Opinion: Haste Makes Waste for Big Wind
Opinion by Kanohowailuku Helm, President of I Aloha Molokai
To Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, State Energy Administrator Mark Glick and staff, members of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) , and Carl Freedman, IRP facilitator:
Today, three processes regarding our energy future are running on parallel tracks: (1) the Integrated Resource Planning (IRP), which involves 68 officials, experts and interested parties, (2) the Hawaii Clean Energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy, and (3) HECO’s request for proposals (RFP) to build an undersea cable. Together, these efforts could result in a smart, affordable state energy plan with public support — but only if they are carefully synchronized.
According to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), the RFP is expected six months before the IRP process is complete and at least a year before the results of the PEIS are released. To the general public, this looks like putting the verdict before the evidence and the action before the plan. If this is allowed, it seems likely to revive suspicions that state energy planning is mostly a cover story for corporate profiteering. It will surely disillusion those who have participated with good faith in the planning process. It could crystallize opposition and provoke an unnecessary fight.
We believe you are all seeking an affordable energy plan that commands broad public support. We therefore respectfully urge you to delay the RFP until it can be shaped by the results of the IRP and the PEIS.
Haste makes waste. No one will fault you for making big decisions in a deliberate manner. In the interim, you can direct HECO, MECO and HELCO to improve their customer service, expand their capacity to accept rooftop solar, and upgrade obsolete plants and equipment. Since any large renewable projects are bound to involve further rate increases, it surely wouldn’t hurt to start building up a reservoir of consumer good will.
Though we oppose Big Wind and the cable for Molokai, we do share your goal of greater statewide energy self-sufficiency. We believe there is common ground between us, common ground which could be clearly identified through the IRP and the PEIS. In asking you to delay the RFP, we are simply asking you to honor your own initiatives, the work of those you have appointed, the needs of consumers and ratepayers, and the fragile environment of our beautiful state.
If you look through I Aloha Molokai’s (IAM) films and published statements, you will see that we do support many renewable energy projects. For us, the key criteria are minimal damage and affordable cost. We think, for example, that Blue Planet and the Sierra Club are simply wrong about Big Wind. Giant turbines are not really “green” and their cost to benefit ratio simply doesn’t pencil out. On the other hand, IAM would like to work with the state to explore conversion to other renewables, including solar on Molokai. We believe each island has to find its own appropriate renewable energy mix.
No one has all the answers, but one thing is crystal clear: A premature “Christmas surprise,” which invites bidders to blast ahead with Big Wind and the cable, will send precisely the wrong message.