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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ka`u News Briefs Jan. 29, 2013

A public meeting on the future of Kawa takes place tomorrow at 5 p.m. at Na`alehu Community Center.
Photo by Julia Neal
HAWAIIAN ELECTRIC CO. will abandon its proposed 4.2 percent ($19.8 million) rate hike for 2013, according to a statement issued yesterday by Gov. Neil Abercrombie. It says the state and HECO reached a settlement “that will result in the withdrawal of a rate increase request for Hawai`i Island and a significant reduction in taxpayer dollars requested to cover project costs.”
      The settlement filed with the PUC on Jan. 28 outlines an agreement between the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Division of Consumer Advocacy and HECO, including subsidiaries Maui Electric Co., Ltd. and Hawai`i Electric Light Company, Inc.
      “With high oil prices driving up electricity and other costs throughout our economy, we have to take action to help Hawai`i’s families and businesses who are struggling to make ends meet,” Abercrombie said. “While this settlement will help in the short-term, we remain committed to pursuing long-term solutions toward clean energy alternatives.”
        HECO and subsidiaries will also reduce by $40 million the amount being sought for improvements to two major projects –the 110-megawatt biofuel generating station at Campbell Industrial Park on O`ahu and a new customer information system.
       In addition, HECO will also delay filing a 2014 rate case that was originally scheduled to be filed this year under the current regulatory framework for reviewing its rates.
       Consumer Advocate Jeffrey Ono said, “This settlement will benefit consumers and help reduce the ever-increasing cost of electricity.”
      The statement made no mention of a separate electric bill increase proposal by the utilities involving the proposal to build a refinery in Pahala to make biofuel.

COUNTY OF HAWAI`I IS DRILLING DOWN on `Aina Koa Pono specifics. The county is further questioning `Aina Koa Pono’s plan to produce diesel in Ka`u for a power plant in Kona. In a new round of information requests that were filed with the Public Utilities Commission, released yesterday, county Corporate Counsel Lincoln Ashida and County Attorneys William Brilhante, Jr. and Laureen Martin ask for presentations AKP makes to potential financiers. The county attorneys also make a statement about the plan to raise electric bills to pay for AKP: 
      “Having long-term contracts at high prices is attractive in any industry, but when electricity prices in Hawai`i are already the highest in the nation and eroding other industry-sector profits, there may be a net-negative effect to the economy from such contracts. Please explain the rationale behind raising electricity prices to support a single new industry sector that may decrease the profitability of other sectors.”
Hawai`i County asks for energy balance evaluations of the
AKP project, including delivery of biofuel to its final
destination. Photo from Mansfield Oil Co.
      The county also asks for Hawai`i Electric Light Co., Hawaiian Electric Co. and AKP to provide “energy balance evaluations for this project’s comprehensive process: beginning with agricultural inputs (manufacture, transportation to the islands) to agricultural production, harvest and processing of biomass intermediate steps and final production formulation, and delivery of biodiesel to its final destination.” The final destination is Keahole Power Plant and possibly other locations where the diesel would be used for transportation fuel.
      The county asks for details on how the proposed new microwave depolymerization process works, from engineering schematics to confirmation “of techno-economics and mass/energy balances.” The county asks for data from “demonstrated pilot operations (presumably from the North Carolina TekGar/SBS demonstration facility), including documentation of the number and duration of runs on which data are derived.”
      The county writes that if data are based on “feedstocks different than those anticipated to be used by AKP, then please include a description of how the composition of each type of feedstock compares, and what data are available on AKP’s anticipated feedstock.”
      The county also asks for descriptions “of how issues such as potential catalyst poisoning/regeneration might be handled (if relevant).”
Hawai`i County asks for more information on the
Micro Dee process.
      The county asks: “Does the MicroDee process directly produce biodiesel following the microwave depolymerization step or is the product pyrolysis oil that requires further upgrading to biodiesel? If the latter, then what is the composition of the pyrolysis oil (and variability in this composition based on the proposed feedstock or multiple anticipated feedstocks), what facilities will be required to upgrade the pyrolysis oil, will these facilities be on-site (and if not, where will upgrading be performed), and what will be the source of hydrogen to obtain the final biodiesel product?”
      The county attorneys ask: “Could this product be called green diesel or simply renewable diesel?”
      “Have any additional transportation costs and raw material (especially hydrogen) costs been incorporated in the analysis?”
      The county asks AKP and the utilities to present the “predicted final overall economics.”
      “When electricity is finally made by the proposed process, is the net energy balance positive or negative, and is the total amount of petroleum input per kilowatt-hour more or less than if the electricity had been made by using the petroleum directly, or if the biomass were simply burned?”
      “Is there a potential that this project will potentially increase the islands’ reliance on imported petroleum?”
Hawai`i County asks for more information on feedstock AKP would use
as biomass to refine biofuel.
      The county also asks AKP and the utility companies to identify the specific feedstocks that AKP proposes to grow on the land between Pahala and Na`alehu. “Assuming it is a grass, has this grass previously been cultivated as a commercial crop on the island? If not, have trial plots been grown at all? If so, then please describe the size, location, soil characteristics, altitude, ground slope, and actual rainfall at these plots.
      “If there is no prior commercial experience with this grass, please describe the program to introduce this grass and to determine its optimal agronomics – including anticipated amounts of fertilizer, potential disease and insect pressure and how this will be managed, response to differing soils/altitudes/slopes/rainfall amounts.”
      The county notes that “multi-year projects have been undertaken on the mainland to subsidize farmers as they gain experience with a new crop – switchgrass – including a recently complete four year project … which, by the way, has left farmers at a loss whether to continue growing switchgrass.”
      The county attorneys ask: “Has the AKP/MircroDee process been tested on that particular biomass/feedstock (as different kinds of biomass can give very different results)?”
      The county asks for comparative anticipated biomass yields per acre with actual experience in Hawai`i. “Convert these actual yields into estimates of how many cultivated acres will be required, and how many total acres this implies – along with required infrastructure (roads), supply yards, storage.”
      The county notes that if “AKP proposes making 16 million gallons (of diesel from feedstock grown) on 12,000 acres, the AKP numbers imply production rates of 1,333 gallons per acre (per year). It’s obvious this is much higher than other sources, about three times more productive than palm oil…. Please explain such productivity.” The county points to the AKP website saying that the Big Island facility would generate approximately 3,500 gallons of biofuel per acre - seven times more productive than biodiesel from palm oil. The county asks the utilities and AKP to describe how the projection of 3,500 gallons per acre is derived.
      The county asks from where AKP’s projected 900 dry tons of feedstock that would be needed per day of feedstock would come. “How many cubic yards of harvested material is this equal to or simply how many wet tons of feedstock do you have to produce to make a dry ton of biomass? (A dry ton is often confusing as you cannot grow dry biomass, and you have to grow, harvest, transport and handle a lot of wet material in order to end up with a ton of dry biomass),” the county attorneys write. 
      Should AKP plan to purchase feedstock from farmers, the county asks, “please provide the projected amount that growers will be paid per dry ton of feedstock.” The county attorneys ask, “How does this compare with possible alternative fuels (i.e. – opportunity cost)?”
      “Will AKP enter into a 20-year contract with growers? How will AKP handle situations where there is crop failure, inadequate yield and/or if growers decide to produce other crops?”
      The community group Life of the Land and other government agencies are also asking more questions of AKP and the utilities. See www.puc.hawaii.gov and click on documents under `Aina Koa Pono.
      The utility companies and AKP have until Friday, Feb. 15 to answer the county’s questions.

Sen. Roz Baker
THE STATE SENATE Committees on Commerce and Consumer Protection and Energy and Environment held an informational briefing this morning in the state Capitol auditorium to receive information on factors that impact electric rates, the rate-making process and to identify potential solutions to reduce the adverse impacts of increasingly high electric rates on consumers statewide.
       “As electrical rates continue to climb, it is important for us to look for ways that could reduce rates and help lessen the burden of high utility costs on our constituents,” said Sen. Roz Baker, chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection.
       A statement said the committee is interested in information about efforts to create an integrated electrical grid using available renewable energy and firm power to benefit consumers with lower rates and reach our green energy goals efficiently and cost-effectively.
Tonight's After Dark in the Park focuses on volcano
monitoring equipment. Photo from USGS/HVO
       “We want to hear the strategies the PUC and the utilities plan to use to incorporate more renewable energy onto the grid,” said Sen. Mike Gabbard, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment. Invited to participate were Public Utilities Commission Chair Mina Morita, Consumer Advocate Jeff Ono,
      Hawaiian Electric Co. vice president Robbie Alm; Hawai`i Electric Light Co. president Jay Ignacio and the heads of the Kaua`i and Maui electric utilities.

VOLCANO AWARENESS MONTH continues at After Dark in the Park this evening when Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s chief technical support specialist Kevan Kamibayashi explains the installation and operation of HVO’s various monitoring sensors and how their signals are sent back to the observatory from remote locations. The free program at Kilauea Visitor Center Auditorium in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park begins at 7 p.m. $2 donations support park programs, and park entrance fees apply.

Ka`ohu Monfort demonstrates la`au lapa`au.
Photo from NPS
LA`AU LAPA`AU IS THE TOPIC tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Kilauea Visitor Center’s lanai in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. Ka`ohu Monfort shares her knowledge of how Hawai`i’s native plants, including noni, kukui and olena can heal and nourish. The program is free, and park entrance fees apply. 

HAWAI`I COUNTY AND THE STATE Department of Land & Natural Resources hold a public meeting on the future of Kawa tomorrow at 5 p.m. at Na`alehu Community Center. County representatives have been meeting with local families to help plan the management of the more than 700 coastal acres recently acquired by the county through state and federal funding to protect estuaries and through county property taxes.