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.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Ka`u News Briefs Dec. 5, 2012

Wind power generates more electricity than needed in homes for Ka`u, but not all is purchased by the electric company.
 Photo by Peter Anderson
HAWAI`I ELECTRIC LIGHT CO. held the first in a series of public meetings last night, designed to take public input regarding its long-term planning. Another meeting will be held at Waikoloa tonight at 6 p.m. and another at Pahala Community Center at 6 p.m. on Thursday.
Barry Mizuno was the only
Aloha Advisory group
member on hand.
      Last night, the company presented elements of its 20-year outlook with several scenarios. The meeting was held at `Imiloa in Hilo and was attended mostly by community members who are passionate about various alternative energy futures for the island. The meeting was designed for the members of an Aloha Advisory Board to HELCO to take information from the public. However, only one member, Barry Mizuno, a former Puna Geothermal Ventures manager, and now independent energy consultant, was in attendance among the more than 30 members of the public and representatives of the utility.
      HELCO representatives said that planning for the future involves preparing for many possible scenarios and named several:
      BLAZING A NEW FRONTIER takes into account a future in which oil prices are very high and sentiment is to expand clean energy. “Community sentiment motivates policy makers to progress briskly and boldly toward integrating renewable energy to mitigate the rising ad high cost of fuel generation on electricity rates.”
      STUCK IN THE MIDDLE is another scenario describing “a world in which oil prices grow from 2012 levels and where interest in meeting clean energy goals continues and yet remains mired in indecision. Different visions of how to achieve a more viable energy future, coupled with frustration over current economic conditions, lead to continuing debate on solutions and little policy changes.”
      NO BURNING DESIRE describes a “world in which oil prices are lower than 2012 resulting in little interest toward meeting clean energy goals. Complacency rides high as the motivation toward clean energy future of increased renewables wanes.”
      MOVED BY PASSION is a “world in which oil prices grow from 2012 levels but sentiment to support or expand clean energy goals is driven more by principles than need, especially since the economy is growing. Visionary leadership and a spirit of compromise continue to make Hawai`i a leader in renewable energy generation, albeit at a more considered pace.”
      During the public input session, HELCO representatives explained that 39.5 percent of the electricity created here is dependent on burning oil and that most of the oil comes from Indonesia to the refinery on O`ahu. Less than four percent comes from the Middle East.
John Ota asked whether HELCO and
the PUC keep rates high.
County Council photo
      JOHN OTA asked why the high amount of alternative energy being used on the Big Island is costing the same as oil-produced electricity. He accused HELCO and the PUC with keeping electric rates high. He asked whether the utility will “just grow bigger and bigger? And who is going to pay it? The customer. Who is going to suffer? The customer.”
      CORY HARDEN talked about environmental impacts of various energy scenarios, including alternatives to oil. She talked about solar roofs as an approach to lower risk of large energy producers, like geothermal being cut off and leaving large populations in the dark. She said that micro energy productions could be studied, from flags waving, producing small amounts of energy to tiny wheels at the bottom of rainspouts turning to make electricity. She said that she also hopes planning will take into consideration such risks as putting power plants close to the ocean where they could be wiped out by tsunamis.
         JON OLSON said many people going off the grid “decide not to deal with the electric company at all.” From an accounting perspective, he said, “if I own a system, it is an asset. If I pay HELCO, it is a liability.”
       ONE CITIZEN asked why HELCO isn’t investing in owning more alternative energy facilities, rather than depending on outside companies to own them. She reminded the group that HELCO began with 100 percent renewable energy from the hydroelectric plant on Wailuku River in Hilo.
      HELCO president Jay Ignacio contributed more history, mentioning the sugar companies that used to make electricity by burning bagasse, the byproduct of sugar cane harvesting. He said HELCO may be looking at doing a wind farm at some point.
Jon Olson
      ROGER MEEKER, an attorney and property developer, noted that wind generates about 13 percent of HELCO’s power for the Big Island. On Maui at the beginning of 2013, a third wind farm will go online, and Maui will have 72 megawatts, which is 38 to 39 percent of Maui’s total grid, Meeker said. He asked whether this could happen on the Big Island – to incorporate more wind for the grid. 
      He also pointed to a “curtailment policy” when there is more wind and hyrdroelectric energy produced that the electric company will purchase. Ignacio explained that those producing wind and hydro understand that HELCO cannot always take all the power available and that those signing contracts with HELCO are aware of the situation. Some potential windmill ventures decline to sign a contract and abandon their project before investing in it because of the curtailment clause, he said.
      Meeker also explained that the oldest renewable energy source with a HELCO contract is the last to be curtailed. The newest renewables are most likely to have less energy purchased by the power company. This makes it increasingly more risky to invest in renewables, said Meeker.
      See more in tomorrow’s Ka`u News Briefs.

TESTIMONY REGARDING THE PROPOSED CONTRACT between `Aina Koa Pono and HELCO is available on the Public Utilities Commission website.

`AINA KOA PONO PARTNER CHRIS ELDRIDGE submitted a letter to the PUC to “clarify misconceptions” and respond to “questions and misstatements” which he says were in some of the public testimony sent to the PUC.
Chris Eldridge
      “Issues of cost were raised a number of times in testimony,” Eldridge writes. “As the PUC is aware, AKP is constrained from discussing costs by our agreement with the utility. We rely on the Commission to sort out the misinformation in opponent testimony.
      “One point we do want to make, however, is that there is a misleading number expressed in both testimony and recurring commentaries in the general and online media. Our product is being erroneously compared to the cost of a barrel of oil and likening it to $200 a barrel of oil, with oil now at about $110 (Brent Crude; HELCO estimates a higher cost of about $126) a barrel.
      Any estimates of our costs (and we do not agree the $200 a barrel cost for our product) must be compared to the cost of a barrel of diesel including shipping costs to the Big Island. Diesel is a refined product, and its cost is considerably higher than a barrel of oil.
      “Opponent testimony also alleged approval of this contract would set a bad precedent for other biofuels proposals,” Eldridge says. “We would argue this is not the case. Discussion in the industry is that stimulation of the industry will necessarily require initial higher-cost projects that will drive demand and subsequently lower costs.
      “Another cost point raised by opponent testimony is higher electric rates mean tougher climate for small business,” says Eldridge. “We understand this concern and reiterate that the additional cost for AKP’s diesel to Keahole is ONLY if the cost of comparable imported diesel hasn’t increased beyond AKP’s price. Over the last six years or so, petroleum prices have increased more than 300 percent higher than federal forecasts. (USEIA forecasts)
            Other topics addressed by Eldridge include:
  • AKP’s selected feedstock crops; 
  • Questions of how ranchers will be accommodated; 
  • The notion that AKP will import raw materials from the mainland or haul trash to Ka`u to be processed at the biorefinery; 
  • Questions about the amount of biofuel that will be produced from the 12,000 acres used to cultivate feedstock crops; 
  • Why Keahole power plant isn’t converted to geothermal; 
  • Who would assume the costs of Keahole being modified to handle the biofuel; 
  • Whether AKP’s Environmental Assessment will meet state and federal standards; 
  • The possibility of an Environmental Impact Statement; 
  • Whether some of the biofuel will be used by the military; 
  • The social impact the project will have on the area in terms of jobs; 
  • Whether people will want to visit or stay in an area because of AKP’s biorefinery. 
Maile Yamanaka at Volcano Art Center. Photo by Marsha Hee
      Eldridge’s entire letter, as well as other testimony, can be read at puc.hawaii.gov/dockets. Docket number is 2012-0185.

ON FRIDAY AT VOLCANO ART CENTER in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Maile Yamanaka presents a brief history of Hawai`i in Myth, Chant, Dance & Song from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Hula from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.; and Keiki Hula from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Call 937-4249 for more information.

SENIOR LUNCH & BINGO takes place Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Pahala Community Center. Organizers ask participants to bring a donation of canned or non-perishable food. For transportation, call Carol Massey at 929-9001 or Wayne Kawachi at 937-4773.

Kilauea Military Camp Theater hosts Volcano Festival Chorus Saturday.
VOLCANO FESTIVAL CHORUS PERFORMS a selection of holiday music entitled Comfort and Joy on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Kilauea Military Camp Theater in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. Presented by Kilauea Drama & Entertainment Network, the chorus is under the direction of Roch Jones with accompaniment by Cinnie Decker. Park entrance fees apply. 967-8371 

PAHALA CHRISTMAS PARADE is Sunday at 1 p.m. All community groups and businesses are invited to participate. Call 928-0808 to sign up.

KA`U COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PLAN STEERING COMMITTEE meets Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 5:30 p.m. at Na`alehu Community Center. More information is available at kaucdp.info or from Ron Whitmore at 961-8137.