Tag Archives: Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Where’s The Plan?

My letter to the editor titled Stay Home ran in today’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

Stay Home

Regarding the Thirty Meter Telescope: Now, outsiders are coming to the Big Island to run our lives. Since when is that pono? Stay home. We don’t want you here.

The outsiders want to stop the TMT. Listen: We have the state’s lowest median family income. We have drug problems, spousal abuse problems, teenage pregnancies and the social ills that follow from that. The TMT is the only entity actually putting its money — a lot of it — where its mouth is.

They are offering education, the great equalizer. We of the older generation, fortunate enough to have our educations, are lucky. No one can take that away from us. But what about the youngsters coming up? Who will help them?

Usually, the present generation tries to help the next generation do just a little bit better. But on the Big Island right now, it’s just the opposite. And it’s being influenced by folks with fame and money who don’t even live here.

I am a Hawaiian. I respect my culture and its religion and traditions. I also respect its future. The Facebook generation tends to think in terms of today and tomorrow, but we Hawaiians used to think in terms of seven generations.

In 140 years, there won’t be telescopes on the mountain at all. We need to think about this carefully and not just react. How will we save ourselves on the Big Island?

It concerns me that the TMT protestors are reacting, rather than planning. It’s short term and emotional decision-making. Where is their 10-year plan for getting where we need to be? There’s no plan at all.

The Thirty Meter Telescope people spent almost seven years interacting with the community about its concerns and developing a careful plan – now approved – that put lots of money, education, and jobs into our island’s economy. It was unprecedented. I know this because I attended almost every TMT meeting for seven years.

The people protesting now weren’t at those meetings. Most were only in middle school when the process began so they have no idea what went on and how much was accomplished. It was phenomenal, and set the bar for the level of engagement we can expect from a corporation coming onto the Big Island.

Tossing out the TMT people now would be an enormous mistake and send the worst possible message we could ever send to any other company that ever wants to do business in Hawai‘i.

I actually have great optimism about today’s young people. I see it in their faces when I work with them in the many issues I’m involved with – they are smart and passionate and engaged.

What we need now is for the ones who can see the big picture to step forward and lead. There are huge changes going on in the world right now, and some young people don’t understand this yet. Some older people don’t even fully realize it yet.

But everything you hear me talking about is to try to position our island and our next generations: So our electricity will be affordable. So our food will be affordable. So education will improve. So people will be able to find jobs. So our crime rate will not continue to soar. So our children and grandchildren won’t have to move to the mainland because they cannot afford to live here.

My message is always about having a plan for where our island and its people need to be in five, ten, fifteen years. The long-term plan needs to be about all of us, not just a few of us. The Thirty Meter Telescope will, in quite a few different ways, help us move toward that plan.

We need young people to lead us there, too.


Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative Files With PUC

Richard Ha writes:

The Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative (HIEC) has gotten quite a bit of press coverage in the past few days. Last week, we submitted an application to the PUC to intervene in the pending sale of Hawaii Electric Industries (HEI) to NextEra Energy.

HIEC logo

Our HIEC spokesman Marco Mangelsdorf answers some questions about it just below. Following his answers, you can see excerpts from and links to newspaper articles about HIEC from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, Pacific Business News, and Honolulu Civil Beat.


Provided by Marco Mangelsdorf, director and spokesman for HIEC, President, ProVision Solar, Inc.

What’s my connection to HIEC?

I was invited by Richard Ha, business owner of Hamakua Springs and community leader, to get involved with a group of Big Island residents who were interested in exploring the possibility of emulating the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative model established on Kauai.  We are seeking to get a seat at the table in the Hawaiian Electric Industries-NextEra docket by proposing an option, depending on the course of the proceedings, that offers the possibility of democratic ownership and control of the island’s energy infrastructure, through a duly elected board, to the residents and communities of the Big Island.

Are you doing this because you see the end of the PV industry in the state?  Are you leaving your company?

I will continue to manage ProVision Solar as the solar electric industry in the state continues to adapt to the unique challenges in our Aloha State.  Solar PV will continue to be a major part of the Hawaii’s efforts to become more energy independent for years and decades to come.

Do you see any conflict between continuing to be at ProVision and working with HIEC?

I see congruence between what I’m doing in my business to empower Big Island homes and businesses as far as promoting energy independence and working toward greater local control of the island’s energy infrastructure.

Is HIEC against the proposed merger?

HIEC takes no position either for or against the proposed merger.  HIEC desires to explore through the proceedings the unique perspective, goals and objectives of the residents and communities of Hawaii Island, and depending on the outcome of the proceedings, consider whether a different ownership model for energy services on Hawaii Island may provide a positive alternative.  A sound discussion should include evaluation of the pending transaction in relation to potential future options that may be in the public interest for the unique interest of the island of Hawaii.  HIEC’s participation can assist the development of a sound record by providing a Hawaii Island focused perspective.

Is HIEC making an attempt to buy HELCO?

It’s important to note that HELCO is not for sale at this time.  So no, HIEC is not submitting an offer to purchase HELCO.  HIEC is positioning itself as a possible option worthy of consideration to take Hawaii Island in a different energy direction, depending on the course of the proceedings.

Would a coop lead to lower energy bills on the Big Island?

HIEC believes that a case can be made that there would be lower energy costs to the consumer over time through tax exempt status, lower cost of capital and no shareholder profits, greater efforts to develop less expensive island-based power sources, promotion of education, markedly improved energy efficiency, and the accelerated adoption of appropriate advanced technologies.

What’s the position of HIEC regarding geothermal energy?

The residents and communities of the Big Island, through an elected board of directors, would decide what choices and directions to take as far as energy sources and policies under the coop.

What’s the position of HIEC regarding a interisland power cable from the Big Island to the other islands?

The residents and communities of the Big Island, through an elected board of directors, would decide what choices and directions to take as far as energy sources and policies under the coop.

What’s the position of the HIEC regarding this or that particular or specific issue on the Big Island?

The residents and communities of the Big Island, through an elected board of directors, would decide what choices and directions to take as far as energy sources and policies under the coop.

What would make HIEC different from a standard electric utility coop?

The cooperative would have a more diversified focus compared to a standard electric utility by focusing on greater overall energy independence, higher renewable energy generation, and enhanced sustainability through a comprehensive and integrated approach to all energy-consuming sectors on the island.

Has HIEC been working with Kauai Island Utility Cooperative? 

HIEC has been in contact with KIUC and they have been supportive.  In the event that HIEC is successful in establishing an energy coop, it is likely that synergies would exist between the two islands that would enable both to benefit by working together in certain areas. 

From the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:

By Susan Essoyan

The Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative is seeking a seat at the table as the Public Utilities Commission considers the proposed merger of Hawaiian Electric Industries and NextEra Energy.

The new nonprofit cooperative association, registered with the state Feb. 9, was formed by business and community leaders to explore the possibility of creating an energy co-op on Hawaii island.

The Hilo-based co-op filed a motion Feb. 11 to intervene in the Public Utilities Commission docket on the proposed $4.3 billion merger between NextEra and HEI. But it is not taking a position for or against the deal, according to Marco Mangelsdorf, spokes­man and a director of the co-op.

Instead, it hopes to ensure that commissioners consider the island's energy needs and the potential benefits of a cooperative model of utility ownership during their deliberations. Read the rest

From the Hawaii Tribune-Herald:

By Colin M. Stewart

What if Hawaii Island residents owned their own electric utility?

That’s the question being posed by a nonprofit group that filed on Feb. 11 a motion with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to intervene in the pending $4.3 billion sale of Hawaii Electric Light Co’s parent company, Hawaiian Electric Co. (HEI), to NextEra Energy.

The Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative is a group of Big Island community and business leaders exploring the idea of public ownership, according to group spokesman and director Marco Mangelsdorf.

“We seek to participate in the discussion of the unique perspective of the residents of our island, and, if appropriate, explore an option that would make for a fundamental change in the landscape of energy production and consumption on Hawaii Island,” he said via a press release. “Being able to have more direct control over Hawaii Island’s present and future energy profile would provide us with an extraordinary opportunity to showcase what can be done on our island on many different and innovative levels.” Read the rest

From the Pacific Business News:

By Duane Shimogawa

A group of community and business leaders on the Big Island have formed an organization to explore the potential benefits of a community-based cooperative ownership structure similar to the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, and they want a closer look into NextEra Energy's $4.3 billion acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Co.

The Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative recently filed paperwork to intervene in the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission docket on the proposed acquisition, which involves HECO's Big Island subsidiary, Hawaii Electric Light Co. Read the rest

From Honolulu Civil Beat:

By Sophie Cocke

Big Island business and community leaders have formed a nonprofit coop called the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative to explore taking over Hawaii Electric Light Co., a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Co.

The co-op would be owned by ratepayers, similar to the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative. However, the co-op is interested all of the island’s energy sectors not just the electric grid.

The co-op association emerged in recent weeks with the announcement that Florida-based NextEra Energy has entered into an agreement to purchase HECO — a deal that is expected to close by the end of the year. Last week, the Hawaii Island Energy submitted an application to Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission, which must approve the sale, to intervene in the review of the merger. Read the rest


Bill 113 & The Big Picture

Richard Ha writes:

Yesterday at the Hawai‘i County Council meeting, the anti-GMO Bill 113 got a positive recommendation, meaning it now needs two votes by the Council and the Mayor’s signature to be adopted.

From this morning’s Hawai‘i Tribune Herald:

GMO bill heads to council


Tribune-Herald staff writer

A County Council committee gave a bill that would restrict the use of genetically altered crops a positive recommendation Tuesday, ensuring that the legislation would survive nearly five months after the committee first took on the controversial issue.

The legislation, Bill 113, was moved forward to the council level in a 6-2 vote with Puna Councilman Greggor Ilagan voting no and Council Chair J Yoshimoto voting no with reservations. Hilo Councilman Dennis Onishi was absent….

Read the rest

At yesterday’s meeting, Councilperson Zendo Kern said the County has spent almost $20,000 on meetings regarding this topic. He said, “We can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and over again expecting a different result. That’s insanity.”

Councilperson Dru Kanuha said, “I think we are completely wasting our time, the committee’s time and taxpayer dollars on something that should have been talked about first and foremost.

Kanuha said a task force should have been formed first, in order to investigate and suggest action, and then a bill written.

But, instead, a bill was written first. And the predictable outcome was people yelling and screaming at each other.

Bill 113 exempts GMO papaya and corn now in cultivation – but outlawing future biotech crops, while giving GMO papayas and corn growers an exemption, de facto criminalizes those papaya
and corn farmers.

The bill’s sponsors say we need to move fast before the big seed companies come to the Big Island. But there are economic reasons they are not here. The Big Island is geologically young and has not eroded enough to develop flat, fertile lands. Tractors make money on the straightaways and lose money on the turns. Where we do have limited areas of flat and fertile lands, there is no irrigation infrastructure.

Maybe now, in picking up the pieces, we can focus on the big picture. We need to have, in the spirit of aloha, a serious discussion about food self-sufficiency for the island. We will need everyone’s contribution to this effort.

  • How can we achieve affordable food self-sufficiency?
  • How can we leverage our year-round growing season?

The downside of the wonderful gift of a year-round growing season is that weeds, insects and diseases thrive here, too.

In the past, we used pesticides almost exclusively to increase production. Now, there are new, biotech options that can help us increase production while decreasing pesticides. We can lower food costs and decrease the pressure on our environment at the same time.

Remember, food self-sufficiency involves farmers farming. If the farmers make money, the farmers will farm.


Anti-GMO Bill 79, Farmers & Science

Richard Ha writes:

Hawai‘i County Councilmember Margaret Wille is planning to
resubmit an anti-GMO bill – because, she says, her fellow council members generally recognize there is a need to restrict any further introduction of GMOs here on the Big Island.

And yet, after talking to the other council members, farmers don’t think Councilmember Wille is correct about that.

Note, too, that she has not bothered to meet with the farmer
groups affected
– those who produce most of the food grown here on the island – and we can only assume she does not want their input.

In an earlier note, Wille indicated that if GMO crops were allowed, that would be the end of organic, natural farming and permaculture farming.

Actually, the reason organic farming does not produce more food is actually because its cost of production is very high. This would not change with Councilmember Wille’s bill.

The result of her bill passing would actually be more expensive food for the Big Island’s people.

One of the basic reasons Bill 79 is not fair to conventional farming is because farmers on other islands would be allowed to use new biotech seeds for nutrition improvement, disease prevention, heat tolerance and other labor and cost saving methods, while Big Island farmers would not be able to do so.

Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus is an example of a very serious tomato
disease. If farmers on other islands are allowed biotech solutions to such diseases, while Big Island farmers are not, that could be the difference between Big Island tomato farmers surviving or not.

It could also be the difference between whether conventional farmers continue farming, or do not. Yet Councilperson Wille has chosen to not even meet with farmers.

In this morning’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Maria Gallo
wrote an excellent commentary
on genetically modified foods. She is Dean of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources and Director of Research and the Tropical Extension Service at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. She writes from a knowledgeable, scientific background.

Not all genetically modified foods the same and a blanket ban on them would be misguided

By Maria Gallo

For years, I taught a course on genetically modified organisms.

First, we covered the biology behind GMOs so that students had the science background. Then we described agricultural systems so that they understood the challenges facing food production.

Next, we reviewed the applications of GMOs so that they knew the products being used along with their benefits and risks. And last, we discussed the controversy surrounding GMOs.

The objective was to develop students’ critical thinking skills so that they could make informed decisions…. Read the rest (subscription required)

Gallo points out that the GM technique itself is not harmful, and that, in fact, new GM traits aim to do things like reduce how much water crops use, through drought tolerance; to reduce saturated fats and allergens in foods, and to increase disease-fighting nutrients in food. She warns that a blanket ban on GMOs in Hawai‘i, when we are already in a position of so little food self-sufficiency, would be short sighted.

In yesterday’s Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald, Michael Shintaku had a letter to the editor along these same lines. He points out that “Supporters of this bill were surprised that so many farmers rose in opposition,” and says, “Please talk to a farmer before supporting these bills.” He makes some excellent points. From his letter:

“Bill 79 and efforts like it are terrible mistakes. It is fear-based legislation that comes from the misunderstanding that biotechnology is too dangerous to use…. Biotechnology is young, and we haven’t even gotten to the good stuff yet.”

“Bill 79 would condemn all biotechnological solutions based on irrational fear….There is no credible argument on this point in the scientific community. This issue is pretty much settled.”

He asks that we “Please allow Big Island farmers, who are among our best friends and neighbors, to use the best technology available.”


Monsanto Not Coming to Big Island

Richard Ha writes:

Monsanto is coming, Monsanto is coming. Hide the women and children!


Did you see the letter to the editor from the Monsanto spokesman, Alan Takemoto, in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald last month? He testified to the fact that the reason Monsanto is not on the Big Island is that this island does not have the combination of factors they need, like deep soil, plenty of sunshine, irrigation and flat lands. It’s a practical thing. He wrote that they do not own land or even lease land here.

The Aina Koa Pono biofuel project proves this point. The Ka‘u bio fuel project, which plans to grow crops to make biofuel, needs a huge subsidy or it won’t work. They are even trying to hide the fact that we the people will pay $200/barrel for the biofuel.

So why, again, are we banning all future biotech crops? There was a front page article in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald a few days ago saying that Hawai‘i seniors have the best prospects for quality of life and length of life in the entire nation. And the American Medical Association, at its 2012 annual meeting, said there is no substantial difference between crops that are conventionally bred and those developed from biotechnology. I trust the doctors.

The real problem is this: In a world of finite resources, how are we going to provide our people with affordable food? For this, we need, simply, farmers farming. All kinds of farmers need to contribute. And farmers need to make money so they will keep farming.

Let’s regroup, form a task force of knowledgeable stakeholders, and work toward this goal.

We need to work together in the spirit of aloha.


We’re On The Right Path; Let’s Not Veer Off

Richard Ha writes:

Here in Hawai‘i, we are first in the country for senior citizens in life expectancy and quality of life. We must be doing something right.  

From the Hawaii Tribune-Herald:

Golden years shine brightest in Hawaii


Associated Press

ATLANTA — If you’re 65 and living in Hawaii, here’s some good news: Odds are you’ll live another 21 years. And for all but five of those years, you’ll likely be in pretty good health.

Hawaii tops the charts in the government’s first state-by-state look at how long Americans age 65 can expect to live, on average, and how many of those remaining years will be healthy ones. Read the rest

This is one powerful reason why we should not rush into passing Bill 79, the anti-GMO bill. 

We need to plan for our future generations. The first requirement for food security is figuring out how we are going to provide affordable food for Hawai‘i's families, especially kupuna on fixed incomes and single moms.

The farmers need to be at the table. How do we enable farmers to farm? If the farmers make money, the farmers will farm. So far, the originators of this bill have not had a conversation with the farmers who grow most of the food.

We need our leaders to take charge and LEAD!

My letter to the editor on this same subject just ran in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald:

Dear Editor,

Bill 79, the anti-GMO bill, has brought out a lot of concern
and a lot of anxiety.

I say that we need to slow down. It would be premature to
rush into a decision on this bill without taking the time to hear everybody’s
input and address all the issues on the table.

Before we make big decisions – any of which could have
unintended consequences – we should set up some sort of task force to look at
the bigger picture of Hawai‘i’s self-sufficiency, and how we are going to
achieve that.

How are we going to get there, all of us together? We need
to end up at a place where we aloha each other, and take care of everybody.

Let’s not rush to pass this bill without fully understanding
the bigger picture.

Richard Ha,

Owner, Hamakua Springs Country Farms


Agreed: Local Products Shouldn’t Be More Expensive

Richard Ha writes:

Over the weekend, Scott Bosshardt of Kea‘au had an important letter to the editor of the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

His point was that products produced and purchased locally shouldn’t be more expensive than the same product purchased abroad.

One extremely important fact that the “Think Local, Buy Local” proponents shouldn’t overlook is that local businesses need to “price local.”

Products produced and purchased locally shouldn’t be more expensive than the same product purchased abroad.

He also wrote:

“Price local” instead of as if our Big Island-grown tomatoes and coconuts were imported from half way around the world or some other planet, then people will be much more inclined to “buy local.” This holds true for everything we produce here. Think about it. When you live in Columbia, you don’t pay more for coffee than you do in San Francisco.

He’s right: Prices are higher here, and we need to lower them. It’s what I keep talking about. We need to find a way that we can lower our costs.

I first noticed our farm costs rising steadily back in 2005 and 2006. Rising costs affect every aspect of our farm, and it was very worrisome. Looking into it, I realized that the rise in price was due to the price of oil increasing.

Here in Hawai‘i, we are being squeezed extra hard. More than 70 percent of our electricity comes from oil. Compare this to the U.S. mainland –  Hawaii’s primary competitor in many produce and food manufacturing categories – which relies on oil for only about two percent of its electricity generation.

As the price of oil rises, you can see how our local farmers and food manufacturers become less and less competitive with the mainland.

Farming is very energy intensive, and farmers’ refrigeration and water pumping costs have steadily gotten more expensive. Wholesalers’ and retailer refrigeration costs have gone up, too. This means food costs more.

Oil prices have quadrupled in the last 10 years, and this has put the economy into a continuous recession. Everything has been squeezed. Government workers’ pay has been cut. Electricity costs have gone up steadily. School budgets have been squeezed. Medical costs have risen.

I have so far attended five annual Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) conferences trying to figure out how to protect our farm from the rising price of oil. I don’t have a degree in chemistry or the sciences – but I am a farmer with common sense. So I spent my time figuring out who I can trust for good information

I determined that the folks at ASPO can be trusted because they have no other agenda than to produce good information. It is up to me to decide if their studies are valid or not, or whether I agree with their conclusion. On the other hand, I thought that people whose livelihood depends on putting on a happy face would probably just put on a happy face.

I have learned that the world has been using two to three times as much oil as it has been finding, a trend that continues. I’ve learned that the oil being produced now is much more expensive than what they found 50 years ago. It takes more energy now to get the energy. The cost of producing oil from shale and oil sands was $92 per barrel in 2011, and the floor price of oil is probably not much lower than that.

The era of cheap oil is over. And the stuff produced in the future will be even more costly, setting a higher floor as time goes by. Unless we do something, it will squeeze us all even more.

Look around: It is happening right now, even with a banner tourism year. Imagine what it will be like if we have a significant downturn.

Also important to note is that the rubbah slippah folks have less and less discretionary income. Consumer spending makes up two-thirds of our economy. Our consumers will have more spending money when we can lower the cost of our electricity.

What about the happy news that the U.S. will become the largest producer of oil and gas in the future? In 2009, Art Berman, a petroleum geologist,  showed that in a study of 4,000 gas wells in the Barnett Shale, most of the production came out in the first year. Sixteen-thousand wells later, we see that 90 percent of shale gas and shale oil wells were more than 90 percent depleted within five years. And the decline rate for all the wells is more than 30 percent. We will need to drill one third as many we have now just to keep production steady.

One can reasonably conclude that the shale gas and shale oil phenomenon may not be a game changer. It probably won’t make a large dent in world oil production.

Meanwhile, the overall trend continues. Most of the world’s oil is produced by giant and supergiant oil fields, and lots of them are declining. Folks who study this estimate that the decline rate is around 4 to 6 percent annually. That is about 3 million barrels a year. This is going on all day, every day, no matter what the stock market does.

What can we do on the Big Island to lower electricity costs, and the cost of locally produced food? Biomass and geothermal can do that today. There may be other choices maturing in the next few years, too.

Producing electricity from geothermal here costs half as much as producing it from oil. And the Big Island will be over the hot spot that provides us with geothermal for 500,000 to a million years.

Iceland is pulling itself out of the largest financial crash in history because it has cheap electricity from geothermal and can export fish.

Let’s say that one wanted to payoff an oil-fired plant that produces 60MW today. That difference in price would save $6,600/hour and $158,400 /day. This is more than $50 million per year. Seems like we could be creative with writing off stranded assets.

We are very lucky to have these options here.

Read more about this:

The Farmer’s Point of View on Geothermal and Biofuels

Let’s Fight Rising Electric Rates, Not Teachers


Let’s Fight Rising Electric Rates, Not Teachers

Richard Ha writes:

Today we find ourselves fighting against our teachers. But it’s rising electricity costs that is putting the pressure on school budgets.

We should be fighting against rising electricity rates, not our teachers.

The main problem with the proposed HECO/Aina Koa Pono (AKP) biofuel project is that its $200/barrel cost would raise Big Islanders’ electricity rates.

It proposes to supply liquid fuel for the Keahole plant, which represents 60 percent of base electrical power on the Big Island. Most of the increase to our Big Island electricity bills would be due to liquid fuel pass through. So AKP’s $200/barrel biofuel cost would have a significant, negative impact on Big Islanders’ electricity bills.

Hawai‘i’s poor already have the highest tax burden in the nation, according to a front page headline in Thursday’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

Let’s not increase the burden; let’s lessen it.

We can. Check out the Big Island Community Coalition, which is working toward lowest cost electricity for the Big Island.

Instead of the Aina Koa Pono project, we should support HELCO’s ­22MW Hu Honua biomass/firewood project, as well as the 50MW geothermal project. If we include the present 38MW geothermal project, of which the old 25 MW contract is being renegotiated right now, it will result in 110MWs of stable, affordable electricity. More than 60 percent of our electricity would come from stable, affordable sources.

This is what will protect us from rising world oil prices. And as the price of oil rises, which it will, Big Island electricity rates would stay stable. Our electricity rates would actually become the lowest in the state.

Can you even imagine the changes that will happen when the Big Island has the lowest electricity rates in the state? We have become so accustomed to electricity bills that are 25 percent higher that we have a hard time imagining anything different.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

There will be a paradigm shift when our electricity costs are the lowest in the state. We will be able to protect some of the most defenseless among us, without having to raise the tax rates.

When people have spending money, they spend that money. They
boost economic activity. Farmers can make money and even manufacture food products for the O‘ahu market. This would increase our food security.

Our County government will be able to maintain services without having to raise taxes.

Let’s all support each other as we work toward lowest cost electricity for all Big Islanders. Not, no can. CAN!


Hilo’s PUC Meeting Successful: ‘Enough is Enough’

Richard Ha writes:

Monday night’s PUC hearing in Hilo went very well. The overwhelming sentiment was that enough is enough. People will not take any more electricity rate hikes.

Big Island Video News has posted a video about the PUC meeting.

VIDEO: Aina Koa Pono, HELCO rate hikes blasted at PUC hearing

October 30, 2012

Video by David Corrigan, Voice of Stephanie Salazar

HILO, Hawaii: Residents of East Hawaii packed the Hilo High School cafeteria, to tell the Public Utilities Commission what they think about a proposed electricity rate hike and and biofuel surcharge…. Watch the Big Island Video News video here.

It’s hard to remember that until the BICC dared say it, no one could imagine we could actually get lower rates. We have made good progress. People are now saying they want lower rates, and expecting it.

In its “Off the News” section this morning, the Star-Advertiser wrote:

Electricity bill too high? Wear slippers

“Not to make light of a serious situation such as rising electricity bills, or a consumer group’s desire to show solidarity.  In an era when pennies – and dollars – must be pinched to get by, solidarity over cost-of living issues is a good thing.

That said, it was interesting to see that the Big Island Community Coalition opposed to a surcharge to finance the use of biofuels to produce power, urged its members to wear rubber slippers to last night’s public hearing as a show of uniform solidarity. This being Hawaii, what other footwear would folks don for a pau hana (after work) forum?

Of course this may have been a smart strategic move. This way the PUC might have scanned the room and figured that every last person was opposed.  It also ruled out slippers as a footwear choice for commission members, too….”

It was a civilized hearing and most of the many testimonies were on point.

About 150 people were in attendance and it was a diverse audience, including: Faye Hanohano, Fred Blas, Jeff Melrose, Richard Onishi, Russell Ruderman, PGV people from Nevada, Jim Albertini, Deborah Ward, Patrick Kahawaiola‘a, Mililani Trask, John Cross, Ka‘u people, ILWU, IBEW, Carpenters, Laborers, HELCO group, the Aina Koa Pono (AKP) core group, Sierra Club and other community members.

Other than HELCO, AKP and those who needed to be cautious, most of the rest were allies of low-cost electricity.

In today’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald, Mayor Billy Kenoi made it very clear that he is against the AKP project for several reasons.

Kenoi criticizes biodiesel proposal

By ERIN MILLER Stephens Media

Aina Koa Pono’s biodiesel proposal isn’t a good deal for Hawaii County residents, Mayor Billy Kenoi said Monday, hours before the Public Utilities Commission was set to begin its first Big Island hearing on the subject.

“This to me looks like one of those deals, after 10, 20 years, we ask how did we let that happen?” Kenoi said. “Ultimately, there is no benefit to the people of the Island of Hawaii….” 

Read the rest

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald also wrote about the PUC meeting itself.

Online Extra: HELCO rate hikes blasted

Tribune-Herald Staff Writer

No more increases.

That seemed to be the main message relayed to members of the state Public Utilities Commission on Monday night by more than 100 Big Isle residents who showed up at a public hearing at the Hilo High cafeteria to weigh in on two separate electricity rate hikes proposed by Hawaii Electric Light Co. Inc….

Read the rest here

Tonight is the West Hawai‘i PUC meeting (Tuesday, October 30, 2012) at 6 p.m. in the Kealakehe High School cafeteria.

And the third and final meeting will be held this Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 6 p.m. at Farrington High School.

Wear your rubbah slippahs!


Front Page News

Richard Ha writes:

Front page news today in the Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald newspaper:

September 28, 2012

Isle’s energy at center of debate


Tribune-Herald staff writer

The Public Utilities Commission’s public hearing on Hawaii Electric Light Co.’s rate increase and biofuel surcharge proposals is a month away, and all sides are digging in for what could be an explosive meeting.

The PUC has scheduled public hearings to gather community input on Oct. 29 at the Hilo High cafeteria and Oct. 30 at the Kealakehe High cafeteria. Both meetings start at 6 p.m.

At issue are two proposals by HELCO. One is for a $19.8 million increase in revenue, or 4.2 percent in the coming year. The other, which is being jointly proposed by Hawaiian Electric Co., is the establishment of a biofuel surcharge provision of between 84 cents to $1 per month to support a Ka‘u biodiesel refinery to be built by Aina Koa Pono.

The article goes on to discuss the Big Island Community Coalition and actions we are taking. It also discusses the Aina Koa Pono project.

Both proposals are opposed by the Big Island Community Coalition, formed by a group of prominent citizens who are asking people to come out and tell the PUC the effect of HELCO’s utility prices on their lives. Read the rest here

Did you mark your calendar yet? Come to the PUC meetings (October 29 at Hilo High cafeteria, and October 30 at Kealakehe High cafeteria; both at 6 p.m.) and here’s more on what you can do to help with our mission to make Big Island electricity rates the lowest in the state.