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.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ka`u News Briefs Aug. 24, 2012

The Directory, the annual publication of the Ka`u Chamber of Commerce, has issued a call to artists for the 2013 edition.  Above,  a section of the 2012 winning art by Kathleen Kam, showing evolution of agriculture in Ka`u.
The original is at Ka`u Coffee Mill, open seven days a week. 8:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m, Wood Valley Rd.
PUBLIC HEARINGS will be held, but not in Ka`u, on the proposed 20-year, fixed rate contract for `Aina Koa Pono to sell biofuel to Hawai`i Electric Light Co. Big Island hearings are Monday, Oct. 29 at 6 p.m., Hilo High School cafeteria and Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 6 p.m., Kealakehe High School cafeteria in Kona. Another hearing will be scheduled for O`ahu.
      At the same time, public hearings will be held for HELCO’s proposal to increase electric rates 4.2 percent, independent from the proposed `Aina Koa Pono hike. HELCO asks the PUC to allow increases for all electric ratepayers on the Big Island and O`ahu – to average $1 per 600 kilowatt-hours of household use to pay for the `Aina Koa Pono biodiesel.
      The `Aina Koa Pono proposal involves land between Pahala and Na`alehu and a refinery at the mouth of Wood Valley that would provide 16 million gallons of biodiesel a year to truck to the HELCO refinery near Kona Airport. Another eight million gallons would be sold to a Georgia based fuel distributor, according to `Aina Koa Pono.
The `Aina Koa Pono test plant in North Carolina.
Photo from biofuels-solutions.com
      The refinery would be constructed just off Wood Valley Road along Meyer Camp Road, providing 200 permanent jobs and 400 construction jobs, according to `Aina Koa Pono. The complex would include a refinery and chimney, a processor to turn biomass into pellets before putting them through the refinery, parking lots for worker vehicles, trucks, loaders and other machinery, a mill yard to store the biomass brought to the property along with additives such as xeolite to be imported from off island, and diesel storage tanks to hold the biodiesel before trucking it out of Ka`u.
       The latest version of the Micro Dee (microwave deplymerization) refinery process, undergoing tests in North Carolina, would require about 790 gallons of water per hour, according to estimates by `Aina Koa Pono. The water would come from agricultural water sources nearby. For a 24/7 operation, this would amount to about 19,000 gallons a day or under seven million gallons of water a year.
      Most letters to the PUC since HELCO submitted the proposal on Aug. 1 have focused on the proposed fixed cost of the biofuel over 20 years and the question of whether it would suppress other renewable energies coming online.
      `Aina Koa Pono says it expects its biodiesel would eventually be less expensive than fossil fuel that HELCO uses in the power plant it owns near Kona Airport.

AN OPPONENT OF THE `AINA KOA PONO approach to producing biodiesel in Ka`u and raising electric rates to pay for it is state House of Representative member Denny Coffman. He chairs the Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection and recently won the primary election to represent Honu`apo north through Kona. Coffman is an incumbent but his district changed after the 2010 census. It now includes a large section of Ka`u.
State Rep. Denny Coffman has issued a
statement on renewable energy. He is
running to represent Honu`apo
through Kona. Photo by William Neal
      Coffman recently wrote an editorial that states the following: “The state does not have an energy plan. We have an evolving energy strategy that is not complete and certainly not documented. Traditional planning for electricity is accomplished via an Integrated Resource Plan. Our Hawai`i Clean Energy Initiative agreement actually put the IRP process on hold for the last four years. The IRP process is now in full development and it must include planning to replace oil-burning facilities with renewable energy resources or other lower cost fossil fuel options such as natural gas. Hawai`i needs a plan that reduces our cost of electricity.”
      Says Coffman, “the PUC should not approve any HECO, MECO or HELCO power purchase agreements or long term fuel supply agreements until after the completion of our IRP and any associate energy plans developed by the energy office. To approve any long term contracts prior to completing the IRP allows a for-profit company to control and dictate our energy plan. The only exception should be PUC approval of contracts that clearly reduce our use of crude oil and reduce the cost of electricity.”
      Coffman points to the `Aina Koa Pono project as “an example of a contract that must not be approved by the PUC until after we have completed the IRP process.” He says that based on HELCO’s recent press release on the proposal, “the cost for this fuel would be higher than today’s diesel fuel costs; a price based on low sulfur crude oil that is costing in excess of $135 per barrel. To cover the cost of this more expensive fuel, a new surcharge would be required for all HECO and HELCO customers.
      “The concept of creating local biofuels in and for Hawai`i is very much a state-wide objective I support. However, continuing to focus on long-term fuel contracts that only guarantee that our rates will increase is losing focus on what must be our real objective; stabilizing and lowering our electricity costs. 
Coffman says new refineries should join other ones at Campbell
Industrial  on O`ahu. Photo from Tesoro
      “Unfortunately, our Hawai`i Clean Energy Initiative and Renewable Portfolio Standards directed the utility to transition to clean renewable energy. The agreement and law did not direct the utility to replace low sulfur fuel oils with lower cost resources. This opened the door to replace expensive oil based fuels with expensive biofuels. The 110 MW facility at Campbell Industrial Park on O`ahu uses expensive biofuel produced in Iowa and shipped to Hawai`i.
      “Hawai`i Island is already helping the HEI utility companies to reach its RPS goals with our large mix of renewable energy facilities. However, Hawai`i Island customers pay over 42 cents per KWH for our electricity. As it plays out, a majority of Hawai`i Island’s wind, hydroelectric and geothermal renewable energy is procured under long term contracts that compensate the independent power producer at the price of oil (avoided cost). They now want to increase our costs by adding expensive biofuels to the mix.”
      Coffman notes that “Some tell us that we should not get too upset about the `Aina Koa Pono contract. After all, the technology that they propose using is only at the demonstration phase and that building an oil refinery in Ka`u has many environmental challenges. It is a development project that will span many years and may never come to fruition. They also tell me that we only pay for the biofuel if and when it is delivered to HELCO. If their expensive biofuel plan does not work, what is the other option for the Keahole Power Plant; burning oil forever?”
    Coffman writes that, “Most biofuel analysts that I have talked with tell me that biofuels should be used for transportation. The process proposed to produce AKP’s fuel is a two-step process. First the biomass must be microwaved or cooked to produce an oil. Then the oil must be taken through a refinery distillation process to produce a fuel. I believe that all refinery type operations should be accomplished at the Campbell Industrial Park on O`ahu. We already have two refineries in operation there.
State Rep. Denny Coffman suggests HELCO should invest in creating a smarter grid
to handle photo voltaic and wind generated power rather than focus on expensive
biofuels. Only a portion of the energy produced by Tawhiri Power LLC's Pakini
Nui Wind Farm at South Point is currently purchased by HELCO.
Photo from btrplc on flickr.com
      “Over the twenty years of the AKP contract, the rate payers of Hawai`i will be paying for approximately half a billion dollars of infrastructure to enable the production of biofuel. Is this the best place to spend that kind of money or are there major electrical grid projects that would be more beneficial for Big Island's electric customers? What about a new smart grid to better accommodate wind and PV?
      “While I believe that biofuels will someday be part of our overall energy mix, this is what bothers me about the `Aina Koa Pono contract. HELCO should not be focused on a speculative biofuels project on Hawai`i Island. HELCO’s focus on Hawai`i Island should be two fold: Cost effectively replacing oil burning facilities with geothermal power plants and finding a way to renegotiate existing power purchase agreements to replace the avoided cost contracts. We can and must find a way to provide a profit margin for renewable energy independent power producers while lowering the cost of electricity,” concludes Coffman.

AN INTIMATE EVENING WITH JOHN CRUZ is tomorrow night; doors open at 6:30 p.m. at Volcano Art Center’s Niaulani Campus. For more contact Dave Wallerstein, 967-822 or volcanoartcenter.org

Botanist Tim Tunison teaches backyard forest restoration.
Photo from Volcano Art Center
BACKYARD FOREST RESTORATION is taught by botanist Tim Tunison tomorrow at Volcano Art Center’s Niaulani Campus from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tunison teaches step-by-step methods of returning backyards to native forests using Niaulani Rain Forest as a living, successful example. Donations of $10 or more are encouraged. Register at 967-8222 or programs@volcanoartcenter.org.

SCIENCE SUNDAY AT HONU`APO PARK is this Sunday, Aug. 26. Ka `Ohana O Honu`apo and Hawai`i Wildlife Fund are hosting Science Sunday in the Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Marine ecologists from Hawai`i Wildlife Fund will join natural resource managers from `Imi Pono No Ka `Aina, The Nature Conservancy, Big Island Invasive Species Council, and the Division of Aquatic Resources, to present information about ocean species, watershed and water quality, and Japanese tsunami debris. There will be hands-on activities for keiki, prize giveaways, and the Hawaiian Civic Club of Ka`u will be providing free hot dogs.

2011 winner of  The
Directory Cover Contest.
KA`U DIRECTORY COVER CONTEST and Ka`u Chamber of Commerce Art show are set for the CU Hawai`i credit union building in Na`alehu. Oct. 1-6.The theme is The Beauty of Ka`u. Five categories for entries are: Graphic, Sculpture, Wood, Photography and Craft. The fee is $5 per entry and no more than three entries may come from any artist, and no more than one entry per category. See more in tomorrow’s news briefs.