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True Community Based Renewable Energy at Stake

MREC News Release

As you may know by now, Hawaiian Electric, as required by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), is planning to seek proposals for their “Phase 2” Community Based Renewable Energy (CBRE) project on Molokai in early 2021. The timing of the CBRE request for proposal is an opportunity for Molokai to formalize its own grassroots cooperative and compete for a project that will reduce our reliance on diesel generated electricity, improve grid resiliency, and bring support and relief to our overburdened rate payers.

Molokai community members have joined together to create Molokai Renewable Energy Cooperative (MREC) and are preparing to submit the coopʻs first project, a 2.75 megawatt solar plus battery project, which could meet the electric needs of 1000 households. Our group of community members, in collaboration with Shake Energy Collaborative, have been working towards energy independence on Molokai for several years leading up to this project.

A few weeks ago, Hawaiian Electric announced that its own “self-build team” would be bidding for this project, and their community outreach and meetings are already underway. They have announced a public online presentation for Dec 2 for which they will only be accepting written comments and questions.

At this point, the choice of project awardee will be determined by Hawaiian Electric’s RFP team, which means that Hawaiian Electric itself will be the one deciding whether to award the contract to their own company or to another bidder, such as our community-based cooperative. It seems that no matter how objective the RFP team tries to be, it is a fundamentally unfair competition.

The PUC is currently allowing the self-build team to bid on this project under very strict rules requiring that the team is “firewalled” from the Hawaiian Electric RFP team that will be evaluating the bids. However, the self-build team has been caught multiple times in the last month breaking the rules of this firewall and their conduct is currently under review by the PUC.

We urge our Molokai community and our lawmakers to call upon the PUC for fairness: to restrict the self-build team from directly applying and competing for community based renewable energy on Molokai. You can submit your comment by visiting puc.hawaii.gov/contact/public-comments/, referencing docket 2015-0389.

As MREC continues to formalize its cooperative, outreach, and planning efforts, Molokai residents are invited to join our volunteer working group to help realize our vision in which “100 percent of Molokai’s electricity needs are met through renewable energy sources that are affordable, sustainable, culturally compatible, and environmentally friendly.”

Todd Yamashita services as president and Lori Buchanan is vice president.

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