Tag Archives: Wallace Ishibashi

Great Info Meeting on How Kaua‘i Formed its Electric Utility Co-op

Richard Ha writes:

We had an interesting presentation Friday from two executives from Kaua‘i’s electrical utility, the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC). David Bissell is CEO, and Dennis Esaki was a founding member who only recently left the KIUC board.

Meeting

It was amazing to hear what KIUC went through to purchase Kaua‘i Electric Company and form the utility cooperative. The Kaua‘i County Council and mayor were originally against the purchase, and the PUC turned down its first purchase bid as not being in the best interest of the users. But the founding group continued to rework its plan and was ultimately successful the second time it presented a bid.

In total, it was about a two-year process and the group purchased Kaua‘i Electric Company in 2002 for $215 million. And, Esaki said, referring to the county administrators, “they’re all on board now.”

This month, Kaua‘i’s electricity rates are lower than any of the islands but O‘ahu’s (mostly because of the oil price decline). Most months, its rates are a little lower than the Big Island's and a little higher than Maui.

Since 2003, ratepayers have received $30 million in refunds and patronage capital — the amount of money left after all the bills are paid, and the co-op has met its lenders’ requirements. This is money that circulates back into the community. 

Members have $80 million in equity, which is what they own of the co-op. When the utility was purchased 12 years ago, it was 100 percent debt-financed, so the equity at that time was zero.

KIUC has gone from about five percent renewable energy in 2009 to 18 percent today. It will be at about 40 percent by the end of next year.

From the KIUC 2013 Annual Report (click to enlarge):

Annual report

  Annual Report p. 9

The organization of the co-op also reflects what the people of Kaua‘i want, because its board is selected by the people. Esaki and Bissel said that at first there was almost total, and repeated, board turnover as ratepayers regularly voted out board members who weren’t doing what they wanted. Eventually, they said, the board has stabilized.

Projects are financed through national co-op financing, which results in much lower financing costs.

You can watch a video of the meeting below. Thanks to Chester Lowrey for videotaping!

There was a lot of community interest in the KIUC presentation, with a good turnout from various community groups. The presentation was sponsored by three organizations:

The Big Island Community Coalition, the steering committee of which is made up of David DeLuz, Jr., Rockne Freitas, Michelle Galimba, myself, Wallace Ishibashi, Kuulei Kealoha Cooper, Ka‘iu Kimura, D. Noelani Kalipi, Robert Lindsey, H. M. Monty Richards, Marcia Sakai, Ku‘u Lehua Veincent, and William Walter.

The board of the Hilo-Hamakua Community Development Corporation, which is President Donna Johnson, Judi Steinman, Glenn Carvalho, Eric Weinert, Jason Moniz, Gerald DeMello, Colleen Aina, and Richard Ha.

And Hawai‘i Farmers and Ranchers United, which represents more than 90 percent of the farming goods produced on the Big Island.

Ed Olson donated the use of his Wainaku Executive Center for the meeting.

We have formed a steering committee to discuss this further. The committee consists of Gerald DeMello, Michelle Galimba, Wally Ishibashi, Donna Johnson, Eric Weinert, Vincent Paul Pontieux, Marco Mangelsdorf, Russell Ruderman, and myself. I’ll keep you posted on further developments.

Edited 12/21/14 at 10:45 pm; 1/5/15; 1/30/15.

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Testimony To PUC Supporting 50MW of Geothermal for Big Island

Richard Ha writes:

This is testimony that the Big Island Community Coalition (BICC) steering committee sent to the Hawaii PUC earlier this month. It is in support of the implementation of 50MW of geothermal energy for Hawai‘i island.

The BICC steering committee is made up of the following, all acting on their own behalf: David DeLuz, Jr., Rockne Freitas, Michelle Galimba, Richard Ha, Wallace Ishibashi, Kuulei Kealoha Cooper, Kai’u Kimura, D. Noelani Kalipi, Robert Lindsey, HM Monty Richards, Marcia Sakai, Kumu Lehua Veincent, and William Walter.

Our testimony:

To: Chair Hermina Morita

Commissioner Michael Champley

Commissioner Lorraine Akiba

Hawaii Public Utilities Commission

Email: Hawaii.puc@hawaii.gov

Re: Comments to PUC Docket: 2014-0183 (HECO/HELCO/MECO – PSIP: HELCO Power Supply Improvement Plan and PUC Docket: 2012-0092 (Geothermal 50 MW RFP for Hawaii Island)

Aloha PUC Commissioners,

The Big Island Community Coalition supports implementing 50MW of geothermal as soon as practicable. The high oil price case projected by the EIA 2014, predicts $150 per barrel oil by 2020. There is a direct correlation between oil usage and world GDP. A high oil price of $150 per barrel will adversely impact our tourism industry causing a severe recession.

Geothermal is one of the few ways available to mitigate high oil price. And, we need to move sooner rather than later.

Oil prices quadrupled in the last ten years and the folks who could pass on the costs did pass on the costs. Those who could not were the working homeless, kupuna on fixed income, single moms as well as others such as farmers who are price takers and not price makers. 

The Big Island has the lowest median income of the counties. Our electricity rates have been 25% higher than Oahu’s for as long as we can remember. That high electricity rate acts like a giant regressive tax. We are able to turn that around by enabling more geothermal.

The 23% curtailed electricity from geothermal can support making hydrogen at an affordable cost. This will help solve the green ground transportation problem. And, curtailed electricity can be the basis for making nitrogen fertilizer, without which we cannot feed all the people.

Mahalo, Commissioners.

Richard Ha

President, Big Island Community Coalition

Chart

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Thirty Meter Telescope Receives Final Approval!

Richard Ha writes:

Today the Land Board approved the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). That's the final word. It's over.

Along with several others, I attended the Land Board meeting today in Honolulu where they heard testimony. Then they went into executive session and made their decision. 

It's hard for me to find the words to say how important this is.

Last night I attended a presentation at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of students from about ten different high schools from around the world. Each gave a scientific report and they were so high-level they were just mind-boggling. One was some kids from India describing how to measure the mass of the Milky Way. They went into every little step of how a planet forms and dies, and it was evident they hadn't memorized anything, they actually knew it. It gives you so much faith in human beings and their ability to think and do these kinds of great things.

There was also a presentation by high school students from Keaukaha on how to make a koa and fiberglass canoe. It was much more involved than I would have thought. And a robotics team from Kalani High School that was made up of three girls. One of them told the audience that before she got involved in robotics she was very shy. But now, through robotics, she has discovered a passion for teaching small kids and especially girls. She raised her hand and said, "YES!!" It's amazing to see students achieving what they didn't think they could achieve. 

The Thirty Meter Telescope sponsored this event at ‘Imiloa. There are all sorts of interesting things going on, which we don't necessarily know are happening, because of the Thirty Meter Telescope and its commitment to education.

YES!!

Here is the testimony I gave this morning to the Board of Land and Natural Resources:

Aloha, everyone,

I have been involved with the TMT project from the beginning and decided to support it because of TMT's efforts to do the right thing for our Big Island. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us. A project like the TMT will never come our way again. The benefits to the Big Island's young people – not just today's generation, but future generations too – is enormous.

The TMT is giving $1 million dollars annually to The Hawaii Island New Knowledge (Think) fund. The annual installments begin next month and last through the ten years of construction and the 50 years of viewing time.  

The Big Island has the lowest median family income in the state, and education is the best predicted of family income. The TMT partner's contribution is strictly discretionary spending. It is money out. There is no money coming in. If we stretch the waiting period too far, we could lose the whole project. 

Time is of the essence. Please do not jeopardize this education fund for our young people.  

Aloha,

Richard Ha

President, Hamakua Springs Country Farms and its 70 workers.

Also representing the Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United. This grass roots organization represents 90 percent of the farm value produced on the Big Island

Also, President of the Big Island Community Coalition. Its steering committee members in their private capacities are:

Dave DeLuz, Jr., President, Big Island Toyota
Rockne Freitas, Former Chancellor, Hawaii Community College
Michelle Galimba, Member, Board of Agriculture and Ka'u rancher
Richard Ha, President, Hamakua Springs Country Farms
Wallace Ishibashi, Former Chair Big island Labor Alliance, DHHL commissioner. 
Kuulei Kealoha Cooper, Trustee of Kealoha Trust
D. Noelani Kalipi, Former Staffer for Senator Akaka. Helped to write the Akaka Bill.  
Ka‘iu Kimura, Executive Director, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center
H.M. Monty Richards, Kama‘aina Cattle Rancher
Marcia Sakai, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, UH Hilo
Kumu Lehua Veincent, Principal of Kamehameha Schools, Hawai‘i Island campus
William Walters, President, W.H. Shipman., Ltd.

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‘Behind the Plug & Beyond the Barrel’

Richard Ha writes:

I spoke on behalf of the Big Island Community Coalition (BICC) at the Hawai‘i Island Renewable Energy Solutions Summit 2014 on April 30th, which was titled “Behind the Plug and Beyond the Barrel," and here's what I said: 

BICC mission

Good morning. Thanks for the introduction. I will use just this one slide, and you can read our mission statement on it, which is to lower the cost of electricity. “To make Big Island electricity rates the lowest in the state by emphasizing the use of local resources.”

I would like to spend some time talking about who makes up the BICC.

Dave DeLuz, Jr. – President of Big Island Toyota.

John Dill – Contractors Association, and Chair of the Ethics Commission

Rockne Freitas – Former Chancellor Hawai‘i Community College

Michelle Galimba – Rancher, Board of Agriculture

Richard Ha – Farmer

Wallace Ishibashi – Royal Order of Kamehameha, DHHL Commissioner

Kuulei Kealoha Cooper- Trustee, Jimmy Kealoha and Miulan Kealoha Trust.

Noe Kalipi – Former staffer for Sen Akaka, helped write the Akaka Bill, energy consultant

Kai'u Kimura- Executive Director of ‘Imiloa.

Bobby Lindsey – OHA Trustee

Monty Richards – Kahua Ranch

Marcia Sakai – Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs, former Dean of UH Hilo, College of Business

Bill Walter- President of Shipman, Ltd., which is the largest landowner in Puna.

These folks are all operating in their private capacities. I'm chair of the BICC, and the only person from Hawai‘i to have attended five Peak Oil conferences. I've visited Iceland and the Philippines with Mayor Kenoi's exploratory group.

As you can imagine, the BICC has strong support all across political parties and socioeconomic strata. People get it in five minutes.

Oil and gas are finite resources, and prices will rise.  One note about natural gas: the decline rate of the average gas well is very high. Ninety percent of the production comes out in five years. This is worrisome.

Hawai‘i Island relies on oil for sixty percent of its electricity generation; the U.S. mainland only two percent.

As the price of oil rises, our food manufacturers and producers become less competitive, as we all know. Food security involves farmers farming. And if the farmers make money, the farmers will farm.

What can we do?  By driving the cost of electricity down, the Big Island can have a competitive edge to the rest of the world.

Since rising electricity rates act like a giant regressive tax, lowering electricity rates would do just the opposite. And since two-thirds of the economy is made up of consumer spending, this would be like "trickle up" economics. If the rubbah slippah folks had extra money, they would spend and everyone would benefit.

 The lowest-hanging fruit:

1. Geothermal. Allows us to dodge the finite resource bullet. It is the lowest-cost base power. The Big Island will be over the hot spot for 500,000 to a million years.

2. We throw away many lots of MW of electricity every night. Hu Honua will probably throw away 10 MW for ten hours every night. PGV, maybe 7 MW for ten hours.

3. Wind, too.

Maybe HELCO will allow us to move the excess electricity free. They don't make any money on the throwaway power now, anyway. What if we used it for something that won't compete with them? Then people could bid for the excess, throwaway power for hydrogen fueling stations, to make ammonia fertilizer, and to attract data centers. Hawaii could become the renewable energy capital of the world. People would love to come here and look at that. As airline ticket costs rise, the walk around cost in Hawai‘i would not.

The BICC call for lowering electricity costs could leave future generations a better Hawai‘i.  And that is what we all want.

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Good News: PUC Says No To AKP Biofuels

Richard Ha writes:

Happy holidays, everyone!

We received good news on Monday: The PUC rejected the ‘Aina Koa Pono biofuel project.

From Civil Beat:

The Public Utilities Commission has rejected a proposal to build a biofuels facility in Kau on the Big Island. 

The developer, Aina Koa Pono, hoped to use plant feedstocks to produce drop-in biofuel for the electric utilities on the Big Island, Maui and Oahu. But the PUC said that the fuel would be too expensive, in a decision issued on Monday.

“The contract price for the AKP-produced biofuel is excessive and not cost-effective at present and for the foreseeable future, and thus, is unreasonable and inconsistent with the public interest,” commissioners wrote…. Read the rest

It goes to show that “we, the people” can make a difference.

In this case, a grassroots group of folks came together spontaneously to advocate for low-cost electricity on behalf of the rubbah slippah folks on the Big Island. We called ourselves the Big Island Community Coalition (BICC).

We supported other community members by submitting written testimony, and helped organize public participation at two PUC hearings on the Big Island. Here’s a post about it from last year.

The people involved in the BICC were Dave DeLuz, Jr., John Dill, Rockne Freitas, Michelle Galimba, Richard Ha, Wallace Ishibashi, Kuulei Kealoha Cooper, Robert Lindsey, H.M. Monty Richards, Marcia Sakai, Kumu Lehua Veincent and William Walter.

Helping the rubbah slippah folks helps all of us.

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Testimony to OHA Supporting Geothermal

Richard Ha writes:

OHA is contemplating investing in geothermal. I am in favor of that, for the reasons that I mention below.

I sent the following testimony to OHA:

***

Subject:  OHA testimony re: Huena Power Co/IDG

April 17, 2013

Office of Hawaiian Affairs
711 Kapiolani St.
Honolulu, HI  96813

Aloha Chair Machado and Board members of OHA:

The Geothermal working group report, which Wallace Ishibashi and I co-chaired, recommended that geothermal be the primary base power for the Big Island. OHA was represented on the working group by trustee Robert Lindsey.

I believe that OHA should participate in geothermal development because it is an income source for OHA to provide services to the Hawaiian people. And it can influence the course of our people’s history.

Geothermal-generated electricity is proven technology, affordable and environmentally benign. The Big Island is expected to be over the “hot spot” for 500,000 to a million years so its price is expected to be stable.

The Pahoa School Complex in Puna, at 89%, has the highest number of students in the State who participate in the free/reduced school lunch program. Participation is related to family income. The Big Island has had electricity rates 25% higher than O‘ahu’s for as long as anyone can remember. So a large portion of the school budget, that should go to education, goes instead to pay for electricity. Yet the best predictor of family income is education. A lower electricity rate, generated by geothermal, will have a direct effect on education. And if OHA, through its influence, emphasizes education in the community, there will be even more positive results.

Rising electricity rates act like a giant regressive tax. The folks on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder are affected disproportionately. Those who can leave the grid, leave. Those who cannot leave end up paying more for the grid. Too often those folks will be Hawaiians.

Hawaiians should be able to live in their own land. Yet there are more Hawaiians living outside of the State, because they needed to move elsewhere to find jobs to raise their families. Exporting our children is the same as losing our land. OHA is in a position to drive the agenda so Hawaiians can afford to live at home.

During the development of the Geothermal Working Group report, Rockne Freitas arranged a meeting with Carl Bonham, Executive Director of the University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization (UHERO), and some staff.

I asked Dr. Bonham two key questions: “Is it fair to say that if the Big Island were to rely on geothermal energy for its primary base power as oil prices rises, shouldn’t we become more competitive to the rest of the world?” He said that was fair to say.

I asked: “Then is it fair to say that our standard of living would rise?” He said: “Yes.”

I am a farmer on the Hamakua coast with family ties — Kamahele — in lower Puna. I farmed bananas at Koa‘e in the late 70s and early 80s. I have been to five Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) conferences. I went to learn and to position my business for the future. I found that the world has been using two and three times the amount of oil than it has been finding for more than 30 years and that trend continues. The price of oil has quadrupled in the last 10 years.

Until the first ASPO conference, I was just minding my own business, being a banana farmer. But what I learned became my kuleana. I did not ask for it.

Until last year, when Kamehameha Schools sent Giorgio Calderone and Jason Jeremiah and Noe Kalipi went to the conference, I was the only person from Hawai‘i to attend. The subjects were always data driven and conclusions could be duplicated.

We have the resources here to dodge the bullet. We need to drive a clear agenda for the benefit of all the people, not just a few.

One of the controversial issues in the Puna district is H2S gas. I went to Iceland and sat in the Blue Lagoon, where a geothermal plant within a quarter mile emits geothermal steam into the atmosphere. Millions of tourists visit the Blue Lagoon for health purposes.

There are small geothermal wells within the city that are used to heat the residences and businesses. If you did not know what to look for, you wouldn’t even know they were there. I walked by and touched the walls.

A long term study of the effects of H2S on people who suffer from asthma was just completed. It was done in Rotorua. They found no correlation of asthma to daily ambient H2S levels of 20,000 parts per billion over a three-year period. The study indicated that there might be a beneficial effect because it relaxes the smooth muscles. See link above.

The human nose can detect levels of H2S at incredibly low levels: 5 parts per billion. The Department of Health requires reporting when levels exceed 25 parts per billion. The Rotorua study was done for three years at average levels that were 20,000 parts per billion. OSHA allows geothermal plant workers to work in a 10,000 parts per billion environment for 8 hours per day without a mask.

Wallace Ishibashi and I went to the Philippines with the delegation that Mayor Kenoi put together. We visited a geothermal plant that sat on a volcano that last erupted 100,000 years ago. Mauna Kea last erupted 4,000 years ago. We may have more resources than we know.

The Phillipines and Hawai‘i started geothermal exploration at the same time. They now have in excess of 1,200MW, while we have 38MW. We are so far behind them, a supposedly Third World country, that it is embarrassing.

OHA is in a unique position to be able to influence the future. It is as if we are getting ready to duplicate that first voyage from the south so many years ago. It’s not whether or not we are going. It’s who should go, and what should we put in the canoes? Mai‘a maoli? Popoulu? What else?

Richard Ha
President, Mauna Kea Banana Company

I am a member of the Hawaii Clean Energy Steering Committee, Board of Agriculture and farmer for 35 years.

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In Support of Lower-Cost Electricity for the Big Island (HB106)

Richard Ha writes:

Although we are testifying in strong support of HB106 HD2, SD1, we would support any bill or combination of bills that further our efforts to bring lower-cost electricity to the Big Island in a pono way.

Aloha Chair Gabbard and Vice Chair Ruderman:

The Big Island Community Coalition (BICC) is strongly in favor of HB106 HD2, SD1.

The BICC steering committee members are Dave DeLuz, Jr., President of Big Island Toyota; John E. K. Dill, Chair of the Ethics Commissions; Rockne Freitas, former Chancellor, Hawai‘i Community College; Michelle Galimba, Rancher and Board of Agriculture member; Richard Ha, farmer, Hamakua Springs; Wallace Ishibashi, Royal Order of Kamehameha; Ku‘ulei Kealoha Cooper, Trustee, Kealoha Estate;  D. Noelani Kalipi, who helped
write the Akaka Bill; Ka‘iu Kimura, Director of Imiloa Astronomy Center; Robert Lindsey, OHA; H. M. (Monty) Richards, Rancher; Marcia Sakai, Vice Chancellor, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo; Kumu Lehua Veincent, Principal, Kamehameha High School, Kea‘au; William Walter, President, Shipman Estate. All speak here in their private capacity.

Our mission is to drive down the cost of electricity on the Big Island. The cost of the Big Island’s electricity has been 25 percent higher than O‘ahu’s for as long as we can remember. Yet the Big Island has the lowest median family income in the state. Three school complexes in East Hawai‘i lead the state in free and subsidized school lunches: Pahoa at 89 percent, Ka‘u at 87 percent and Kea‘au at 86 percent.

Education is the best predictor of family income. But because the Big Island’s electricity rate is 25 percent higher than O‘ahu’s, we waste more than $250,000 annually in some of our school complexes.

The cost to generate electricity from geothermal is less than half that of oil. And because the Big Island will be over the hot spot for more than 500,000 years, that cost will be relatively stable – unlike the cost of oil, which will rise in the not-too-distant future.

I asked Carl Bonham, Executive Director of the UH Economic Research Organization, if it is fair to conclude that if geothermal were the primary base power for the Big Island, then the Big Island would become more competitive to the rest of the world as oil prices rise? He said, Yes, we would become more competitive. I concluded, and he agreed, that our standard of living would then rise. And that our working homeless could get off the streets.

We all need to work together to make things work. Get thousand reasons why no can! We only looking for the one reason why CAN!

Richard Ha
BICC Steering Committee Representative

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Amending HB 106: ‘Let’s Fix It”

Richard Ha writes:

I sent in testimony, on behalf of the Big Island Community Coalition, regarding HB 106, draft 1. This bill contemplates repealing Act 97 (geothermal subzones, etc.).

We should keep the good parts of this bill and add parts that make it better. We need balance as we take care of everyone’s needs. This is about all of us, not just a few of us.

Here’s my testimony:

To the Water & Land committee

Aloha Chair Evans and Vice Chair Lowen,

The BICC is very strongly in favor of amending this bill.

There are good things in this bill; let’s leverage that. We are strongly against repealing it in its entirety.

No question: home rule should be addressed. This was an unfortunate oversight the last time around. Let’s fix it.

The heart of the bill that must be kept is the part that allows geothermal exploration and development in various land use designations.  The geothermal resource exists where it exists, not where we want it to exist. So we need a larger area to explore, not less. By having more choices we can get further away from populated areas. And we can increase our chances of success. The permitting process gives the necessary checks and balances to protect the people.

The essential problem we must solve is how to protect the people from rising oil prices. Repealing Act 97 in its entirety will raise our electricity prices.

The petroleum era is less than 150 years old. Oil is a finite resource and we are observing increasing oil prices. Oil price has quadrupled in the last 10 years. In contrast, the Big Island will be over the “hot spot” for 500,000 to a million years.

Geothermal-generated electricity is less than half the cost of oil-generated electricity. And it will be stable for 500,000 years.

The Big Island’s electricity costs have been 25 percent higher than O‘ahu’s for as long as anyone can remember. The Big Island Community Coalition is a grass roots organization that was formed to drive the cost of electricity on the Big Island down.

One of the BICC members did a cost analysis of a local school district’s 12 month electricity bills – generally 2012. Their costs (total of all schools involved) averaged $115,900/month.

At O‘ahu’s rates, those costs would be $115,900/1.25 = $92,700. That’s a savings of $23,200/month or $278,400/year.

If we figure $70,000/year pay for a teacher, the difference is four teachers for the district.

Because of these kinds of things, the BICC said enough was enough.  People turned out at the PUC hearings, and consequently the governor issued a press release saying that HECO/HELCO had withdrawn its proposed 4.2 percent rate hike.

No one has ever told us: “We disagree with you; we want higher electricity rates.”

The members of the BICC are Dave DeLuz, Jr., John E.K. Dill, Rockne Freitas, Michelle Galimba, Richard Ha, Wallace Ishibashi, Ku‘ulei Kealoha Cooper, D. Noelani Kalipi, Ka‘iu Kimura, Robert Lindsey, H.M. “Monty” Richards, Marcia Sakai, Kumu Lehua Veincent and William Walter.

Rising electricity rates act like a regressive tax, but worse. As electricity prices rise, folks who can afford to get off the grid will do so. Those who cannot leave, the rubbah slippah folks, will be left to pay for the grid.

If we can achieve low-cost, stable electricity, trickle-up economics can result. If the rubbah slippah folks have money to spend, they will spend. Then businesses will be able to hire, and then we won’t have to send our children away to find jobs.

There is a lot at stake here.

Good luck.

Aloha,

Richard Ha
Cell 960-1057

I’ve been to five Association for the Study of Peak Oil conferences. I was co-chair of the Geothermal Working Group authorized by SCR99, and sit on the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) steering committee and the State Board of Agriculture. I’ve been to Iceland to see geothermal in operation, and I was part of the Big Island delegation that toured geothermal resources in the Philippines.

At Hamakua Springs we farm 600 fee simple acres of diversified crops. I do an Ag and energy blog at hahaha.hamakuasprings.com.

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‘HELCO & Your Bill: What’s Wrong With This Picture?’

Richard Ha writes:

This Op-Ed piece just ran at Civil Beat, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today.

HELCO & YOUR BILL: WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

By Noelani Kalipi 

Hawaii Electric Light Co. is applying to raise Big Island electricity rates by 4.2 percent — shortly after its parent company announced impressive profits that were 70 percent higher than last year.

What’s wrong with this picture?

We — John E.K. Dill, Rockne Freitas, Richard Ha, Wallace Ishibashi, Ku‘ulei Kealoha Cooper, Noelani Kalipi, Ka‘iu Kimura, Robert Lindsey, H.M. “Monty” Richards, Marcia Sakai, Bill Walter — invite you to join our newly formed group, the Big Island Community Coalition. Our mission is “to work together as an island community for the greater good of Hawai‘i Island and its people.”

Our first priority: To make Big Island electricity rates the lowest in the state by emphasizing the use of our ample local resources.

The proposed HELCO rate increase, coming at a time of record profits, does not sit right with us.

We understand the regulatory system, which is rate-based. Our concern is that we continue to see requests for rate increases at the same time that we read about record profits for the utility.

While we understand the fiduciary duty to maximize profits for the shareholders, we believe the utility’s responsibility to the rate payer is just as important. As part of good corporate business, it should benefit both by investing its profits into a sustainable grid.

The Big Island is one of the few places on the planet where we have robust, renewable energy resources that can be harnessed effectively to provide firm, reliable, low cost electricity for our residents.

One example is geothermal, which costs about half the price of oil. We also have solar, wind and hydroelectric. We have resources right here that can both lower our electricity costs and get us off of imported oils.

Lower rates would mean that when the grid needs repairs, or the cost of oil goes up again, it will not be such a punch-in-the-gut to our electric bills.

If HELCO is allowed to raise its rates by the requested 4.2 percent, plus raise rates again via the Aina Koa Pono project, and then the oil price goes up, that would be a triple whammy price hike on your electric bill.

Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi has sent a strong message that the county will not support new renewable energy projects — such as Aina Koa Pono, which would add surcharges to every electric customer’s bill — unless they result in cheaper energy. “Unless it has lower rates, we will not support it,” he said recently.

UH-Hilo just had a $5.5 million electric bill — almost $500,000 more than last year — and HELCO’s proposed 4.2 percent rate increase would add another $230,000 to their bill. The same thing is happening at hospitals, hotels and businesses. Farmers’ expenses are going way up, which threatens our food security. Electricity rate increases ripple through every part of our economy. They are already rippling.

People are already struggling with their monthly HELCO bill. Some are having their lights turned off.

As rates continue to increase, more people will leave the grid and fewer will remain to pay for the infrastructure, meaning that those households and businesses that remain (because they cannot afford to get off the grid) will pay even more.

You may think the electric utility is a big powerful entity that you cannot affect, but you can. Pay attention! Show up! Write a letter! Do something! If you leave your name and contact information at www.bigislandcommunitycoalition.com, we will send an occasional email to keep you informed of what’s happening, and how you can help.

‘Nuff already!!

Let’s be clear. This is not about how green the energy is. This is about how much the energy costs. This is not about saving the world. It’s about saving ourselves first, so we are in good condition to help save the world.

We had hoped that HECO would have a balanced approach to solving the problems. There are books written on how corporations can take care of people and the environment as well as their investment. The term is called “triple bottom line.”

From The Triple Bottom Line: How Today’s Best-Run Companies Are Achieving Economic, Social and Environmental Success – and How You Can Too:

Increasingly, businesses are expected to find ways to be part of the solution to the world’s environmental and social problems. The best companies are finding ways to turn this responsibility into opportunity. We believe that when business and societal interests overlap, everyone wins.

Rising electricity costs are like a regressive tax, where the poor pay a disproportionate amount of their income. Only it’s worse. As the price of oil rises, people who are able to, leave the grid. This leaves a diminishing number of people – those who cannot afford to leave – to pay for the grid.

What’s wrong with this picture?!

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The Canoes Are Coming: Te Mana o Te Moana

A couple days ago I went to breakfast at ‘Imiloa with my friends Wallace Ishibashi, of the Big Island Labor Alliance and the Royal Order of Kamehameha, and Clyde Hayashi,of Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust.

Kalepa Baybayan, ‘Imiloa’s Navigator-In-Residence, stopped by to tell us about the progress of the canoes coming up from the South Pacific on the voyage called Te Mana o Te Moana (“The Spirit of the Sea”).

From the website:

The Goal

We’re sailing across the Pacific to renew our ties to the sea and its life-sustaining strength.  The ocean is the origin of life, and it continues to give us air to breathe, fish to eat, and nourishes our soul as well. As threatened as the ocean is now, however, it soon can no longer provide us with these essential life services.

Sailing together, we seek the wisdom of our ancestors and the knowledge of scientists to keep the Pacific healthy and give our grandchildren a future.

We have chosen a motto for the whole project, which reflects the spiritual thinking in Polynesian culture about the sea, which has the same life-force running through its water as runs through our bodies, and how to treat this precious resource to not disturb Tangaroa, the God of the Sea. The following saying is a poetic way to say “be respectful and gentle”:

“Move your paddle silently through the water”

Later, I had a meeting with Patrick Kahawaiola’a and Mapuana Waipa, the president and vice president respectively of the Keaukaha Community Association, and our conversation went to the schedule for the arrival of the canoes. Patrick folks are going to arrange the ceremony.

As of Thursday, the canoes passed the equator and were in the doldrums. You can follow their progress. The first place they will arrive in Hawai‘i is Hilo harbor.

I was tickled that Mapuana was so pumped up about there being women in the crews. I thought to myself: I bet they sent equal amounts of men and woman when the first people came to Hawai‘i many years ago. How could it have worked any other way?

Here’s the most recent blog entry, straight from the vaka/va‘a/wa‘a (“canoe” in various Polynesian languages):

Day 55. This is our home. This va’a (canoe), simple with inspiration from our Polynesian ancestors, its smooth wooden platform connecting two sturdy hulls lying below- this is our island… this is our world. I heard someone say recently “our canoe is our island, and our island our canoe,” as such the lessons and practices inherent on one are reflective in the other. Gaualofa, this island which has sheltered us, transported us and looked after us all so soundly, has been able to do so only as a result of care and consideration from everyone involved. We are constantly reminded to look after her should we expect to be looked after in turn. On this va’a, all are aware of the finite nature of the resources w… READ THE REST

Learn more about the voyage here.

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