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Sunday, November 06, 2022

Kaʻū News Briefs, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022

A group of Hawai'i state legislators, including Rep. Jeanne Kapela representing Kaʻū, has called on the Public Utilities
 Commission to require the electric company to shift to more renewable energy instead of passing on 
the increase in oil costs to consumers. Above is the Tawhiri wind farm at South Point. Photo by Greg L. Jones

EXPRESSING CONCERN WITH HIGH ELECTRIC BILLS, west Kaʻū's member of the state House of Representatives Jeanne Kapela signed a letter along with a dozen other Reps and seven state senators to Public Utilities Commission Chair Leodoloff Asuncion. The letter also went to PUC Commissioners Naomi Kuwaye and Colin Yost, Consumer Advocate Dean Nishina, Hawai'i Chief Energy Officer Scott Glenn, and Hawaiian Electric Company President and CEO Shelee Kimura. Kapela was the only elected official covering Kaʻū to sign it.
    "While the letter points to O'ahu customers "dramatic increases on their electric bills," it addresses the

Rep. Jeanne Kapela asks the
PUC to incentivize the electric
company to move faster off oil.
regulations that allow the utility to pass through increases in oil costs directly onto customers throughout the state.
    The letter says, "Although the utility and the Public Utilities Commission cannot control global oil prices, oil price volatility is a known cost of our reliance on oil that HECO and the PUC must proactively plan for and aggressively minimize and eliminate."
    "On O'ahu the increase in electric rates is related to the closure of the coal plant creating an increased reliance on oil. The letter blames "the failure of the utility to bring fixed-price renewable projects online in time to meet the energy needs....which has further amplified the impact of high oil prices on customer bills.This debacle highlights the need for PUC leadership and action to prevent such burdensome bill increases that many of Hawai‘i families simply cannot absorb."
    The lawmakers address "how the PUC can work with the legislature to promote further progress on this priority concern." Their letter also points to a recent Honolulu Star Advertiser interview with the PUC chair who stated that, “The PUC cannot simply mandate that the utilities stop charging this longstanding pass-through to customers and says, "This is not entirely correct."
    According to the letter, more than 16 years ago, the legislature amended Chapter 269 to clarify that “...any fuel pass-through clause must fairly share the risk of fuel cost volatility between the utility and customers, as well as provide the utility with sufficient incentive to lower its fuel costs and shift to

renewable energy.” HRS § 269-16(g). Based on this mandate, the PUC finally started in 2018 to require the utility to share in fossil fuel cost changes at an exceedingly modest two percent, along with other safeguards to limit the impacts on the utility."
    The lawmakers call for the PUC to "significantly increase HECO’s responsibility for fuel costs under the Energy Cost Recovery Clause, so that the utility has a fairer and stronger incentive to stabilize and reduce energy costs and maximize the use of cheaper renewable energy sources."
    The letter sates, "As the PUC transitions HECO to performance-based regulation (PBR), utility profit is increasingly tied to performance standards, including customer equity and affordability.
    "Clearly, HECO has performed poorly on the key outcome of customer affordability, by failing to move with urgency and diligence toward bringing lower cost renewable energy onto the grid and pursuing other strategies to mitigate the bill impacts of fuel cost volatility.
    "HECO should share in the financial consequences of this failure by assuming a greater share of fuel costs. Further, to lessen the impacts on customers, including the substantial number of Hawai‘i families qualifying as low- and moderate-income, the PUC should consider adopting an asymmetrical approach to fuel cost sharing, in which the utility shares more of the burden when fuel costs rise.
    "We also believe that the utility should be held accountable for their past inaction and delays.
    "Thus, the commission should also consider pursuing penalties for, or sharing of, the increased costs today caused by the failures to timely acquire and interconnect new renewable projects.
    "The first and best option to reduce oil dependence and customer bill increases due to oil price volatility is to bring new renewable projects with fixed contracts online as expediently as possible.
    "The utility should be held accountable when they fail this obligation.
    "As part of the planning in advance of the coal plant closure, the PUC instituted mechanisms to track the increased costs from the switch to HECO’s oil-fired plants.This tracking mechanism provides the PUC with the information to determine how the utility should share in these cost burdens.
    "In sum, the undersigned formally request that the PUC tie HECO’s profits directly, materially, and systematically to its performance on managing fuel costs.
    "In addition to considering a penalty for performance this year and increases in utility sharing of fuel costs, the PUC should formulate a concrete plan, deliverables, action steps, and incentives to improve HECO’s performance in protecting their customers from increased fuel costs in the future. We look forward to your response and follow-up actions on this priority issue and are also interested in working with you on legislative initiatives that may help support these goals."

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THE KAʻŪ COLLECTION SITE FOR OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD shoebox gift project will be Nāʻālehu Assembly of God Church. Linda Church, of Samaritan's Purse project on this island, said that more than 4,500 locations will open across the globe to collect Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts. Volunteers are preparing to collect shoebox gifts during National Collection Week, Nov. 14 ­– 21.
    Operation Christmas Child has been collecting and delivering shoebox gifts—filled with school supplies, hygiene items and fun toys—to children worldwide since 1993. 
    Church said, "Anyone can pack a shoebox! In 2022, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect enough shoeboxes to reach another 11 million children. Individuals, families, and groups still have time to transform empty shoeboxes into fun gifts. 
    Project partners with local churches across the globe will "deliver these tangible expressions of God's love to children in need," she said. Find a step-by-step guide on the How to Pack a Shoebox webpage. Preprinted shoeboxes are available at Big Island Toyota in Kailua-Kona, or Sundays through Nov. 14 at Living Stones Church from 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., also in Kailua-Kona. For hassle-free shopping, volunteers can pack a shoebox online at Build A Shoebox Online (samaritanspurse.org). For questions, call Church at (808) 937-7220.

To read comments, add your own, and like this story, see www.facebook.com/kaucalendar. See latest print edition at wwwkaucalendar.com. See upcoming events at https://kaunewsbriefs.blogspot.com/2022/04/upcoming-events-for-kau-and-volcano.html  

KAUAHA'AO CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH in Waiohinu will have a fundraiser on Saturday, Dec. 3, after two years without one. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m, the fundraiser will feature Crafts, Baked Goods, and Roast Pork and Gravy plates.
   Kahu Debbie Wong Yuen said that all proceeds will help with the ministry of the church. With any questions, contact Yuen at dwongyuen.kauahaaochurch@gmail.com or call her at 808-928-8039.

To read comments, add your own, and like this story, see www.facebook.com/kaucalendar. See latest print edition at wwwkaucalendar.com. See upcoming events at https://kaunewsbriefs.blogspot.com/2022/04/upcoming-events-for-kau-and-volcano.html  

Mauna Loa Crater. Photo by Sebastian Blank

FOR MONITORING VOLCANOES, THE SATELLITE IS NOW A BASIC TOOL. That is the message of Volcano Watch, the weekly USGS column. It is written this week by Logan Fusso, a Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist:    
    Satellites have become one of the fundamental tools used to monitor active volcanoes. They allow us to monitor volcanoes that are otherwise hard to access and provide perspectives that are not possible to get from the ground. Satellites orbiting the Earth can provide normal “pictures” of a place, but can also provide thermal images, measure amounts and types of gases, changes in gravity, and topography.
    One of the most revolutionary advances has been the use of InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) to measure small changes in shape over an entire volcano. As discussed in a previous "Volcano Watch," Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites send timed radar waves that bounce off the Earth back to the satellite.
    It takes two sets of waves of the same area to measure change over time. If there has been no change to the volcano for the time between images, the signals will travel the distance in the same amount of time. However, if the volcano has changed by either inflating (uplift) or deflating (sinking), the volcano will be closer or further away in the second image. It will take more time for the radar wave to travel the distance from satellite to the ground, then back to the satellite.
  If the difference between two offset waves are assigned a color based on the size of the offset, they produce a unique set of banded colors that represent the number of wavelengths separating the two images. This process produces images called interferograms. Concentric rings of color relate to the amount of surface inflation or deflation of a volcano.
    While InSAR is useful for monitoring volcanic motions, it is not without problems. The nature of how InSAR images are gathered from a radar satellite often unintentionally captures signals associated with the changes in the Earth’s atmosphere between satellite passes in addition to ground surface change. This additional “atmospheric noise” is especially apparent with changes in topography. At active volcanoes that are very tall, like Mauna Loa, the sloping flanks can magnify atmospheric signals, falsely suggesting that significant change has occurred.
 “Noisy” InSAR interferogram examples covering the Island of Hawaiʻi. (A) shows data that spans 12 days. This InSAR image show similar concentric ring patterns over both Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. At first glance this might indicate deformation at both volcanos to the untrained eye, but the most likely reason for these colorful concentric ring patterns is atmospheric noise. (B) is another example of an InSAR interferogram with heavy atmospheric noise; this one has a 30-day difference from each SAR image. Some slight (less than a fraction of an inch/mm range) deformation on Mauna Loa and the Southeast Rift Zone of Kīlauea is visible in these images, yet still hard to discern from the atmospheric noise. Notice that the lower forested slopes of the island are blank. This is because heavy tree cover also causes errors in the interferograms. USGS images by Megan McLay

    InSAR scientists are trained to find hints that indicate atmospheric noise has dominated the signal. One method is visually comparing other nearby landscape features with similar topography. For example, comparing InSAR data patterns on Mauna Loa to Mauna Kea has been known to help identify and distinguish between noisy weather signals from true volcanic deformation.
    At first glance, the left image above (A) could seem to show both Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa inflating at the same rate simultaneously. However, we know from our Global Positioning System (GPS) instruments that Mauna Kea shows no evidence for significant deformation, so scientists can conclude that the InSAR signals on Mauna Loa are mostly likely unreliable in this specific instance.
    Likewise, GPS instruments and tiltmeters on Mauna Loa provide “ground truth” at specific points that should match the deformation shown in the interferogram. Finally, both volcanoes showing similar rates of inflation would be extremely rare, making differences in atmospheric conditions the most likely explanation.
    Another method is to compare multiple InSAR images. SAR satellites capture images in both ascending (traveling northward) and descending (traveling southward) directions as they orbit the planet. By creating a second InSAR image, with the same time span, but from different SAR “look directions,” it is possible to compare two interferograms of the same event. If the deformation is real over the survey area, then both InSAR images from opposing directions would show similar rates of motion.
    Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists are constantly using these and other tools to track the movement of magma within Hawai'i’s volcanoes in order to identify the warning signs of impending eruptions.
Mauna Loa Crater and old lava flow. Photo by Sebastian Blank

    Volcano Activity Updates: Kīlauea volcano is erupting. Its USGS Volcano Alert level is at WATCH (https://www.usgs.gov/natural-hazards/volcano-hazards/about-alert-levels). Kīlauea updates are issued daily.
    Last week, lava continued to erupt from the western vent within Halemaʻumaʻu crater in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Sulfur dioxide emission rates remain elevated and were last measured at approximately 700 tonnes per day (t/d) on Oct. 22. Seismicity was elevated but stable, with few earthquakes and ongoing volcanic tremor. Over the past week, summit tiltmeters recorded two deflation-inflation (DI) events. For more information on the current eruption of Kīlauea, see https://www.usgs.gov/volcanoes/kilauea/recent-eruption.
    Mauna Loa is not erupting and remains at Volcano Alert Level ADVISORY. This alert level does not mean that an eruption is imminent or that progression to an eruption from the current level of unrest is certain. Mauna Loa updates are issued daily.
    Last week, about 250 small-magnitude earthquakes were recorded below the summit and upper elevation flanks of Mauna Loa—the majority of these occurred at shallow depths less than 15 kilometers (9 miles) below sea level. Global Positioning System (GPS) measurements show continued ground deformation consistent with inflation of a magma chamber beneath the summit. Gas concentrations and fumarole temperatures at both the summit and at Sulphur Cone on the Southwest Rift Zone have remained stable over the past week. Webcams show no changes to the landscape. For more information on current monitoring of Mauna Loa, see: https://www.usgs.gov/volcanoes/mauna-loa/monitoring.
    There were six vents with 3 or more felt reports in the Hawaiian Islands during the past week: a M3.3 earthquake 14 km (8 mi) S of Fern Forest at 6 km (4 mi) depth on Nov. 2 at 8:03 p.m. HST, A M2.1 earthquake 10 km (6 mi) NE of Pāhala at 30 km (19 mi) depth on Nov. 1 at 2:03 a.m. HST, a M3.9 earthquake 7 km (4 mi) SSE of Waimea at 11 km (7 mi) depth on Nov. 1 at 1:17 a.m. HST, a M3.5 earthquake 9 km (6 mi) E of Pāhala at 32 km (20 mi) depth on Oct. 31 at 3:38 a.m. HST, a M2.6 earthquake 4 km (2 mi) S of Volcano at 2 km (1 mi) depth on Oct. 28 at 12:16 p.m. HST, and a M3.0 earthquake 2 km (1 mi) SW of Volcano at 20 km (12 mi) depth on Oct. 27 at 12:19 p.m. HST. Visit HVO’s website for past Volcano Watch articles, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa updates, volcano photos, maps, recent earthquake info, and more. Email questions to askHVO@usgs.gov.

To read comments, add your own, and like this story, see www.facebook.com/kaucalendar. See latest print edition at wwwkaucalendar.com. See upcoming events at https://kaunewsbriefs.blogspot.com/2022/04/upcoming-events-for-kau-and-volcano.html

In the mail and on stands from Volcano through Kaʻū.