the bill came up for a hearing, Fujioka urged legislators to delete the exemption from the state public procurement code that was carved out for the agency that is to administer the loan program at the heart of the system established by Act 211. (He was ignored.)

    Since then, the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism has received approval from the

  • Eight Industrial-Sized Solar Farms in the Works

    · By Sophie Cocke

    About 200,000 solar panels may soon cover about 160 open acres of land laced with kiawe trees and brush that stretch from the edges of Kamaile Academy to the base of the Waianae Mountains.

    The 27.6-megawatt project is one of eight large solar farms planned for Oahu that are expected to break ground by the end of the year in order to take advantage of lucrative federal tax credits. Hawaiian Electric Co. announced that it had signed agreements to purchase the energy by December and the applications are currently awaiting approval by the Public Utilities Commission.

    The PUC is expected to rule on each project separately. 

    Looking mauka of Ala Akau Street in Waianae, the site of Eurus’ proposed solar farm.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    If the projects move forward, their total area will span a total of about 1,400 acres, the size of 25 Ala Moana shopping centers, according to a review of applications filed with the PUC. The bulk of the solar panels will dot agricultural fields throughout central Oahu and along the North Shore, in addition to two projects planned for Waianae.

    At peak production, during the middle of the day when the sun is strongest, the panels are expected to supply more than one-eighth of Oahu’s electricity needs, according to HECO.

    Some Community Opposition

    While the projects will help the state meet its goals of developing more sources of local renewable energy and weaning Hawaii of of its dependence on foreign oil,

  • Big Island Electric Co-op Seeks to Intervene in NextEra Sale

    · By Sophie Cocke

    Big Island business and community leaders have formed a nonprofit coop called the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative to explore taking over Hawaii Electric Light Co., a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Co.

    The co-op would be owned by ratepayers, similar to the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative. However, the co-op is interested all of the island’s energy sectors not just the electric grid.

    The co-op association emerged in recent weeks with the announcement that Florida-based NextEra Energy has entered into an agreement to purchase HECO — a deal that is expected to close by the end of the year. Last week, the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative submitted an application to Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission, which must approve the sale, to intervene in the review of the merger.

    HELCO power plant

    Cory

    The Big Island co-op, in seeking to intervene in proceedings, is not taking a position for or against the sale, according to a press release issued by the co-op on Tuesday

    “We seek to participate in the discussion of the unique perspective of the residents of our island, and if appropriate, explore an option that would make for a fundamental change in the landscape of energy production and consumption on Hawaii Island,” HIEC director  Marco Mangelsdorf said in the press release.  “Being able to have more direct control over Hawaii Island’s present and future energy profile would provide us with an extraordinary opportunity to showcase what can be done on our island on many different and innovative levels.”

     Mangelsdorf is also the president of

  • Are Hawaiian Electric and NextEra Energy ‘Getting Married?’

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Some pills are easier to swallow with a spoonful of euphemistic language.

    Such is the case in the proposed sale of Hawaiian Electric Industries to Florida-based NextEra Energy.

    Company officials have carefully crafted their public messages to make the $4.3 billion deal go down easier in Hawaii, where residents can be quite sensitive to losing control of anything to the mainland, a lingering hangover from the United States overthrowing the kingdom in 1893.

    Jim Robo, chairman and CEO of NextEra Energy, gives Connie Lau, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric Industries, a kiss before speaking at a press conference announcing their proposed merger Dec. 3.

    Cory Lum / Civil Beat

    They are framing the transaction as a “partnership” between the two companies that will benefit everyone — shareholders, ratepayers, even the environment.

    That may all hold true, considering the vast resources NextEra brings to the table. But the parties are not exactly being forthright by calling the deal a “partnership” or “combination” as they have in full-page newspaper ads, press conferences and letters to hundreds of thousands of customers.

    After all, when a sale is completed, the buyer is the owner.

    During a press conference announcing the deal Dec. 3, HEI President and CEO Connie Lau and NextEra Chairman and CEO Jim Robo were asked how the media should describe the transaction.

    Lau likened it to a “marriage and dating.” Robo called it “a combination of Hawaiian Electric with NextEra.”

  • Harris: Hawaii Electric Rates Are Up 50 Percent Since 2009

    · By Manjari Fergusson

    Electricity rates have been rising in Hawaii over the last five years, adding to the high cost of living.

  • Going Off the Grid and the Solar Industry’s Holy Grail

    · By Sophie Cocke

    Technological advances could spur more people in Hawaii to abandon HECO.

  • Hawaii Regulators Stop Plans for Lanai Wind Farm, Undersea Cable

    · By Sophie Cocke

    The PUC takes actions that could dramatically change how HECO moves forward with renewable energy plans.

  • HECO Says Residents With Solar Aren’t Paying Their Fair Share of Costs

    · By Sophie Cocke

    Utility says it’s discussion needed on boosting costs for homeowners and businesses with solar panels.

  • A Very Special Fund Keeps Hawaii’s Electric Bills High

    · By Nathan Eagle

    By sapping energy commission funding, are lawmakers robbing Paul to pay Peter, and leaving us to foot the bill?

  • The Public Utilities Commission Finally Generates Some Sparks

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Could your power bills go down as PUC regulators hint at new era of assertive, but fair, leadership? We may find out.

  • Hawaii Public Utilities Commission: Big Issues Mark 100th Birthday

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Your electric bills and the state’s clean energy future rest in the hands of three people.

  • Judge Tosses Sierra Club’s Solar Tax Credit Lawsuit

    · By Sophie Cocke

    The tax department’s more restrictive tax rules will remain in effect.