Tag Archives: Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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


Our Newspapers Need To Cover The News

Richard Ha writes:

Where are our local newspapers?

Why does it take the Honolulu Star-Advertiser to back up our island’s local farmers and ranchers, and to point out that agricultural policy should never be set without the participation of the people producing our food?

This is what appears to be happening in Hawai‘i at the moment.

An excerpt from yesterday’s Star-Advertiser editorial, which talks about the Big Island’s recent passage of the “anti-GMO” bill 113:

“The state Legislature may be able to undo this wrong, but it will take true leadership and real political courage. Lawmakers should assert the state government’s authority over agricultural rules and enforcement, rather than standing by as the counties continue to impose undue burdens on local farmers.”

The article also asserts: “It’s time for elected officials and policymakers throughout the state to stand up and be counted. Let’s have an ‘Eat GMO Papaya Day.’ This food is safe, it’s affordable and it’s grown right here at home.”

And why does it take the Star-Advertiser to point out that our policies are exhibiting an unwarranted distrust of University of Hawai‘i specialists in tropical agriculture?

State must take lead in GMO debate

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 12, 2014

That a Big Island councilwoman would seek to revive a bill banning all genetically modified crops on Hawaii island, even though strict limits on such agriculture were approved only a month ago under another bill, indicates just how emboldened biotechnology foes have become in their quest to control Hawaii farmers.

The measure is not expected to pass, and should be rejected. It should not, however, be ignored, especially on Oahu. Councilwoman Brenda Ford’s proposal signals that rather than taking responsible action to assess the impact on local agriculture of the newly approved Bill 113, some elected officials are willing to put productive local farmers flat out of business. Login for more…

WHY does it take reporter Amy Harmon from the New York Times to tell us what is happening on our own island?

A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops


JAN. 4, 2014

KONA, Hawaii — From the moment the bill to ban genetically engineered crops on the island of Hawaii was introduced in May 2013, it garnered more vocal support than any the County Council here had ever considered, even the perennially popular bids to decriminalize marijuana.

Public hearings were dominated by recitations of the ills often attributed to genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.s: cancer in rats, a rise in childhood allergies, out-of-control superweeds, genetic contamination, overuse of pesticides, the disappearance of butterflies and bees.

Like some others on the nine-member Council, Greggor Ilagan was not even sure at the outset of the debate exactly what genetically modified organisms were: living things whose DNA has been altered, often with the addition of a gene from a distant species, to produce a desired trait. But he could see why almost all of his colleagues had been persuaded of the virtue of turning the island into what the bill’s proponents called a “G.M.O.-free oasis.”

“You just type ‘G.M.O.’ and everything you see is negative,” he told his staff. Opposing the ban also seemed likely to ruin anyone’s re-election prospects.

Yet doubts nagged at the councilman, who was serving his first two-year term. The island’s papaya farmers said that an engineered variety had saved their fruit from a devastating disease. A study reporting that a diet of G.M.O. corn caused tumors in rats, mentioned often by the ban’s supporters, turned out to have been thoroughly debunked.

And University of Hawaii biologists urged the Council to consider the global scientific consensus, which holds that existing genetically engineered crops are no riskier than others, and have provided some tangible benefits.

“Are we going to just ignore them?” Mr. Ilagan wondered.  Read the rest

Enough is enough.

Our newspapers need to report the news.

And our leaders need to step up and be accountable.

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.”


My Star-Advertiser Op-Ed: Big Island Biofuels Project Would Raise Oahu’s Electric Rates

My Op-Ed article on the Aina Koa Pono situation, and how it would raise electricity rates for O’ahu residents (though the project is on the Big Island), ran in yesterday’s Star-Advertiser. Here it is in full:


The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is considering approving
a contract between Hawai‘i Island’s HECO-owned utility (HELCO) and a partnership known as Aina Koa Pono (AKP). Its decision is expected within the next several weeks.

Why should rate payers on O‘ahu care about this proposed

Because if approved, O‘ahu residents would pay about 90
percent of the cost – even though the very expensive fuel would only be used on the Big Island.

The contract between HELCO and AKP calls for HELCO (and you) to purchase fuel from AKP at about $200/barrel. Today, a barrel of oil costs about half that: $107.  If this contract is approved, there will be a surcharge, to cover the difference, on your monthly electricity bill.

Furthermore, note that whenever oil has reached about $120/barrel, world economies have slowed precipitously. Many have gone into recession. This tells us that there is a natural economic “stop” in place that keeps oil from getting anywhere near $200/barrel.

And yet HELCO/HECO is trying to guarantee AKP a fixed price
of $200/barrel.

While a discussion of using renewable energy, rather than
primarily buying foreign oil, is warranted, when the cost of those renewables is so unrealistically high that any buyer would look for other alternatives, then that discussion has reached the point of absurdity.

What lower-cost alternatives exist for the Island of Hawai‘i?

  • The Island has significant geothermal resources at the equivalent price of $57/barrel. Right now, HELCO purchases only about 70 percent of the geothermal power available, meaning there is more geothermal available at well below the equivalent of $200/barrel.
  • HELCO currently purchases power from biofuel and hydroelectric sources that make a reasonable profit at today’s prices, and don’t ask for $200/barrel. Additional power plants are asking to come on line at today’s prices.
  • HECO and HELCO currently buy solar power at prices well below the equivalent of $200/barrel (in fact, from what we can tell, at less than half that price).
  • HECO and HELCO buy wind-generated power for far less than $200/barrel, with more potential sellers lining up to sell to them.

AKP’s plan has technical issues, as well. The process AKP plans to use has never been proven at the scale they propose; the proposed
yield of source material is many times more than ever grown anywhere. There are also cultural and environmental issues.

Finally, you might ask why O‘ahu rate payers should pay for power consumed by rate payers on another island. GOOD QUESTION.

The simple answer is that if rate payers on the Island of
Hawai‘i had to bear the burden, there is no way this could be approved. That kind of tells the whole story right there, doesn’t it?

We suggest you write to the PUC if you oppose this contract:
hawaii.puc@hawaii.gov. You can also contact your State and County legislators and your Mayor.

Richard Ha, owner of Hamakua Springs Country Farms,
submitted this on behalf of the Big Island Community Coalition, of which he is a founding member. Other founding members include Dave DeLuz Jr., John E.K. Dill, Rockne Freitas, Wallace Ishibashi, Ku‘ulei Kealoha Cooper, Noelani Kalipi, Ka‘iu Kimura, Robert Lindsey, H.M. “Monty” Richards, Marcia Sakai, Lehua Veincent and Bill Walter. All operate as individuals and do not represent others. The Big Island Community Coalition (BICC) works primarily with cost issues on the Island of Hawai‘i, where residents pay about 25 percent more for electricity than do O‘ahu rate payers.



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!


If We Spend All Our Money on Electricity…

At a local level, the rising cost of electricity, whatever the cause, will result in severe economic pressures.

What’s important to realize is that 70 percent of our economy is based on consumer spending. “If people no more money, they no can spend.”

It all relates to costs.

See these Honolulu Star-Advertiser articles on the subject:

Geothermal power production could double

Hawaiian Electric Light Co. wants to tap more of the Earth’s power for electricity

By Alan Yonan Jr. 

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 07, 2012

Officials from Hawaiian Electric Light Co. said Friday they will soon seek regulatory approval to more than double the amount of geothermal power produced on Hawaii island in a move that could provide some relief for residential utility customers, who pay the highest electric rates in the state…. Read more


Keep close eye on geothermal funds

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 07, 2012

Hawaii has been touted as an ideal laboratory for the development of renewable energy that’s bound up in its wind, seas and sunshine. It’s the southernmost island in the chain, however, that may be the most richly endowed overall, and the most promising resource of all is the one that’s buried far beneath the surface…. Read more

Having attended four Peak Oil conferences now, I have seen that Jeff Rubin is one of the credible commentators on the world oil situation. His comments are especially relevant to the discussion about rising oil prices in Hawai‘i today.

Audio of Jeff Rubin’s talk at the most recent ASPO conference.

From his blog:

…The real story behind triple digit oil prices is not the threat of supply shocks, but the sheer, unrelenting rise in world oil demand.  Already closing in on 90 million barrels a day, the quick rebound in world oil consumption to new record highs demonstrates the global economy can’t grow without burning greater amounts of oil.

No matter how many rabbits the oil industry can pull out of its hat, be it tar sands from Alberta or shale oil from the Bakkens, supply just can’t seem to keep pace – at least not at the prices most consumers can afford to pay. That is the message that triple digit prices keeps telling us.

If the global economic expansion, troubled as it may be, continues, we will see even higher oil prices in 2012. But what does that say about the sustainability of growth?

And even if there is growth, what is the pace? Read the whole post here.

Jeff Rubin explains why he quit his job as Chief Economist at CIBC World Markets. In Hawai‘i, we call it kuleana.

After twenty years as Chief Economist for a North American investment bank, it was time for me to seek a larger audience for the story I needed to tell.

My predictions of steadily rising oil prices over the last decade, including my call for $100-per-barrel oil by 2007, had flown in the face of conventional wisdom.

Among other things, my track record on predicting rising oil prices demonstrated that the traditional laws of supply and demand were no longer working for one of the economy’s most basic and essential commodities. And when they stopped working, the consequences for the economy would be severe.

It wasn’t subprime mortgages but triple-digit oil prices that brought down the world economy.

And unless that economy started to wean itself off an ever-depleting supply of affordable oil, there would be other recessions to follow as economic recoveries would simply push oil prices right back into triple-digit range. But weaning our economy off oil meant, at the same time, making fundamental changes in the way we live.

This is not the kind of message investment banks want their chief economists delivering these days, to either governments or investors. But the urgency of this message grows with every passing day.

On March 31, 2009, I resigned my position as Chief Economist and Managing Director of CIBC World Markets to deliver this message in my book, Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization.

Jeff Rubin was the Chief Economist at CIBC World Markets for 20 years. He was one of the first economists to accurately predict soaring oil prices back in 2000 and is now one of the world’s most sought-after energy experts. He lives in Toronto.