Aina Koa Pono (AKP) received support from Hawaii Island residents in a recent survey, but a larger number revealed that many are still unaware of the company and its Kau project.
The survey results were released today to coincide with the Hawaii Public Utilities’s Commission hearings on Hawaii Electric Light Company’s request for approval of the biofuels contract.
Aina Koa Pono is proposing a biorefinery in Kau which would produce 24 million gallons of biofuel annually—16 million gallons will be used at HELCO’s Keahole power plant and eight million gallons will be distributed by Mansfield Oil for transportation, with preference to Hawaii. When completed, AKP can supply 18 percent of the island’s power needs from renewable resources.
“Hawaii Island residents were surveyed because we wanted to get a sense of the level of acceptance and support for the Kau project,” said Chris Eldridge, partner of AKP. “What we learned was that while there’s support, we need to do more education and outreach.”
AKP engaged SMS Research and Marketing of Honolulu to conduct the survey. The survey, taken in September and October, found that 85 percent support “developing more renewable energy sources for the Island of Hawai‘i.”
The Kau project would provide “base load” electricity, which is essentially steady electricity, as opposed to other alternatives such as wind or solar, which are intermittent and depend on weather conditions.
Aina Koa Pono’s operation would initially convert invasive plant species, coconut husks and macadamia nut hulls to biofuel using Microwave Catalytic Deploymerization (Micro Dee). Microwave technology has been successfully and safely used in the herbal extraction and pharmaceutical industries for decades.
SMS Research has served organizations in Hawaii for more than 50 years.
The research also indicated that a large minority Hawaii Island residents do not know enough about Aina Koa Pono or its project.
SMS Research found that only 10 percent of those interviewed knew about the Aina Koa Pono project when asked on an unaided basis. Of the residents who knew of the project, 65 percent support the project compared to 16 percent who do not.
A description of the project was provided to all respondents and when asked whether they favor or oppose the project, 56 percent stated they were in favor of the project as compared to 11 percent opposed— a 5-to-1 ratio. 33 percent stated they did not know enough about the project.
“We have been meeting with folks in Kau and will be increasing our outreach to the community so they are aware of our project,” Eldridge said.
Excluding those who do not know enough, the support for Aina Koa Pono development is strong in the areas of safety, keeping money in the State, additional jobs, revitalization of Hawaii’s agricultural industry, reduction of electric bills for Island residents, and more.
Again, excluding those who do not know enough, some of the concerns with the project include the perception that Aina Koa Pono will be run by outsiders, may have some impact on traffic, biofuel will cost more to produce than imported oil, and the plant will be too expensive to build.
“Serious misinformation is circulating throughout the community. Aina Koa Pono is locally owned and the $450 million project is privately funded,” Eldridge said. “Eight to 12 trucks a week will deliver biofuel to Keahole. The project poses no financial risk to ratepayers, who pay nothing until the biofuel is produced and accepted by HELCO.”
The Aina Koa Pono project would increase electricity bills for HECO and HELCO customers by 84 cents to $1 a month for typical 500 to 600 kWh usage.
At the conclusion of the survey, participants were asked again the level of support or opposition to the development of the biofuel plant at Kau, a majority of 63 percent support versus 12 percent who oppose with 25 percent having no opinion.
The final report will be released by SMS Research shortly.
(Research Methodology: 303 interviews conducted between September 20 to October 3, 2012, margin of error is +/– 5.6 percentage points.)