About The Kaʻū Calendar

Ka`u, Hawai`i, United States
A locally owned and run community newspaper (www.kaucalendar.com) distributed in print to all Ka`u District residents of Ocean View, Na`alehu, Pahala, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village and Miloli`i on the Big Island of Hawai`i. This blog is where you can catch up on what's happening daily with our news briefs. This blog is provided by The Ka`u Calendar Newspaper (kaucalendar.com), Pahala Plantation Cottages (pahalaplantationcottages.com), Local Productions, Inc. and the Edmund C. Olson Trust.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ka`u News Briefs Aug. 19, 2012

Life of the Land plans to file to intervene in the PUC case concerning `Aina Koa Pono's contract to provide HELCO with biofuel it proposes to make by processing brush, trees and crops from lands between Pahala and Na`alehu. Photo by Julia Neal
 THE `AINA KOA PONO PROPOSAL before the state Public Utilities Commission is the target of the environmental and consumer protection organization Life of the Land. Life of the Land plans to file on Monday to intervene in the case before the PUC to determine whether to allow Hawai`i Electric Light Co. to sign a contract with `Aina Koa Pono at a fixed rate for 20 years to purchase biofuel. The proposal would allow a rate increase of an average of $1 per every 600 kilowatt hours used by residential customers on O`ahu and the Big Island.
       `Aina Koa Pono says it would cut brush and non-native trees on land between Pahala and Na`alehu and grow biofuel crops to feed its proposed microwave depolymerization Micro Dee refinery that would be constructed at the mouth of Wood Valley. The fuel would be trucked to the HELCO plant near Kona Airport.
Life of the Land's Vice President of
Consumer Affairs Henry Curtis

      Regarding `Aina Koa Pono's promise to conduct a voluntary Environmental Assessment of the project, Life of the land, in its motion to the PUC, says, “Life of the Land opposes efforts by some to issue false interpretations of state environmental law. Voluntary Environmental Assessments have no legal basis under Hawai`i law and regulation.”
       Life of the Land’s motion also takes issue with the `Aina Koa Pono and HELCO proposal to allow rate increases on the Big Island and O`ahu, which its sister company services, in order to pay for the `Aina Koa Pono fuel for the Keahole electric plant.
       Life of the Land points to a PUC ruling on March 4, 2011 disallowing charging customers for cost of electricity they do not actually use. However, following the PUC order, Hawai`i Electric Co and `Aina Kona Pono “essentially ‘ambushed’ the public,” to change state law and bypass the commission’s ruling, Life of the Land contends. According to Life of the Land, HECO and `Aina Koa Pono worked to insert an amendment to a housekeeping bill in the state Legislature that was titled and aimed at allowing electronic reporting to the PUC. According to Life of the Land, `Aina Koa Pono and HECO pushed for an amendment to the bill in order to establish new law allowing HECO to charge customers on O`ahu for cost of fuel used only on the Big Island.
       Says Life of the Land: “The House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce held a public hearing on the bill on March 14, 2011; most testifiers assumed that the bill would deal only with electronic filings.”
Chris Eldridge, second from left, is a partner of `Aina Koa Pono.
           `Aina Koa Pono testified at the hearing in favor of the amendment that said: “The purpose of this amendment is to clarify the legislative intent that the renewable portfolio costs of an electric utility and its affiliates may be aggregated and allocated among the customers of the utilities when the electric utility and its affiliates are aggregating their renewable portfolios in order to achieve the renewable portfolio standard.”
       The `Aina Koa Pono testimony given by partner Chris Eldridge said: “In January, 2011, AKP and HELCO entered into a contract for AKP to supply HELCO with up to 16 million gallons of biofuel per year. This contract is the cornerstone on which AKP is financing and developing this project (and) any short-term rate increases in utility rates as a result of this project should be allocated across the state. During these tough economic times, the HELCO-AKP project – and other similar projects – offer a way to achieve substantial economic growth at no cost to the state’s own coffers, all while helping Hawai`i achieve its goals of clean and independent energy.”
       The state House of Representatives’ Consumer Protection Committee allowed the amendment. When the Finance Committee heard the bill on March 28, 2011, HECO testified: “Renewable energy facilities generally exist at specific locations based on the resource involved and are geographically constrained. Currently, facilities utilizing Hawai`i’s renewable resources, such as geothermal, wind and biomass, are more easily developed and are often only available on the neighbor islands. There are far fewer suitable sites for substantial renewable resources on some islands, such as O`ahu, even though O`ahu contributes most to the total kilowatt-hour sales against which the consolidated Renewable Portfolio Standards energy targets must be measured. Thus, O`ahu benefits from the neighbor islands’ implementation of renewable energy projects without the associated cost, as the costs associated with such renewable energy projects are absorbed by the utilities’ respective customers on those neighbor islands.”
       In its motion, Life of the Land also takes issue with the contention that electric customers on other islands should be charged for the `Aina Koa Pono biofuel based on the idea that O`ahu is “resource poor” when it comes to renewable energy. Life of the Land asserts: “There is nothing in the record to indicate that O`ahu lacks renewable energy resources to be energy self-sufficient.” The organization points to a recent U.S. Department of Energy report that estimates O`ahu’s recoverable wave energy resource as eight times the state electricity demand. Life of the Land also states that “O`ahu can get nearly 1,000 MW of photovoltaic energy from rooftop solar.”
       Life of the Land also takes issue with the technicalities of the bill passing the Legislature. “Despite the fact that the Hawai`i State Constitution, Article III, mandates that ‘Each law shall embrace but one subject,’ and that ‘No bill shall become law unless it shall pass three readings in each house on separate days,’ the provision authorizing the Commission to allow HECO ratepayers to subsidize HELCO ratepayers passed the Senate with a single reading; on May 31, 2011 SB1347 was signed by the Governor and became Act 69.”
       Despite the change in the law, the PUC turned down `Aina Koa Pono’s first contract on Sept. 29, 2011. The PUC noted that Life of the Land estimated the total amount of subsidy to be paid by ratepayers for the `Aina Koa Pono biofuel would have been $26.553 million per year, notes the Life of the Land motion to intervene.
      Regarding the recent `Aina Koa Pono proposal, Life of the Land also mentions technology proposed by `Aina Koa Pono. Life of the Land states: “AKP enthusiastically believes in its non-commercially tested biofuel process” and points to `Aina Koa Pono statements:
       “This does not put more carbon into the atmosphere. But it reduces the overall carbon put into the atmosphere. In fact, it’s carbon negative;”
       “The Micro Dee process is a self-contained, closed loop system – with effectively zero emissions;” and “The AKP process produces more than five times the biofuel per acre of feedstock than other liquid fuel technologies and the BTU quality is substantially higher than ethanol and other biodiesel.”
       In regard to overall cost to ratepayers, Life of the Land contends: “The first HECO-`Aina Koa Pono Biofuel Supply Contract was rejected by the Commission, in part because it would have been the most expensive fuel contract ever entered into by the HECO family of utilities. It would have allowed HECO to transfer $250 million of O`ahu ratepayer money to the Big Island over a 20-year period to subsidize a very expensive, unproven solution.
       “By way of comparison, fueling HELCO’s Keahole Power Generation Station with `Aina Koa Pono biofuel will be significantly more expensive than replacing the Keahole Power Generation Station with new geothermal facilities,” states Life of the Land.
       The PUC will decide on whether to allow Life of the Land to intervene in the case. The County of Hawai`i plans to ask to participate in the case, according to Mayor Billy Kenoi, who said the county is looking for cheaper renewable energies rather than more renewable energy.

Baron Kwai Fong Kaho`ola Ching Photo by B. Sanchez
BARON KWAI FONG KAHO`OLA CHING’S Aha `Aina `Uniki was held on the grounds of Pahala Plantation House recently. He is a graduate as Ho`opa`a (chanter) and `Olapa (dancer) of Halau Hula Kalehuaki`eki`eika`iu (ma Honolulu a me Kilauea) under the direction of Ab Kawainohoikala`i Valencia.

KA`U HIGH SCHOOL ALUMNI AND FRIENDS’ invite all Ka`u grads, former students and friends to their annual potluck reunion today until 3 p.m. at Pahala Community Center.

BIG ISLAND POLICE are increasing enforcement of drunken driving laws beginning today and running through Sept. 5 as part of a national campaign called “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.” Already this year, Big Island police have made more than 800 DUI arrests, and 12 of 24 traffic fatalities this year involved drugs, alcohol or both.

HAWAI`I POLICE DEPARTMENT holds a community meeting on Tuesday from noon to 2 p.m. at Na`alehu Community Center. The public can meet the Police Department’s command staff and discuss police-related concerns with the police chief and commanders who oversee police operations in Ka`u. Those interested in participating but unable to attend may email their concerns or comments to copsysop@hawaiipolice.com. For more information, call Captain Andrew Burian at 939-2520.