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Sunday, October 01, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023

Volunteer Coach,  Pastor Kevin Brown, leads a prayer before Trojans beat the Daggars 54-28 on Saturday. See more below.
Photo by Mark Peters

ELECTRICITY BILLS WOULD GO UP IF THE INDUSTRIAL SOLAR PROJECT GOES FORWARD at Ocean View, according to the state Consumer Advocate who works for the Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs. The opinion of Consumer Advocate was provided on Friday as four parties to a Formal Complaint to the Public Utilities Commission filed post-hearing briefs on the matter. The Consumer Advocate filed a 14-page brief while the industrial solar developer filed 25 pages and the 
utility companies Hawaiian Electric and Hawaiian Electric Light Co. filed a single page.

    The industrial solar project is dependent on a Feed In Tarif which allows higher prices to be charged for alternative energy. However, the project has been delayed for so long that the price of electricity to the consumer would be higher islandwide should the project be built.
    The Consumer Advocate argued that all 26 projects on 26 separate lots in Ocean View that are in the FIT program under one owner should be reviewed and subjected to the Competitive Bidding Framework. The FIT program was established in 2008 as an agreement between the electric company and the state as "a policy designed to support the development of renewable energy sources by providing a guaranteed, above-market price for producers."

     HECO set the FIT rates high, at 23.8c per kWh, which resulted in a "feeding frenzy" according to Big Island energy guru, Mark Mangelsdorf.
    The FIT Program opened to applicants in December 2011, and 10 megawatts were allocated to the Big Island. However, one developer, Solar Hub, was allocated 4.5 megawatts and another, Mr. Braunthal, was allocated 2.25 megawatts, all to be sited in three makai subdivisions in Ocean View. This meant that 65 percent of all the power intended for generation on the Big Island, under the FIT program, was slated for generation in Ocean View. In 2015, SPI, a large solar company based in Shanghai acquired the applications from both developers, creating a 6.5-megawatt project on 26 sites.
    Since 2011, the price for solar power projects with battery storage has dropped to 9c per kWh – the rate negotiated for the new Waikaloa Project. It has been calculated that the difference between 23.8c per kWh and 9c per kWh amounts to $60 million over the 20-year life of the project – an amount that would be passed through to ratepayers.

    In 2016, two Ranchos residents filed a Formal Complaint against the project claiming many instances of mismanagement by HECO and HELCO, the administrators of the FIT Program. In 2021, the PUC decided that the complaint should be narrowed down to a single issue – was the Competitive Bidding Framework circumvented when the project was admitted to the FIT Program? The difference between FIT and the Competitive Bidding process depends largely on the size limits – 2.72 megawatts is the largest size for the FIT project on either HELCO or MECO grids. This dovetails with the competitive bidding threshold, which requires that any project over 2.72 megawatts must be competitively bid.
    The Complainants, Peter and Ann Bosted, argued that since Solar Hub's initial project had a capacity of 4.5 MW, and since SPI's current project has a capacity of 6.5 MW the project should not be in the FIT Program. However, the attorneys for SPI argue that since 17 of the projects are in the name of 17 shell companies, all owned by SPI, they are not required to be competitively bid.
    The most recent Consumer Advocate's brief arguing that the project should be competitively bid became the third brief it has filed in support of the Complainants who wish to have the Ocean View project removed from FIT.
    In 2016, when the construction of a new Transmission Line to cross Highway 11 was needed by the project, the Consumer Advocate criticized the project. At that time, the Consumer Advocate wrote:
    "With the understanding that 26 of the 27 remaining projects are owned or controlled by the same entity/entities, these projects may have been an attempt to circumvent the competitive bidding process since the combined capacity of the 26 projects in question exceeds the competitive bidding threshold for the Island of Hawai'i."
    In 2020, the Consumer Advocate filed a Statement of Position urging the PUC to "consider 1) current market conditions that support a lower price per kWh for renewable energy projects, 2) the realization of recent market prices that were attained through a competitive bidding process, 3) the value of moving on from legacy programs or past parameters, as evidenced by the Commission's recent decision in the CBRE 
proceeding; and 4) most importantly, how the public interest might best be served."
    On Friday the Consumer Advocate cited a precedent set in 2011 when the Commission decided that a developer who planned to create multiple TMKs or lots from a single large agricultural lot, using the condominium property regime (CPR), locating one FIT project on each lot. The PUC decided against his proposal, citing the fact that it would resemble a large project that had been segmented to qualify for FIT.
    The Consumer Advocate noted that the "petitioner proactively sought a Commission decision before the FIT rules were finalized and presumably before any substantial investments were made on his part".
    The Consumer Advocate added "Treating the facts in this matter any differently from the Commission's 2011 order would send a very concerning message to all persons that come before the Commission. It would signal that, rather than seeking clarification from the Commission up front, persons might be better off relying upon 'technical maneuvering and hyper-literal attempts to parse the language of various regulatory decisions' in order to act in a manner that is potentially inconsistent with the policies that the Commission seeks to promote, while pointing to whatever investments they are able to make in their project as a justification for avoiding adverse decision by the Commission after the fact."
    The CA argued that, if the Commission had been asked first, the Commission would have refused permission, it concluded: "The Commission should find in favor of the Complainants, by finding that the 26 projects are subject to the competitive bidding and not eligible for the FIT Program."

Ocean Nihipali-Sesson rolls out to pass with Camdon Higbee in pass protection. Photo by Mark Peters

KAʻŪ TROJANS DEFEATED PAHOA DAGGERS 54-28 at the home football game on Saturday in front of a supportive home fanbase at Pāhala Ballfield. It's the second win in a row, with the last two games racking up 118 points, a school record. Next Saturday, Trojans travel to Waimea to take on Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy, with game time set for 2 p.m. The final two games are home games, the first on Saturday, Oct. 14 against Kamehameha High School at 1 p.m. and Friday, Oct. 20 against Honoka‘a, with game time set for 6 p.m.

Records broken as the Trojans nail their second straight win,
racking up 118 points in two games.
Photo by Mark Peters
    On Saturday, Trojans offense was on full display, gaining a total of 539 yards. The run netted a whopping 405 yards led by Ocean Nihipali-Sesson with 24 carries for over 179 yards.
    Adahdlyah Ellis-Reyes turned 12 carries into 164 yards. Jaestin Karasuda added five carries for 54 yards. The 134-yard gained in passing was led by Adahdiya Reyes-Ellis with 121 yards and two touchdowns, both caught by TJ Kuahuia-Faafia. He achieved five catches for 106 yards to lead the Trojan receivers.

Trojan offense clears the way for Kaʻū ground game. Photo by Mark Peters

Jaestin Karasuda carries the ball around the end for a touchdown. Photo by Mark Peters

HAWAIIAN CRAFT VENDORS are sought for Ho‘okupu Hula No Kaʻū Cultural Festival to be held on Saturday, Nov. 4 at Keola Pu‘uhonua cultural grounds behind Nāʻālehu Bake Shop. The celebration of hula, craft and culture will feature performers from Mexico, Japan, Virginia, O’ahu, Maui and Hawai‘i Island and will be sponsored by Hālau Hula ‘O Leionālani.  It is a free event and the public is invited to bring lawn chairs.
    Any interested Hawaiian craft vendors can call Kumu Hula Debbie Ryder at 808 -649-9334.

Ho‘okupu Hula No Kaʻū Cultural Festival returns live after COVID with dancers and singers from
Hawai‘i, Mexico, Japan and the mainland. Hawaiian vendors are sought for the Nov. 4 date at
Keola Pu'uhonua cultural grounds behind Nāʻālehu Bake Shop. Photo by Julia Neal