Thursday, October 23, 2008
See videos at: http://kgmb9.com/main/content/view/10629/40/
Posted on: Tuesday, October 21, 2008
"Ambitious plan for wind power"
State officials, HECO sign a deal...
By Rick Daysog Advertiser Staff Writer
"About a third of O'ahu's electricity needs could someday be met by wind farms, under a sweeping agreement signed yesterday by state officials and Hawaiian Electric Co.
Gov. Linda Lingle said the accord will help reduce the state's dependence on foreign oil, improve the reliability of HECO's electrical system and boost the state economy by keeping hundreds of millions of dollars in Hawai'i that would otherwise be sent to foreign oil producers.
"This agreement is historic. It's transformational, and it will make Hawai'i a world leader and a model in renewable energy," Lingle said.
But critics say the plan would be costly for consumers and relies too heavily on wind power at the expense of cheaper technologies such as solar energy.
"It's a bunch of hot air," said Henry Curtis, executive director of the environmental group Life of the Land Hawaii.
Lingle; U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye; Constance Lau, chief executive officer of HECO's parent, Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc.; and other state officials were on hand at the state Capitol yesterday to sign the 50-page agreement, which is part of the Lingle administration's ambitious plan to move Hawai'i toward getting 70 percent of its energy from clean-energy sources by 2030.
The cornerstone of the deal calls for HECO to buy about 400 megawatts — or about a third of the company's electricity demand on O'ahu — from wind farms on Moloka'i and Lana'i.
Yesterday, Lingle outlined plans to build an undersea cable connecting O'ahu, Maui, Moloka'i and Lana'i to carry that wind-generated electricity to O'ahu.
Lingle said she could not provide estimates on the cost of the cable but said it would likely be paid by HECO customers, federal grants and private money.
"That (the cost) was the one major component I can't tell you today," Lingle said. "It's a little bit early."
Curtis, whose organization was one of several groups that successfully challenged HECO's plans to build the controversial Wa'ahila Ridge power lines in the late 1990s, said he was told by state officials that the costs for the cable could range from $500 million to $1 billion, depending upon the final route.
Curtis, who took part in a state/private-sector task force that helped shape yesterday's agreement, said the range for the cost is wide because state officials and HECO executives still haven't settled on the route of the cable.
Some plans call for the cable to start on Lana'i as the center, or the hub, connecting to Maui, O'ahu and Moloka'i. Other plans have Moloka'i as the hub connecting to Maui, O'ahu and Lana'i.
Curtis said he expects a long permitting process since effects on the cost to consumers, endangered species and other environmental concerns would have to be examined.
"It seems to me that consumers will be a lot happier if they put solar panels on their roofs," Curtis said.
Not all environmental groups share that view.
Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, hailed the deal, saying it "puts Hawai'i on course for cleaner energy sources, smarter use of energy and lower utility bills."
"Today's agreement represents transformative change," said Mikulina, former director of the Hawai'i chapter of the Sierra Club.
Lingle said that over the long term, Hawai'i's economy would benefit from being self-sufficient. Depending on the price of oil, state consumers send $5 billion to $7 billion out of state for fuel.
If the state could offset about $3 billion of those costs by developing locally produced renewable fuels, much of that money would stay in the Islands, where it would create jobs and opportunities for local residents, she said.
For HECO, the agreement would transform the way the company does business. Long known as a company that produces and distributes electricity, HECO would look more like an energy-services company that buys its power from third-party producers.
In the deal, Hawaiian Electric Co. said it would phase out its older, less efficient fossil-fuel burning power plants as more renewable sources of power come online.
The company also would move toward developing a "smart grid" system that gives consumers greater control of their energy use and their electricity bills.
HECO CEO Lau called yesterday's agreement signing "a historic moment."
"It really reminded me of what everybody feels about when they are about to walk down the altar. What I remember about that time is that there's tremendous excitement, and there's also a lot of trepidation, because you say "what the heck am I getting into?" she said.
'But you know it's the right thing to do, and that you are going to sign that marriage contract.'"