Visitation to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Creates $136,838,700 Economic Benefits

Report shows visitor spending supports 1,672 jobs in local economy

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 1,693,005 visitors to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park in 2014 spent $136,838,700 in communities near the park. That spending supported 1,672 jobs on island, and had a cumulative benefit to the local community of $170,878,000.

Park Ranger Dean Gallagher gives the "Life on the Edge" talk to visitors along the Jaggar Museum observation deck in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo/Janice Wei.

Park Ranger Dean Gallagher gives the “Life on the Edge” talk to visitors along the Jaggar Museum observation deck in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo/Janice Wei.

The park’s 2014 visitation is up 6.9 percent from 2013 (1,583,209 visitors), and reflects a steady and rising trend of visitation to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park since 2009. The park, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016, shares two of earth’s most active volcanoes, the Hawaiian culture, and its native biodiversity with local residents and visitors.

“It’s heartening to again report an increase in both visitation to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and the significant economic impact park visitors have by spending money and creating jobs in our local community,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s clearly a big factor in our local economy as well. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities,” Orlando said.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and National Park Service economist Lynne Koontz.  The report shows $15.7 billion of direct spending by 292.8 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 277,000 jobs nationally; 235,600 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $29.7 billion.

According to the 2014 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (30.6 percent) followed by food and beverages (20.3 percent), gas and oil (11.9 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (9.9 percent).

To download the report visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/economics.cfm

The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

To learn more about national parks in Hawai‘i and how the National Park Service works with Hawai‘i communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/hawaii.

Grassroot Institute Investigates Questionable Procurement by Native Hawaiian Roll

A request by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for information about the expenditures of the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission has led to additional questions about the Commission’s possible violation of the state procurement code.

Former Hawai`i Attorney General Michael Lilly has requested that the Directors of the Departments of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and Accounting and General Services review whether the expenditure of over $800,000 on two vendors by the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission without public bid violated the State’s procurement code.  Such a violation of the code is subject to possible criminal and civil penalties.

The Grassroot Institute requested from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs the check register of the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission as part of their ongoing government transparency effort. With the Commission’s response now made public, citizens and government observers have been stepping forward with more questions about the expenditures listed and the process behind them.

Click to view

Click to view

In his letters sent as a private citizen to the state department directors, Michael Lilly states:

Some $4 million was reportedly transferred by OHA to the NHRC. The attached ledger summarizes payments by the NHRC to various vendors including over $600,000 to Makauila, a multimedia company … Another some $200,000 went to “1013” which is a branding company found on your web site here as “One Zero Ten Three” … None of these payments to vendors apparently complied with the procurement code, Chapter 103D.

According to Keli’i Akina, Ph.D., President/CEO of Grassroot Institute, “Much of the money being spent by OHA and the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission could better be used to meet the real needs of Hawaiians for housing, job opportunities, education, and health-care.  And, if any of this public money is being fraudulently used, OHA and the Roll Commission must be held accountable.”

Mr. Lilly added in a statement to Grassroot Institute: “The procurement code was established to ensure transparency and openness in public bidding, to ensure everyone has an equal right to bid on public contracts and to protect public funds from being overspent on insider deals.”

The letters from Mr. Lilly referenced above as well as the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission’s check register and expenses are posted at Grassroot Institute’s Transparency website, OpenHawaii.org.

About Grassroot President:
Keli’i Akina, Ph.D.,  is a recognized scholar, educator, public policy spokesperson, and community leader in Hawaii.  Currently, he is President/CEO of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a public policy think tank dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, free markets and limited, accountable government.  An expert in East-West Philosophy and ethics, Dr. Akina has taught at universities in China and the United States and continues as an adjunct instructor at Hawaii Pacific University.  Dr. Akina was a candidate for Trustee at Large of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in the 2014 General Election run-off.

Office of Information Practice Advising Agencies to Disclose P-Card Records to Requesters

In light of numerous inquiries about the disclosure of P-Card usage by government employees, the state Office of Information Practices (OIP) is generally advising agencies to disclose unredacted P-Card records to requesters, because all purchases made on the cards are supposed to be justified as work-related expenses.

pcard

In rare circumstances, there may be confidential information that should be redacted because of a significant privacy interest, such as medical information.

P-Card usage is distinguished from personal credit card reimbursements sought by employees for work expenses.  In the case of employees’ requests for reimbursement of work-related expenses paid for by their personal credit cards, it is proper to redact all personal or confidential information on the personal credit card invoices, such as all non-work related purchases, personal address, credit card number, interest rates, balances, payments due, and rewards points.

P-Card records to requesters, agencies are further cautioned to redact confidential P-Card account numbers and any taxpayer identification numbers for vendors.  Oftentimes, a vendor’s taxpayer ID number is a person’s social security number, which should be redacted prior to disclosure.

For the latest open government news, check for archived copies of What’s New articles that are posted here, or e-mailed upon request. To be added to OIP’s e-mail list, please e-mail oip@hawaii.gov.  Also, if you would like to receive What’s New articles or attachments in a Word format, please contact OIP at (808) 586-1400 or oip@hawaii.gov.

14th Annual Feed-A-Thon Benefits Hawaii Island Food Basket

Tommy “Kahikina” Ching, the longtime ambassador of the Feed-A-Thon, a benefit for The Food Basket, will be at the Waikoloa Village Market and five KTA grocery stores on Hawaii Island collecting food and monetary donations from 8 am – 6 pm, beginning April 8th and continuing through April 17th.

Tommy “Kahikina” Ching collecting food at the 2014 Annual Feed-A-Thon

Tommy “Kahikina” Ching collecting food at the 2014 Annual Feed-A-Thon

Hawaii Island’s Food Bank, The Food Basket, serves 1 in 5 residents island-wide through a network of 80 partner agencies. The goal for the 14th Annual Feed-A-Thon is to bring in enough food and money to provide 100,000 meals to feed the county’s most vulnerable residents.

With 1 in 4 children on the island eligible for free and reduced school meals, this annual event provides delivery of emergency food to needy families throughout the challenging summer months when school is not in session.

En Young, Executive Director of The Food Basket said, “Tommy has been a friend of The Food Basket for a long time. We are very fortunate to have a partner like him who understands how our food and cash fluctuate within the year.

Although we’re very busy during the holidays with donations, most of our work is supporting the many organizations who want to give only during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Tommy doing a drive in the middle of the year helps us so much to prepare for The Food Basket’s most critical need period; when children are getting out of school and do not receive their lunch.”

Donations of food and money will be accepted from 8 am – 6 pm at the following “Feed-A-Thon” locations, and dates:

  • KTA Kailua-Kona, April 8 – 9
  • Waikoloa Village Market, April 10 – 11
  • KTA Waimea, April 12 – 13
  • KTA Puainako, April 14 – 15
  • KTA Keauhou, April 16 – 17

For more information on ways to help feed the hungry on Hawai`i Island, please contact The Food Basket at (808) 933-6030, or visit www.hawaiifoodbasket.org.

Virgin Launches Flight Service from West Coast to Hawaii – $199 Flight Deals

Virgin America, the airline known for reinventing domestic travel, today announces it will start flying from San Francisco to Honolulu, Oahu from November 2, 2015, and Kahului, Maui from December 3, 2015, with fares on sale as of today from $199 one way* (with taxes and restrictions applying).

Virgin Airlines

As the only California-based airline, Virgin America will offer Bay Area travelers a fresh and upscale new travel option to the Aloha state, the ‘most wanted’ destination by members of its Elevate loyalty program.  Hawaii continues to be the number one tourism destination from the West Coast, with over 3.2 million visitors in 2014. Virgin America’s service is uniquely tailored to the modern traveler and to the longer-haul Hawai‘i flight experience.

With new aircraft that offer three custom-designed classes of service, touch-screen personal entertainment and an award-winning on-demand food and cocktail menu on every flight – travelers departing from the stylish and convenient new Terminal Two at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) can kick-off their Hawai‘i vacation as soon as they step onboard.  Virgin America has been named the “Best Domestic Airline” in both Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards and in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards for the past seven consecutive years.

In honor of the new route, Virgin America is celebrating with a nationwide ‘Now Serving Paradise’ fare sale and a complimentary ‘mai tai’ toast for travelers at its home airport of SFO today.

The new Hawai‘i flights are on sale now and can be purchased at virginamerica.com or 1-877-FLY-VIRGIN**.  As of tomorrow, Elevate members can redeem reward flights to Hawai‘i – with no black-out dates, for as few as 8559 points. Members can earn more points by signing up for the Virgin America Visa Signature Credit Card.

“As one of the most popular leisure destinations among Bay Area travelers, we are pleased to announce our new nonstop service to Hawai‘i,” said Virgin America President and Chief Executive Officer, David Cush. “This marks the next phase of growth for our airline, as we take delivery of new Airbus aircraft and expand our Elevate program with more world-class rewards destinations.  With a loyal following of Bay Area-based business travelers who have long requested our expansion to the islands, we couldn’t be more pleased to offer our ‘work-hard/play-hard’ frequent flyers the opportunity to fly in style to the ultimate getaway.  We look forward to bringing a new kind of flight service to the market and to building lasting community ties with the state of Hawai‘i.”

In a private call last month, Cush received permission from Hawai‘i Governor David Ige to bring Virgin America’s new flight service to the state.

“On behalf of the state, I would like to welcome Virgin America to Hawai‘i and congratulate the company on its new service to the Hawaiian Islands,” said Governor David Ige. “We are excited about the business and leisure travel opportunities the service will provide. We look forward to Virgin America’s success in serving both visitors to and residents of Hawai‘i.”

“We are pleased that Virgin America will launch inaugural service to Honolulu and Kahului this fall. These flights will boost air seat capacity to Hawai‘i from our core U.S. West market and attract new visitors through Virgin America’s vast flight network across the United States,” said David Uchiyama, Vice President, Brand Management of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, the state’s tourism agency. “San Francisco is one of our top visitor markets and we look forward to welcoming Virgin America and its guests to the Hawaiian Islands. These flights will generate an estimated $138.6 million in annual visitor spending and $14.8 million in state tax revenue.”

Beginning November 2, 2015, Virgin America’s Honolulu service is as follows:

Beginning December 3, 2015, Virgin America’s Kahului-Maui service is as follows:

The daily, nonstop flights will be operated with new Airbus A320 aircraft that Virgin America will take delivery of this year, which will be equipped with fuel-saving, ‘sharklet’ wingtip devices, allowing the airline to operate flights more efficiently, especially over longer haul routes.  Virgin America is working with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) and Airbus to ensure that the airline’s new Airbus A320 aircraft are certified for Extended Operation (ETOPS).  ETOPS is the standard certification process carriers obtain for longer range over water flights.

In addition to a Main Cabin that offers custom-designed leather seating with a deeper, more comfortable pitch, Virgin America’s First Class cabin offers plush white leather ‘cradle sleeper’ seating with 55 inches of pitch, 165 degrees of recline and lumbar massagers.  The carrier’s Main Cabin Select service offers 38-inches of pitch, free food and cocktails, an all-access pass to media content, dedicated overhead bins and priority check-in/boarding.  The Red® in-flight entertainment platform offers guests their own seatback touch-screen TV, with more than 20 films, TV***, interactive Google Maps, videogames, a 3,000 song library and an on-demand menu, which allows flyers to order a cocktail or snack from their seatback any time during a flight.  With a full service First Class menu and a unique on-demand menu in the Main Cabin, Virgin America was named Travel + Leisure’s “Best Domestic Airline for Food” in 2014.

Since its 2007 launch, Virgin America has created more than 2,800 new jobs and expanded its network to include Austin, Boston, Cancun, Chicago, Dallas Love Field, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Los Cabos, Newark, New York (JFK and LGA), Orlando, Palm Springs (seasonal), Portland, Puerto Vallarta, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C. (IAD and DCA), Honolulu (as of November 2, 2015) and Kahului, Maui (as of December 3, 2015).  The new Hawai‘i markets will represent the 22nd and 23rd destinations served by the California-based airline.

Big Island Senator Named State of Hawaii Small Business Person of the Year

Senator Russell E. Ruderman was named the State of Hawaii Small Business Person of the Year, 2015 by the US Small Business Administration Hawaii District Office.

Along with awardees in 8 other categories, Senator Ruderman was honored by colleagues on the Senate and House floor.

Along with awardees in 8 other categories, Senator Ruderman was honored by colleagues on the Senate and House floor.

The award was given to Senator Ruderman as President and Founder of Island Naturals, a group of natural and organic food stores on the Big Island known for its commitment to quality and creativity. Established in 1997, Island Naturals now employs 150 people at three locations in Kona, Hilo, and Pahoa.

The U.S. Small Business Administration was founded in 1953, largely as a response to the pressures of the Great Depression and World War II. It has since delivered millions of loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions and other forms of assistance to small businesses.

The Hawaii District Office, under the leadership of District Director Jane A. Sawyer, oversees the delivery of SBA’s programs throughout the State of Hawaii, the Territories of Guam and American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

NextEra Energy and Hawaiian Electric to Hold Informational Meetings Across State

NextEra Energy, Inc. and Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc., Hawaii Electric Light Company, Inc. and Maui Electric Company Limited (collectively referred to as Hawaiian Electric), today announced that the companies will be hosting a series of 13 open house informational meetings across Hawaii to introduce residents to NextEra Energy and the benefits of the companies’ pending merger as well as to provide members of the public with the opportunity to provide input directly to company officials.

NextEra Logo

The open houses will take place on Oahu, Hawaii Island, Maui, Molokai and Lanai from April 7 to April 16.

“Since we announced our merger late last year, we’ve been gratified at the reception we’ve received as well as the high level of interest in this important topic for Hawaii,” said Eric Gleason, president of NextEra Energy Hawaii, LLC. “NextEra Energy shares Hawaiian Electric’s vision of increasing renewable energy, modernizing its grid, reducing Hawaii’s dependence on imported oil, integrating more rooftop solar energy and, importantly, lowering customer bills. We recognize that addressing Hawaii’s energy challenges requires Hawaii-specific energy solutions, and that is why we look forward to meeting with and listening to residents across Hawaii. The meetings will provide us with the opportunity to receive valuable feedback while allowing residents to learn more about NextEra Energy and the significant near- and long-term benefits this merger will deliver to Hawaiian Electric customers and the state of Hawaii.”

“In selecting NextEra Energy as our partner, we will join a company that shares our community and environmental values, has a proven track record of lowering electric bills, is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun, and is committed to rooftop solar in Hawaii,” said Alan Oshima, Hawaiian Electric’s president and chief executive officer. “We can’t imagine a better match to help us accelerate the clean energy transformation we all want for Hawaii. We hope our customers will take the opportunity to meet members of the NextEra Energy team and learn firsthand why NextEra Energy is the right partner to help us achieve a cleaner and more affordable energy future for Hawaii.”

About the Open House Meetings

Each open house meeting will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time. Senior leaders and other employees from NextEra Energy and Hawaiian Electric will be available to discuss NextEra Energy’s track record of increasing renewable energy, lowering customer bills, creating innovative solutions for modernizing the grid, and supporting local communities, as well as all the expected benefits from the proposed merger with Hawaiian Electric.

The dates and locations for the meetings are as follows:

Maui County

April 7

  • Central Maui: Maui Electric Auditorium
  • South Maui: Kihei Community Center

April 8

  • West Maui: Lahaina Civic Center
  • Lanai: Lanai Community Center

April 9

  • Molokai: Kaunakakai Elementary School Cafeteria

Hawaii Island

April 13

  • Hilo, Hawaii: Hilo High School Cafeteria
  • Puna, Hawaii: Pahoa High School Cafeteria

April 14

  • West Hawaii: Kealakehe High School Cafeteria
  • Waimea, Hawaii: HPA Village Campus Dining Hall

Oahu

April 15

  • West Oahu: Kapolei High School Cafeteria
  • Leeward Oahu: Pearl City High School Cafeteria

April 16

  • Honolulu: Ward Warehouse, Kakaako Conference Room
  • Windward Oahu: Windward Community College, Hale Akoakoa

Website

To learn more about the benefits of the transaction, please visit www.forhawaiisfuture.com.

Big Island Legislators Secure Over $200 Million in Capital Improvement Funding for Island Projects

Big Island legislators secured over $200 million in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding for various projects across the island in the House proposed budget.

capital

The proposed budget includes funding for various highway improvements, monies for Big Island schools, plans for a new hospital in Kona, and continued financial support to complete the Kona Judiciary Complex.

Notable CIP funding highlights for Hawaii County include:

  • $55 million in continued funding for the design and construction of a Judiciary Complex in Kona
  • $1.2 million for the plans and design of a new hospital in Kona
  • $2.35 million for the design and construction of a Kamuela post-harvest facility and vacuum cooling plant
  • $330,000 for improvements to the research campus in the Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology Park
  • $30.212 for the construction of a new combined support maintenance shop complex for Hawaii Army National Guard at the Keaukaha military reservation
  • $1.675 million for Youth Challenge Academy renovations and improvements at Keaukaha military reservation
  • $2 million for the design of Building A phase 1 renovations at Hilo Intermediate School
  • $1 million for the construction of bleachers at Honokaa High School
  • $230,000 for the construction of drainage improvements and a raised covered walkway at Mountain View Elementary School
  • $450,000 for a new baseball batting cage at Waiakea High School
  • $1.58 million for the design of a new classroom building at Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School
  • $300,000 for parking improvements at Kealakehe Elementary School
  • $8.5 million for the land acquisition, design, construction and equipment for a multi-purpose workforce development processing facility
  • $1 million for the design and construction for Pu’u Wa’awa’a structure improvements and dam compliance
  • $400,000 for the plans and design for improvements at the North Kawaihae small boat harbor
  • $600,000 for the land acquisition and design for a community center in Waiakea Uka
  • $200,000 for building renovations and improvements at the Paauilo slaughterhouse plant
  • $3.5 million for airfield improvements at Hilo International Airport
  • $61 million for the design and construction of a new airport rescue firefighters regional training facility at the Kona International Airport at Keahole
  • $1.425 million for physical modifications to improve navigational safety and operational efficiencies at Hilo Harbor
  • $3.6 million for Kohala Mountain Road drainage improvements by mile post 10.60
  • $8 million for the rehabilitation of Ninole Bridge along Mamalahoa Highway (route 11)
  • $15 million for repair and maintenance of feeder roads and alternate routes for Highway 130
  • $660,000 for land acquisition to extend the Daniel K. Inouye Highway from the Hilo terminus to the Queen Kaahumanu Highway
  • $1.5 million for the construction of portable trailers at Hawaii Community College
  • $350,000 to renovate the tennis court at Honokaa High and Intermediate School
  • $2.46 million lump sum for renovations at Hilo High School
  • $1.23 million lump sum for renovations at Konawaena Middle School
  • $780,000 lump sum for renovations at Kohala High
  • $4.99 million for photovoltaic projects for East Hawaii HHSC region
  • $3.492 million total for renovations at Kona Community Hospital
  • $750,000 for an 80 bed intake unit at Hawaii Community Correctional Center to address overcrowding

 

Expanded Access to Fresh Produce for Low-Income Individuals and Families

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made funds available that enable the State of Hawaii Department of Human Services (DHS) to provide eligible farmers markets and direct marketing farmers with free electronic benefit transfer (EBT) equipment to process Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

EBT Card

Administered through the Farmer’s Market Coalition (FMC), the Free SNAP EBT Equipment Program expands access to fresh produce for SNAP beneficiaries and expands commerce options for farmers and farmers markets.

The program is available to only to SNAP-authorized farmers markets and direct marketing farmers that were authorized before November 18, 2011. If the applying farmers and famers markets receive approval, the FMC will cover the costs of purchasing or renting SNAP EBT equipment and services (set-up costs, monthly service fees, and wireless fees) for up to three years. Though transaction fees will not be covered, the selected farmers and farmers markets will get to choose their own SNAP EBT service provider from a list of participating companies.

The Free SNAP EBT Equipment Program is a first-come first-serve opportunity, and the program ends when the funds have been distributed.

If a farmers market or direct marketing farmer isn’t yet SNAP-authorized, or became SNAP-authorized on or after November 18, 2011, then they may be eligible for free equipment through MarketLink. Learn more about MarketLink’s application process at www.marketlink.org.

For more information on the Free SNAP EBT Equipment Program, including frequently asked questions, an eligibility chart, background information and application instructions, visit http://farmersmarketcoalition.org/programs/freesnapebt/.

Click here for a county-by-county listing of Farmers Markets.

Paniolo Power Files Motion to Consolidate Merger, PSIP Dockets

Paniolo Power Company, LLC, a subsidiary of Parker Ranch, Inc., filed a motion today to merge two of the most important cases currently before the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission into one docket—the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ (HECO)-NextEra acquisition and the HECO clean energy plan.

Paniolo Power Company

The Change of Control docket addresses NextEra Energy, Inc.’s proposed acquisition of the HECO Companies. The PSIP docket addresses HECO’s long-term clean energy strategy and transition plan.

“The issues in both the Change of Control and the PSIP dockets are inextricably linked,” said Jose Dizon, General Manager of Paniolo Power. “HECO’s lack of focus on customer value has led it to continue to use oil-fired power plants, with the associated high fuel prices that are passed on to the ratepayers.”

Understanding the destructive effects of fuel volatility, Dizon added, the PUC in April 2014 issued harsh guidance to the Hawaiian Electric Companies to accelerate power plant retirements and aggressively pursue clean energy sources.

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Big Island Hosting 11 Nations: Trans-Pacific Partnership Meeting Begins

Eleven nations will be meeting tomorrow here on the Big Island at an undisclosed location  to work on passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Leaders of TPP member states and prospective member states at a TPP summit in 2010.

Leaders of TPP member states and prospective member states at a TPP summit in 2010.

U.S. failure to pass a trans-Pacific agreement would leave a political vacuum for China to fill.

Beginning tomorrow on the Big Island of Hawaii, U.S. officials will host trade negotiators from 11 nations spanning Asia and the Americas to work toward completing what could be the most significant trade deal in a generation. Five years in the making, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would cover 40% of global gross domestic product and a third of world trade.

Any such deal ultimately will have to make it through the U.S. Congress. In order to prevent lawmakers from amending the agreement and undoing years of international negotiations, Congress will first have to provide President Obama with trade promotion authority, also known as “fast-track,” that allows a yes-or-no vote on the package.

The remainder of this Wall Street Journal opinion piece can be found here: A Trade Deal With a Bonus For National Security

Hawaiian Electric Companies Continues to Accept Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Applications

Contrary to some reports, the Hawaiian Electric Companies are continuing to accept solar photovoltaic (PV) applications through the current net energy metering process, which includes a technical review for safety and reliability. The companies are also making significant progress clearing pending applications on circuits that already have very high amounts of solar.

Shaka For HELCOOverall, Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light continue to lead the nation in rooftop PV. An estimated 12 percent of the utilities’ customers have rooftop solar system, compared with the national average of less than one percent.

These efforts are part of the companies’ commitment to meet three overarching energy commitments by 2030. These include:

  1. Nearly tripling the amount of distributed solar
  2. Achieving 65 percent renewable energy use
  3. Lowering customer bills by 20 percent

“We know rooftop PV is an important option for our customers. We are continuing to follow the current net energy metering process while the Public Utilities Commission considers our proposal to transition to a fairer, more sustainable program. It’s critical for our community that we increase solar in a way that maintains reliability and is safe and fair for all customers,” said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president for customer service.

A recent letter to some Hawaii Electric Light customers who submitted applications for projects in areas of Hawai‘i Island with high amounts of solar has been mischaracterized by a national solar group as an effort by the Hawaiian Electric Companies to stop all solar installations.

“We apologize for the confusion and want to assure our customers that we are continuing to process solar applications. We are reviewing our notification procedures to improve communication with our customers,” Alberts said.

Highlights of progress made

  • Earlier this week, Hawaiian Electric reported to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission that it notified an additional 548 O‘ahu customers who have been waiting for their net energy metering applications to be processed. Hundreds more are now being approved.
  • This was the first large group of Oahu customers to be cleared from a backlog of 2,749 applications, all from neighborhoods with high existing amounts of PV as of last October. Hawaiian Electric has committed to clearing 90 percent of that backlog by April, with the remaining customers applications to be approved by the end of 2015.
  • In addition, Maui Electric approved 331 applications in neighborhoods with high amounts of solar, nearly clearing its entire backlog. Hawaii Electric Light had 336 applications under review in neighborhoods with high amounts of solar, and approvals have since begun.
  • Overall, more than 3,000 net energy metering applications have been approved since the beginning of the year across the five islands that the Hawaiian Electric Companies serve.

In January, Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, and Hawaii Electric Light proposed a new program that would support the continued growth of rooftop solar while ensuring equitable rates for all customers. The new transitional distributed generation program would help address the current growing cost shift for operating and maintaining electric grids from customers who have rooftop solar to customers who don’t. At the end of 2013, that cost shift was approximately $38 million. By the end of 2014, that subsidy borne by non-solar customers had grown to $53 million.

In conjunction with this transitional distributed generation program, the utilities expect to be able to help the growth of solar by more than doubling the threshold for neighborhood circuits to accept solar systems. This would eliminate in most of those cases the need for a longer and costly interconnection study.

Hawaii Electric Light Company Selects Ormat to Provide Additional Geothermal Energy

Following a rigorous review of bids submitted as part of a competitive bid process, Hawai‘i Electric Light Company has selected Ormat to provide an additional 25 MW of geothermal energy for Hawai‘i Island.

Puna Geothermal Venture

Puna Geothermal Venture

The next step in the process is to begin contract negotiations with Ormat, with an agreement to be submitted to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for approval.

“We have continued to pursue ways to increase our use of renewable energy and lower costs to our customers, while also ensuring reliable service,” said Jay Ignacio, Hawai‘i Electric Light Company president. “Ormat was selected based on numerous criteria, including attractive pricing, technical design and capability, financial soundness, as well as commitment to resolving all environmental issues and to working with our Hawai‘i Island communities.”

Geothermal technologies provide renewable, controlled dispatchable energy and firm capacity that allow Hawai‘i Electric Light to schedule and control output from the geothermal plant to its island-wide grid.

Firm energy sources like geothermal support the integration of intermittent renewable resources, such as wind or solar, while maintaining reliable service for Hawai‘i Island customers.

A draft Geothermal RFP was issued in early November 2012. The PUC also selected an Independent Observer, Boston Pacific Company, to monitor and advise on all steps of the competitive bidding process to ensure that the process is fair and adheres to the PUC Framework for Competitive Bidding.

More than 47 percent of electricity on Hawai‘i Island is already generated from renewable resources, including hydro, wind, distributed solar and geothermal.

Hawaii Electric Bills Are at a Four-Year Low

Customers of the Hawaiian Electric Companies are benefiting from lower electric bills due to lower fuel prices. Typical residential bills are at their lowest level in about 4 years.Shaka For HELCO“We are happy to pass these savings straight through to our customers,” said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of customer service. “At the same time, we’ve seen oil prices drop before, only to rise again. Today’s lower oil prices must not distract us from reducing our dependency on imported oil.

“We remain committed to reaching our goal of getting 65 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2030,” he said.

The Hawaiian Electric Companies also continue working to reduce costs to customers through efficiency improvements and by pursuing cleaner, low-cost natural gas to replace oil while continuing to increase use of renewable energy.

* On Oahu, the residential effective rate is 27.9 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). A typical 600 kWh bill is $177.45, a decrease of $9.77 since last month, and the lowest since March 2011.

* Hawaii Island’s residential effective rate is 33.8 cents per kWh and a 600 kWh bill is $214.71; that is $12.49 lower than last month, and the lowest since October 2010.

* Maui’s effective rate is 31.5 cents per kWh and a typical 600 kWh bill is $198.78, $21.46 lower than last month and the lowest since February 2011.

Free Festivals at The Shops at Mauna Lani

The Shops at Mauna Lani invites the community to two exciting events in February: Polynesian Cultural Festival on Monday, Feb. 16, 5:30- 8 p.m. and Fortune Festival on Friday, Feb. 27, 5-8 p.m. Both evenings feature a variety of cultural activities, entertainment, food booths and family-friendly fun.

First up, the new Polynesian Cultural Festival is a monthly interactive event that offers a chance to experience the music and dances of Tahiti, Samoa, Aotearoa and Hawai‘i “up close and personal.”  Participants will be able to wear the fiercesome face-paint of Maori warriors while they pound Tahitian drums, and even take the Samoan fire knife for a spin. More peaceful pursuits like coconut leaf weaving, Konane (checkers) and hula lessons are available, plus poi ball twirling for the keiki.
Mauna Lani Fire Knife

The event is capped off with The Shops’ popular Polynesian Hula and Fire Knife Dance show by performing group Te ‘E‘a O Te Turama. With vivid costumes and vibrant rhythms from across the islands, male and female dancers bring island stories to life and ignite excitement with a fiery finale. The Polynesian Cultural Festival takes place at The Shops on the third Monday of each month, 5:30-8 p.m.

Later in February, the Fortune Festival honors the Year of the Goat with colorful Chinese celebrations, food, music and more.

Mauna Lani Lion Dance

A powerful hundred-foot Dragon will parade through the shopping center while firecrackers frighten off any evil spirits, and the traditional Lion Dance, with drums and cymbals, lets onlookers “feed” the Lion for good fortune in the year ahead. A Chinese fortune teller, martial arts demonstration, fire-blowing and costume contests for children and adults, plus Asian-inspired cuisine, crackling shrimp chips, and a beer and wine garden add to the festivities.

“We’re so happy that people are discovering The Shops as a fun and interesting place to be,” said General Manager Michael Oh. “In addition to our great stores and restaurants, these two festivals in February add a lot of excitement to the center, and we hope the whole community will come and enjoy. Bring the kids, kick off date night, meet friends for a pau hana—there’s a lot to like about The Shops at Mauna Lani.”

Lunch With Mayor Kenoi and Select Cabinet Members

Mayor Billy Kenoi and select cabinet members discuss opportunities and challenges for West Hawaii’s economy at the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce 2015 Focus Luncheon 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24 at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay.

The Manta Ray Super Pool & Slide is a centerpiece at Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa.

The Manta Ray Super Pool & Slide is a centerpiece at Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa.

Sponsored by the Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union, the annual luncheon offers a unique opportunity for the local community to meet with county department representatives in a casual setting.

Attendees have the chance to have lunch with members of a specific department as well as pose questions to the mayor and cabinet heads. Issues discussed may include update of the Keauhou Aquifer; the county’s solid waste management plan; and the quest to reopen the Kona International Airport international arrivals facility.

Cost for the luncheon is $46 for Chamber and Rotary members, $56 for non-members. No walk-ins allowed. For more information and/or to register, visit kona-kohala.com or call the Chamber office at 808-329-1758.

10th Annual Building and Design Expo

The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce will hold its 10th annual Building & Design Expo February 6 – 8 at the Keauhou Convention Center at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa.Building and Design ExpoFriday evening the expo is open to the public from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. and includes a musical performance by Randy Ressler. Saturday expo hours are from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Visit over 40 exhibits featuring home design, construction and remodel ideas including home decorating; fine art; windows and doors; flooring and window treatments; kitchen and baths, home energy products and more. The booths will present products, services and information relating to the building and improvement of homes, apartments and condos. Enter to win giveaways and drawings at vendor booths.

Attendees can also enter to win a grand prize: a 2-night stay at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa.

For additional information regarding the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce Building & Design Expo, go to www.kona-kohala.com or call the Chamber office at 329-1758.

Parker Ranch Partners with NextEra Energy Resources

 Parker Ranch announced earlier today that Parker Ranch Foundation Trust (PRFT) has entered into an agreement with an affiliate of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC. This agreement provides NextEra Energy Resources with long-term access rights to PRFT lands to develop renewable energy derived from PRFT’s wind resources.

“We have been aggressively seeking ways to reduce the cost of electricity for our community and our island by using the potential renewable energy resources available on PRFT’s Hawaii Island lands,” said Neil (“Dutch”) Kuyper, President and CEO of Parker Ranch. “During this time, we have also been seeking capital and technical expertise from potential development partners. We have been working collaboratively with NextEra Energy Resources for more than a year and believe that they are the ideal partner to utilize PRFT’s wind resources.”

In 2013, Parker Ranch, Inc. commenced a utility-grade integrated resource planning effort with assistance from Siemens, Booz Allen Hamilton and Pace Global to evaluate alternative energy strategies for Parker Ranch and the surrounding communities of Waimea and North Kohala as well as the Island of Hawaii.

“Our work with Siemens identified several valuable scenarios utilizing PRFT’s wind resources, combined with storage, that could drive down electricity rates and cut our excessive vulnerability to volatile imported oil prices,” said Kuyper. “Reducing Hawaii Island electricity rates, slashing our reliance on imported oil and decreasing carbon emissions are all important to us because the cost of energy is tied to everything we do.”

Through its Paniolo Power Company subsidiary, Parker Ranch, Inc. is continuing to evaluate the merits of pumped-storage hydro and the economics of utility-scale battery solutions in the generation mix.

“Our community is inherently at the center of our mission and core values,” said Kuyper. “We will continue to engage our neighbors and friends in the process of pursuing our renewable energy and sustainability goals.”

The potential for renewable energy on PRFT’s lands is unique on Hawaii Island and in the State due to the size and scale of the wind resource.  PRFT’s mission is focused on the sustainability of the Waimea community, the hometown of Parker Ranch, by providing perpetual support for PRFT’s four Waimea-based beneficiaries.

PRFT and Parker Ranch, Inc. have recently completed comprehensive strategic planning efforts and each has decided to elevate the pursuit of renewable energy-related opportunities to be one of their highest strategic priorities.

NextEra Energy Resources is one of the largest developers of clean and low-cost renewable energy in North America and is the largest producer of zero-emissions energy from wind resources.

Public Comments Welcome For Revision #1 Of Statewide Transportation Improvement Program

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) is providing an opportunity for the public to submit comments on the proposed STIP Revision #1 to the Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2015 to 2018 (+2) Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The STIP is a four-year plan that identifies state and county transportation projects to be funded, in part, with Federal Highway and Transit Funds.

Click to see draft

Click to see draft

The primary purpose of this revision is to address needed changes to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funded projects due to shifts in project schedules, priorities and cost estimate increases or decreases that occurred through the project development process. Other scheduling changes or funding restructuring were also necessary to fiscally balance the aforementioned changes.

Changes to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) program reflect updated revenue estimates, project development related changes, and updated grant award schedules.

Proposed STIP Revision #1, new project information and a list of explanations of the changes reflected in this revision can be found on the HDOT STIP website at: http://hidot.hawaii.gov/highways/revisions-for-2015-2018-2-stip/

Changes to the Oahu portion of the STIP are pending and are concurrently being processed as a Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) revision by the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Please see more information on the TIP process and TIP Revisions at the Oahu MPO website at: http://www.oahumpo.org/plans-and-programs/transportation-improvement-program-tip/

Hard copies of the proposed STIP may be obtained by calling (808) 587-6355, or by using the contact information below.

Comments on STIP Revision #1 will be accepted until Feb. 9, 2015 by mail, fax, or email to:

Highway Planning Branch
869 Punchbowl Street, Room 301
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
email:  hwy.stip.projects@hawaii.gov
fax: (808) 587-1787

Follow the STIP on Twitter and Facebook at:

http://twitter.com/HISTIPnews

http://www.facebook.com/stip.hawaii

Hawaiian Host to Acquire Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut

Hawaiian Host, Inc. announced today that the company has entered into an agreement with The Hershey Company to acquire the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation.

Hawaiian HostHawaiian Host is one of Hawai‘i’s premier brands and the originator of chocolate covered macadamias with its history dating back to 1927. When the acquisition is completed, Mauna Loa will join Hawaiian Host as a subsidiary. Both companies will continue operating as two distinct, separate brands.

“This acquisition will create a great opportunity for both companies, our employees and the community. It brings Mauna Loa back under Hawai‘i ownership, joins together two strong, local brands, and lays the foundation for continued success,” said Keith Sakamoto, president and chief executive officer of Hawaiian Host. “We are excited to welcome Mauna Loa’s outstanding employees to the Hawaiian Host family. Both companies have a long history of operating in Hawai‘i and sharing our products with the world. And we remain committed to continuing to offer the same quality products our customers have grown to know and expect.”

In 1946, Mauna Loa planted its very first macadamia nut trees near Kea‘au, just south of Hilo, where its facilities and visitor center are currently located on 136 acres of land. Mauna Loa is one of the largest and most experienced macadamia nut processors in the world with the seasonal capacity to process approximately 40 million pounds of macadamias. They also produce chocolate covered macadamias and flavored macadamia nut products that are distributed locally, nationally and internationally. In 2004, The Hershey Company acquired Mauna Loa.

“Both Hawaiian Host and Mauna Loa have a long history of supporting our local growers and farmers as well as our community. And with our more than 300 employees in Hawai‘i we will continue that legacy together,” added Sakamoto.

The acquisition is expected to be finalized in the first quarter of 2015. There are no immediate staff changes planned and details of the acquisition will not be released.

Hawaiian Host was founded by Mamoru Takitani, a third-generation Japanese descendent who dreamed of becoming a candy maker. After moving to Honolulu from the island of Maui, Takitani purchased Ellen Dye Candies, a local confectioner since 1927, and renamed it Hawaiian Host. Since then, Hawaiian Host has grown to become “Hawai‘i’s Gift to the World” and remains the leader in chocolate-covered macadamia products. Today, Hawaiian Host has more than 250 products that are sold in more than 23 countries around the world.

Hawaiian Host supports the Mamoru & Aiko Takitani Foundation which provides grants to numerous community organizations and provides academic scholarships for higher education to benefit the young people of Hawai‘i. Since its inception, the Mamoru and Aiko Takitani Foundation has provided more than $2 million dollars in scholarships to students from every eligible high school in Hawai‘i.

For more information, visit www.hawaiianhost.com.