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Hilo Community Supports State Efforts to Redevelop Banyan Drive and East Hawaii

Tonight at the Hilo Innovation Center in downtown Hilo business leaders, community leaders, tenants and lessees came together to listen to the Hilo Economic Development Plan presented by Jim McCully, spokesman of the Kanoelehua Industrial Area Association (KIAA).

Nearly 100 folks crowded the center and listened to presentations by McCully, HPM Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Jason Fujmoto and later on Senator Kai Kahele dropped in to say a few words.

SB1292/HB1479RELATING TO THE HILO COMMUNITY ECONOMIC DISTRICT.

Establishes the Hilo Community Economic District located in East Hawai`i and places it under the jurisdiction of the Hawai`i Community Development Authority.

SB1184/HB1310RELATING TO THE WAIAKEA PENINSULA REDEVELOPMENT DISTRICT.

Establishes the Waiakea Peninsula Redevelopment District, Planning Committee and Revolving Fund.

Jason Fujimoto opened the meeting explaining why the meeting was called together. Fujimoto stated, “I know to some that the words economic revitalization may sound big and scary but in my mind it really boils down to the definition of community and community is a place where we live, where we work, where we learn and where we play and all of the components that make that happen.”

Fujimoto turned the microphone over to Jim McCully who explained some of the history of Banyan Drive and why economic development throughout all of Hilo, especially areas like KIAA are so important.

Senator Kai Kahele was able to make the end of the meeting and he stressed how important it was for the community to stand behind all the bills introduced this session and to contact our State legislators that will hear the bills in committee. He also thanked the broad range of community members that attended and also thanked his fellow Hawaii Island Legislators, Hawaii County Council members as well as the County of Hawaii Planning Department for their support and collaboration.

Office of Consumer Protection Announces Settlement with Western Union

The State of Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection today announced a settlement with Colorado-based The Western Union Company, resolving a multistate investigation which focused on complaints of consumers who used Western Union’s wire transfer service to send money to third parties involved in schemes to defraud consumers.  In addition to Hawaii, 48 states and the District of Columbia participated in this settlement.

“Scammers prey on our citizens with bogus telemarketing and mail scams on a daily basis.” “We believe that the anti-fraud program outlined in this settlement will make it harder for them to succeed,” said Office of Consumer Protection Executive Director, Stephen H. Levins.

According to Levins, “The biggest sign of a scam is if someone asks you to wire money to recover your winnings.” “This is the reason why Federal law bars telemarketers from receiving payments through money transfer, such as provided by companies like Western Union or MoneyGram.”

The settlement requires Western Union to develop and put into action a comprehensive anti-fraud program designed to help detect and prevent incidents where consumers who have been the victims of fraud use Western Union to wire money to scam artists.

That anti-fraud program, which Western Union has agreed to evaluate and update as warranted, includes the following elements:

  • Anti-fraud warnings on send forms that consumers use to wire money;
  • Mandatory and appropriate training and education for Western Union’s agents about fraud-induced wire transfers;
  • Heightened anti-fraud procedures when warranted by circumstances such as increased fraud complaints;
  • Due diligence checks on Western Union agents who process money transfers;
  • Monitoring of Western Union agent activity related to prevention of fraud-induced money transfers;
  • Prompt and appropriate disciplinary action against Western Union agents who fail to follow required protocols concerning anti-fraud measures;

Western Union also has agreed to pay a total of $5 million to the states for the states’ costs and fees, from which Hawaii will receive approximately $46,000. In addition to this settlement with the states, Western Union also settled claims related to fraud-induced transfers with the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice that was announced on January 19, 2017.  As part of those related settlements, Western Union has agreed to pay $586 million to a fund that the Department of Justice will administer to provide refunds to victims of fraud induced wire transfers nationwide, including victims in Hawaii.

In addition to Hawaii the following participated in the settlement: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.

Business Community to Host Meeting on Legislative Efforts to Revitalize Hilo and Banyan Drive

On Tuesday, January 31, a coalition of individuals and organizations focused on improving the East Hawaii economy will hold a community meeting to discuss legislative efforts that will guide in the revitalization of Hilo and Banyan Drive.

The coalition includes Kanoelehua Industrial Association (KIAA), Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry Hawaii (JCCIH) and Hawaii Island Economic Development Board (HIEDB).

The public is invited to attend and hear from coalition representatives and area legislators on the various, proposed economic development measures that have been introduced this legislative session (see full list below). The measures are aimed at providing much-needed tools and mechanisms to attract investment and foster partnerships that will help revitalize the local economy while promoting a healthy environment where East Hawaii families can thrive.

  • When: Tuesday, January 31
  • Time: 4:30–5:30pm
  • Location: Hawaii Innovation Center, 117 Keawe Street in Hilo, Room #105 (corner of Keawe and Kalakaua Streets)
  • Parking: Street parking only

After the community meeting, the coalition will work with the public and the Hawaii Island delegation to advocate for the various proposed measures (full list and descriptions below, with links to download bills).

The coalition thanks the hard working East Hawaii Caucus that introduced the bills: Representative Mark Nakashima, Representative Richard Onishi, Representative Joy San Buenaventura, Representative Christopher Todd, Senator Lorraine Inouye, Senator Kaialii Kahele, and Senator Russell Ruderman

List of 2017 29th Legislature bills promoting East Hawaii’s economic interests introduced by members of the East Hawaii caucus:

HB 575 / SB 274 – Authorizes the Board of Land and Natural Resources to extend state land leases when the lessee makes qualifying substantial improvements to leased public lands. Download HB 575, SB 274.

HB 1310 / SB 1184 – Establishes the Waiakea Peninsula Redevelopment District, Planning Committee, and Revolving Fund. Download HB 1310, SB 1184. 

HB 1469 / SB 1185 – Establishes procedures for designating public land redevelopment districts, planning committees (including powers and duties), district redevelopment plans, and designated revolving funds. Modifies public land lease restrictions. Download HB 1469, SB 1185.

HB 1479 / SB 1292 – Establishes the Hilo community economic district and places it under the jurisdiction of the Hawaii Community Development Authority. Establishes a revolving economic development fund and designates a percentage to be transferred to the special land and development fund under the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Download HB 1479, SB 1292.

Hawaii Insurance Consumers Encouraged to Explore Options

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Insurance Division released its annual premium comparison publications for motor vehicle, homeowner, condominium, and renters insurance.

“These publications help consumers make the right decisions for their insurance needs,” said Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito.  “We encourage people to use these guides as a tool to shop and compare for the appropriate coverage and price.”

The lists of sample premium rates can be used as a guide to see what consumers’ insurers are charging compared to its competitors.  The premium publications help consumers research and explore options and ensure greater competition in the insurance marketplace.

Feel free to download and share the consumer information below. If you have any questions, please contact the Insurance Division at (808) 586-2790 or insurance@dcca.hawaii.gov.

(PDF) Insurance Division Overview

Health Insurance

(PDF) Hawaii Patients’ Bill of Rights

(PDF) 2017 ACA Individual Rates

(PDF) 2016 ACA Small Group Rates

Small Business Health Options (SHOP)

Home Insurance

(PDF) Homeowners Premium Comparison Publication 2017

(PDF) Condominium Unit Owners Premium Comparison Publication 2017

(PDF) Renters Premium Comparison Publication 2017

Prior Home Insurance Premium Comparisons

Motor Vehicle Insurance

(PDF) Motor Vehicle Insurance Premium Comparison & Consumer Complaints Publication 2017

Prior Motor Vehicle Insurance Premium Comparisons

Natural Disasters

(PDF) Lava Flow Informational Brochure

(PDF) Tips for Storm Claims

(PDF) Guide to Hurricane Strengthening for Hawaii Single-Family Residences

Insurance Fraud

(PDF) What is Insurance Fraud?

National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)

Insure U – Get Smart About Insurance

VIDEO: Senator Kahele Announcing the “Hilo Community Economic District” Bill

Senator Kai Kahele announces the “Hilo Community Economic District” Senate Bill that he is about to introduce during the 2017 Hawaii State Legislature.

Building on the work of the Banyan Drive Hawai‘i Redevelopment Agency, this bill will expand the application and scope of their effort and move toward crafting a master plan of all state lands in the Hilo urban core, including Banyan Drive, Wailoa State Park, Kanoelehua Industrial Area, the Hilo International Airport and Pier, and other nearby state lands.

“This initiative combines the strengths of the public sector, private enterprise, and the community to conduct long-range planning and community building unlocking the economic potential of East Hawaiʻi,” said Sen. Kahele. “This is truly a game-changer for Hilo. With this kind of synergy, we can build a Hilo for the future. A Hilo that our children can thrive in.”

Open Application Period Underway for Preschool Open Doors Program

The Department of Human Services encourages families to apply for its Preschool Open Doors (POD) program, which is currently open until Friday, March 31, 2017.  Applications received during this period will be considered for preschool participation during July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018.

This program, which currently serves more than 1,500 children statewide, provides child care subsidies to eligible low- and moderate-income families to pay preschool tuition. POD aims to provide children whose families might otherwise not be able to afford preschool the opportunity to gain essential skills to be successful in school and in life.

To qualify for the program, children must be eligible to enter kindergarten in the 2018-2019 school year (born between August 1, 2012 and July 31, 2013). Families are reminded that a child must be five years old on or before July 31 to enter kindergarten. Families may choose any one of the 433 state-licensed preschools. Underserved or at-risk children receive priority consideration for the POD program, and funds are limited.

Interested families may request an application from the Department’s POD contractor, PATCH, by visiting www.patchhawaii.org or calling 791-2130 or toll free 1-800-746-5620.  PATCH can also help families locate a preschool convenient for them.

Applications must be received by March 31, 2017 to be considered during the July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018 program period. Applications should be dropped off, mailed, faxed, or emailed to the following:

PATCH – POD
560 N. Nimitz Hwy, Suite 218
Honolulu, HI 96817
Fax: (808) 694-3066
Email: PODAdmin@patch-hi.org

Eligibility and priorities for POD program selection are detailed in HAR §17-799, which is available online at humanservices.hawaii.gov/admin-rules-2/admin-rules-for-programs. For more information about other DHS programs and services, visit humanservices.hawaii.gov

Hawaiian Electric Companies to Offer Discounted Medical Needs Rate

The Hawaiian Electric Companies will offer a special medical needs discount rate for customers of all three companies. This pilot is subject to Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approval to go into effect on April 1, 2017 for two years.

Up to 2,000 customers dependent on life support equipment or increased heating and cooling needs due to a medical condition verified by a physician may save up to $20 a month on the first 500 kWh of energy use. Use above 500 kWh will be charged at regular residential rates.

“Everyone depends on electricity, but for some with special medical needs it can be a life or death matter,” said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president for customer service. “We believe most people will agree that providing a little financial relief for some of our neighbors is the right thing to do.”

Applications will be made available online, subject to commission approval, and will require a licensed physician’s signature. To qualify, a customer or a full-time resident in the customer’s home must be:

  • Dependent on life-support devices used in the home to sustain life or relied upon for mobility as determined by a licensed physician, including but not limited to: aerosol tents; apnea monitors; hemodialysis machines; compressors; electric nerve stimulators; pressure pumps; electrostatic nebulizers; and intermittent positive pressure breathing machines.
  • A paraplegic, hemiplegic, quadriplegic, multiple sclerosis or scleroderma patient with special heating and/or cooling needs.

Based on the number of applicants, the Hawaiian Electric Companies will determine whether to continue the rate after two years.

Residential customers with anyone in the home dependent on life support or emergency equipment are encouraged to inform their island utility of that fact by calling customer service today so they can be notified about future planned maintenance outages. However, because unplanned outages can occur, it is essential that customers with life support or emergency equipment needs make alternate plans should the power go out.

Smoking Costs the Average Hawaii Smoker $2,048,587 Over a Lifetime

With the societal and economic costs of smoking totaling more than $300 billion a year and rising, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on The Real Cost of Smoking by State.

To encourage the estimated 36.5 million tobacco users in the U.S. to kick the dangerous habit, WalletHub’s analysts calculated the potential monetary losses — including the lifetime and annual costs of a cigarette pack per day, health care expenditures, income losses and other costs — brought on by smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.

The Financial Cost of Smoking in Hawaii (1=Lowest, 25=Avg.):

  • Out-of-Pocket Cost per Smoker – $167,535 (Rank: 48th)
  • Financial-Opportunity Cost per Smoker – $1,411,246 (Rank: 48th)
  • Health-Care Cost per Smoker – $173,258 (Rank: 32nd)
  • Income Loss per Smoker – $283,621 (Rank: 46th)
  • Other Costs per Smoker – $12,926 (Rank: 36th)
  • Total Cost Over a Lifetime per Smoker: $2,048,587
  • Total Cost per Year per Smoker: $40,168

For the full report, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/the-financial-cost-of-smoking-by-state/9520/

Governor Ige Announces Increases in Shelter Beds Through New State Contracts

Gov. David Ige announced the state Department of Human Services will award contracts to 33 homeless shelters. Funding will total $13,000,000 for 12 months. The new contracts require shelters to focus on outcome measures such as the number of people they will permanently house over the coming year.

Photo by Sean King

The results of the competitive bids show a net increase in state-funded homeless shelter beds, with 3,761 for the next year vs. 3,577 for last year. Additionally, the shelters are proposing to double the number of people they place in permanent housing from approximately 3,000 to 6,200.

“This is about more than increasing shelter beds,” said Gov. Ige. “It’s about increasing results. For the same taxpayer investment as last year, we’re doubling the number of people getting housed. We are finding better solutions, getting better efficiency, and creating better cooperation.”

The Request for Bids (RFP) process was open to all shelters statewide and follows state law which requires shelters to increase accountability, privacy, and safety for residents while moving people more quickly into permanent housing. In accordance with the state procurement process, shelters were encouraged to ask questions about the RFPs and received written answers. Revisions were made to the RFP based on their feedback. A written record can be found on the state’s procurement office website at:

http://gpcprod.spo.hawaii.gov/spo2/health/rfp103f/detail.php?id=MTI1Mw==&hs=e53b7f8e4919fbec14cb2c182ab6b247.

Contracts will be effective as of Feb. 1, 2017. All state-funded shelters will receive training by the Department of Human Service’s Homeless Programs Office.

Shelter RFP Award Listing

Bed Count Projections

Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light to Seek More Renewable Energy for Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Hawaii Island

Consistent with the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ updated energy action plans, Maui Electric Company and Hawaii Electric Light Company has asked the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to start the process to seek new renewable energy generation on Maui, Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi and Hawaii Island. To ensure customers benefit from these projects as soon as possible, this effort is targeting projects that can be in service by the end of 2020.

The energy plan update, submitted to the PUC on Dec. 23, 2016, envisions achieving 100 percent renewable energy on Molokai by 2020, Lānaʻi by 2030, and Maui and Hawaii Island by 2040.

Following established regulatory rules, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light are asking the PUC to open dockets to facilitate issuing formal requests for proposals (RFPs) for new renewable energy projects and to appoint an independent observer (IO) to oversee the procurement process. A separate RFP would be issued for each island. Appointing an independent observer early in the process would allow the collaborative design of the RFPs and associated technical, operational, and performance requirements for renewable energy proposals. Once the PUC approves the RFP design, the companies will release the RFPs that will provide details to prospective bidders on the renewable energy being sought for each island.

“On Hawaii Island, nearly 50 percent of our energy is produced from renewable sources,” said Jay Ignacio, Hawaii Electric Light president. “We’ll continue to pursue projects that are clean, sustainable, reliable, and can result in lower bills for our customers.”

Maui Island is currently at more than 35 percent renewable energy.

“While our energy plans are still under review, we need to move forward in seeking more renewable energy for the benefit of our customers,” said Sharon Suzuki, Maui Electric president. “It’s critical that we move quickly in seeking potential projects that can help meet our state’s clean energy milestones.”

Hawaiian Electric is awaiting approval from the PUC for a similar request for Oahu submitted in June 2016.

Hawaii Representative Sponsors $15 Minimum Wage Bill

State Representative Kaniela Ing (D-South Maui), is sponsoring legislation to increase Hawaii’s minimum wage to $15 by 2019 and $22 by 2022. The bill will also tie the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index and eliminates the exemption for tipped employees. Ing says the bill will be the nation’s most progressive “living wage” law, and encompasses the spirit of the grassroots Fight for $15 movement.

“Hawaii is the most expensive state in the nation. Other high cost of living states and cities like Seattle, California, and New York have already passed $15 minimum wage laws,” said Ing. “Working families are struggling, so we as legislators have a moral obligation to act. The evidence shows that raising the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour is the single most impactful policy for Hawaii’s most vulnerable.”

Ing said that jurisdictions that have already won their “Fight for $15” are seeing businesses thrive, new restaurants open, and reduced income inequality. Hawaii is late to the party, and we need the raise desperately.

“I expect various big-money special interests to oppose the bill, but my hope is that empirical facts, popular opinion, and baseline morality will in prevail in the end,” he said.

For more information please see http://Hawaiifightfor15.com or its Facebook page at http://Facebook.com/fightfor15hawaii.

Gabbard-Cook Reintroduce Bill Encouraging Employers to Hire More Veterans

Today, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Paul Cook (CA-08) introduced the HIRE Vets Act of 2017. This bipartisan bill, which was previously introduced last Congress, passed the House with unanimous support in November 2016, but did not pass the Senate before the end of the year.

The legislation would promote private sector recruiting, hiring, and retaining of men and women who served honorably in the U.S. military through a voluntary and effective program. Specifically, it would create an award program recognizing the meaningful, verifiable efforts undertaken by employers – both large and small – to hire and retain veterans. Cook and Gabbard designed the program to be self-funded.

Through the U.S. Department of Labor, the HIRE Vets Act would allow businesses to display “HIRE Vets Medallions” on products and marketing materials. These medallions would be awarded as part of a four-tiered system – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum – associated with specific hiring and retention goals each year.

The program also establishes similar tiered awards for small and mid-sized businesses with less than 500 employees. To ensure proper oversight, the Secretary of Labor would be required to provide Congress with annual reports on the success of the program with regard to veteran employment and retention results.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said, “Roughly 500 veterans return to civilian life every single day, joining the more than 2.9 million veterans that have returned home since 9/11. While we’ve taken some important steps to encourage employers to hire more veterans, more than 400,000 veterans across the country are still unemployed today. Through their service, veterans develop unique skills, experiences, and leadership training that make them especially valuable to employers. The HIRE Vets Act incentivizes employers to hire veterans, and recognizes employers that provide a supportive work environment to retain veteran employees. I encourage our colleagues to join us in passing this bill unanimously again to move this support for our veterans and employers forward.”

Rep. Paul Cook said, “The HIRE Vets Act is an opportunity for Americans to see which companies truly live up to the employment promises they make to veterans. Veterans who serve this country honorably shouldn’t struggle to find employment, and this bill creates an innovative system to encourage and recognize employers who make veterans a priority in their hiring practices.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is a twice-deployed combat veteran and member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees. She continues to serve as a Major in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard.

A member of the House Natural Resources, Armed Services, and Foreign Affairs Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

Hawaii Minimum Wage Increasing on January 1, 2017

The Hawaii State Department of Labor & Industrial Relations (DLIR) today announced that per Act 82, Session Laws of Hawaii (2014), the minimum wage for most employers will increase to $9.25 per hour beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. This is third rise in the minimum wage since 2015: from $7.25 to $7.75 on Jan. 1, 2015, and to $8.50 on Jan. 1, 2016. The next scheduled raise is Jan. 1, 2018 when it will increase to $10.10. Previously, the minimum wage had stayed the same for eight years ($7.25 Jan. 1, 2007—Jan. 1, 2015).

Hawaii’s unemployment rate was 3.0% in November while the record labor force included 696,850.

For more information about minimum wage, please visit: http://labor.hawaii.gov/wsd/minimum-wage/

Equal Opportunity Employer/Program – Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities. TDD/TTY Dial 711 then ask for (808) 586-8866

Hawaiian Electric Companies Submit Updated Energy Plans

Companies will reach 48% renewable electricity by 2020, including 100% renewable on Moloka’i

The Hawaiian Electric Companies today outlined a detailed plan charting the near-term actions that will lead to the use of renewable resources to meet 100 percent of Hawai’i’s power generation needs by 2045.

The Power Supply Improvement Plan Update filed with the Hawai’i Public Utilities Commission describes the work that will form the foundation to meet or exceed the state’s renewable energy milestones, which are the most ambitious in the country.

The updated plan describes greater and faster expansion of the companies’ renewable energy portfolio than in the plan filed in April 2016 and emphasizes work that is in progress or planned over the next five years on each of the five islands the Hawaiian Electric Companies serve.

It also stresses the need to remain flexible so that decisions made today don’t crowd out future technological advances in power generation, distribution and storage.

The companies forecast that they will exceed the state’s renewable energy milestones in 2020 and can exceed the milestones in 2030 and 2040 by attaining a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of:

  • 48 percent by the end of 2020; the mandated goal is 30 percent
  • At least 72 percent by the end of 2030; the mandated goal is 40 percent
  • At least 100 percent by the end of 2040; the mandated goal is 70 percent. This would be five years ahead of the 2045 deadline to reach the goal of 100 percent renewable energy.

The plan estimates that the RPS after 2030 could exceed 100 percent when taking into account customers’ generation of electricity for their own use as well as the anticipated widespread use of battery storage.

In the near-term, using a proposed mix of solar, wind, battery storage and biofuels, the plan aims to achieve an RPS of 100 percent on Moloka’i by 2020.

By 2020, Hawai’i Island is forecast to reach an RPS of 80 percent, Maui 63 percent, Lānaʻi 59 percent and O’ahu 40 percent.

The plan includes the continued growth of private rooftop solar and describes the work to expand and upgrade grid infrastructure and to use the newest generations of inverters, control systems and energy storage to help reliably integrate an estimated total of 165,000 private systems by 2030, more than double today’s total of 79,000. Hawaiian Electric already has the highest percentage of customers using rooftop solar of any utility in the U.S. and customer-sited storage is seen as a key contributor to the growth of the renewable portfolio on every island.

In addition, the plan forecasts the addition of 360 megawatts of grid‑scale solar, 157 megawatts of grid‑scale wind and 115 megawatts from programs known as Demand Response, which can shift customer use of electricity to times when more renewable energy is available, potentially making room to add even more renewable resources.

“The energy transformation must include everyone” is one of seven principles that the Hawaiian Electric Companies developed to broadly help define the mission of the power supply improvement plan. The need to balance the pursuit of renewable energy with price stability and affordability for customers is described throughout the plan. Investments in grid infrastructure, as well as rising oil prices, are expected to increase the typical residential bill over the next several years, with gradually declining bills forecast to start in the mid-2020s.

A change from the document filed in April is that this update does not include the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to generate power in the near-term. While LNG remains a potential lower-cost bridge fuel to be evaluated, the companies’ priority is to continue replacing fossil fuel generation with renewables over the next five years as federal tax incentives for renewables begin to phase out.

An interisland cable is not in the near-term plan, which states that its costs and benefits should continue to be evaluated.

The plan also provides a solid foundation for the electrification of transportation, reducing the use of fossil fuels for ground transportation. For example, charging electric vehicles during the day when renewable energy is abundant could create an additional demand for renewables.

The Hawaiian Electric Companies are exploring additional actions and resources beyond those described in the plan. For example, working with land owners and developers, planners are exploring pumped storage hydropower, run-of-the-river hydropower, hydrogen and wave energy as potential additions. As part of this ongoing exploration, the companies recently issued a Request for Information to land owners who may be interested in teaming with a developer to host a renewable energy project.

“We have a solid plan that accelerates our progress to get to 100 percent renewable energy. We can do this,” said Alan Oshima, Hawaiian Electric president and CEO.  “We want to work with parties from all segments of our community — government, business, community, and environmental groups – to refine the plans for Hawai’i’s energy future.”

The companies followed an open, collaborative process to develop these plans, participating in multiple stakeholder workshops and technical conferences to share information and ideas. Planners ran and analyzed multiple scenarios to balance the desires for reliability, affordability and sustainability.

Among the stakeholders who provided input into the plan are the state Consumer Advocate; Ulupono Initiative; Blue Planet Foundation; Hawai’i Gas; Paniolo Power on Hawai’i Island and the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Additional independent technical analysis was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and the Electric Power Research Institute.

Local Foods Sales Reach $84.4 Million in Hawaii

Hawaii local food production sales reached $84.4 million, according to the 2015 Local Foods Marketing Practices Survey report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Of the $84.4 million in total local food sales in Hawaii, $69.5 million were from produce such as vegetables, nuts and fruit, while $14.9 million were from value-added products such as jams, meat, and cheese.

Most farms selling directly to consumers sold through outlets such as farmers markets and on-farm stores. Value of sales directly to consumers in Hawaii, including value-added products, was $22.8 million. The remainder of local food produce and value-added products were sold to supermarkets, restaurants, institutions, and wholesalers.

There were 2,423 operations involved in the sales of local foods in the state, representing 3,512 farm operators. Of those operators, 1,287 were female operators.

This report contains the results of the first Local Foods Marketing Practices Survey conducted. The Local Foods Marketing Practices Survey is part of the larger Census of Agriculture program. It is the first survey conducted by the National Agricultural Statistics Service to measure the effect of local foods on local economies.

Nationally, the top five states for value of direct food sales were California with $2,869 million, Michigan with $459 million, New York with $441 million, Pennsylvania with $439 million, and Wisconsin at $431 million.

Access the full Local Foods Marketing Practices dataset at NASS’s Quick Stats database: https://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2012/Online_Resources/Local_Food/index.php

Hawaii State Now Accepting Grants-in-Aid Applications for 2017

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Jill Tokuda and House Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke announced that qualified nonprofit and other organizations are able to apply for State Grants-in-Aid (GIA) that may become available and will be under consideration during the 2017 Regular Session.

Previous grants were appropriated to nonprofit and other organizations for various public purposes that were recognized as priorities and seen as complimentary to state government functions, including health, educational, workforce development, and social services and cultural and historical activities.

In order to allow the Legislature time to thoroughly review applications, the deadline to submit grant applications will be 4:30 p.m. on January 20, 2017.  Last year, the Legislature awarded nearly $37 million in grants to various organizations across the state.

Information on the GIA process is available on the Legislature’s website (www.capitol.hawaii.gov). For any questions, please contact the Ways and Means Committee at 808-586-6800 or the Finance Committee at 808-586-6200.

Hawaii to Receive More Than $11 Million to Help the Homeless

Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that Hawai‘i will receive 45 Continuum of Care (CoC) grants for 10 state, local and non-profit agencies totaling $11,519,682 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for fiscal year 2016.

“Homelessness is an urgent problem, and these funds will help homeless individuals and families get back on their feet and find a place to live,” said Senator Schatz. “As we work to address homelessness in Hawai‘i, I will continue to work with officials at HUD and elsewhere to make sure we receive our fair share of federal funding.”  

Click to view individual grant awards

The state received an increase of nearly $150,000 in CoC grants in FY2016 compared to last year.  The CoC Program promotes planning and strategic use of federal resources to address homelessness in communities across the country. CoC grants support non-profits, as well as state and local governments in rehousing homeless individuals and families, and support self-sufficiency among homeless individuals and families.

Hawaii Governor’s Budget Proposal Highlights Education, Housing/Homelessness, Sustainability

Gov. David Ige today submitted his executive biennium budget to the State Legislature. The package highlights his top budget priorities for the next two years, including education, homelessness and affordable housing, and Sustainable Hawai‘i initiatives.

Click to view

OPERATING BUDGET:

The operating budget proposal includes $14.2 billion (all revenue sources) for FY 2018, an increase of four percent and $14.3 billion (all revenue sources), an increase of 5 percent for FY 2019.

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS BUDGET:

The capital improvements proposal includes $2.3 billion for FY 18 and $781.8 million for FY 19.

“This budget proposal aims to balance our state’s current needs with our investments for the future – providing basic needs for our residents such as affordable housing, quality public schools, primary healthcare and essential social services,” said Gov. Ige.

PRIORITIES:

Education:

The governor’s proposal includes the highest instructional budget allocation ever — $28 million each year to the Weighted Student Formula, $10 million annually for the new Innovation Grant Program and $9 million ($3M in FY 18 and $6M in FY 19) for Early College programs.

Gov. Ige is also proposing $800 million for new schools and classrooms, as well as repair and maintenance of Department of Education campuses, UH campuses and libraries. This includes $61.7 million in FY 18 for heat abatement statewide and $373.6 million in FY 18 to address classroom capacity issues (including $264.7M for new schools).

“Our future begins with our investment in education which is tied to economic growth. It is a top priority. We continue to focus on the classrooms and schools. We continue our push for cooler classrooms. No one is more disappointed than I that we haven’t met our goals due to initial high costs,” Ige said.

Housing and Homelessness:

Gov. Ige is proposing an investment of more than $123.4 million in new housing projects and $59 million for public housing improvements.

For the homelessness effort, the governor is asking for $20.9 million annually for rent subsidies, supportive and outreach services. The legislature appropriated $12 million for homelessness programs in the current fiscal year.

“We have made great strides in collaboration, where all parts of the system are working together toward the same objective of moving people from homelessness to permanent supportive housing,” Gov. Ige said.

Sustainable Hawai‘i:

The budget proposal dedicates more than $30 million in operating funds to agricultural and natural resources and $31 million in CIP funds for sustainability initiatives, including $7.5 million for the Watershed Initiative.

“Our goal is to protect our forests, water and other natural resources while working to double our local food production and grow our economy,” Ige said.

“We hope to work collaboratively with state lawmakers on our budget proposal as we shape the future of our state.”

Featured:

Origo Acquisition Corporation and Aina Le’a, Inc. Agree to Business Combination

Origo Acquisition Corporation (“Origo”) today announced that it has entered into a Merger Agreement with Aina Le’a, Inc., a residential and commercial real estate developer of distinctive master-planned communities in Hawaii. Pursuant to the terms of the Merger Agreement, Origo will merge with and into Aina Le’a Merger Sub, Inc., a newly formed subsidiary of Aina Le’a, and equity holders and warrant holders of Origo will become equity holders and warrant holders of Aina Le’a (the “Business Combination”).

Aina Le’a’s principal development project is a 1,099-acre residential and commercial master planned community called The Villages of Aina Le’a (“The Villages”). Located within the resort area on the Kohala Coast on the west coast of Hawaii’s “Big Island”, The Villages will offer a combination of single family home sites, local family townhouses, luxury townhouses, and estate lots, as well as a retail and commercial center, and golf course with lodge. Sloping elevations of approximately 150-550 feet above sea level will provide approximately 70% of all lots with sweeping ocean views of the Big Island’s famed “Gold Coast.” The development’s close proximity to Queen Kaahumanu Highway offers easy access to top beaches, restaurants, shopping, and the airport. The development plan for The Villages is structured in three phases, with Phase I construction underway. Phase I is comprised of a 61-acre development consisting of townhouse units, luxury villas, and single family lots.

Edward J. Fred, Chief Executive Officer of Origo, commented, “We actively searched for an acquisition target that has the opportunity to provide substantial returns to our investors and we believe that we found the right company in Aina Le’a. Hawaii has been consistently rated as one of the best places on earth to live and visit, combining reliably beautiful weather, active lifestyles, abundant renewable resources such as water and solar energy, and economic opportunity. We believe that Aina Le’a controls some of the most valuable and sought-after land assets in the world in a market that is characterized by a scarcity of new home supply. The Villages has been designed as a full-service international resort community, with more than 70% of the lots offering ocean views. Along with the support of an invested, world-class management team, we have great optimism for the future.”

Robert Wessels, CEO of Aina Le’a, stated, “Becoming a public company is an important chapter in our company’s development, and we expect that having the additional access to the capital markets will enhance our ability to execute our growth plan. In addition to completing The Villages development, we will seek to expand our reach, and diversify our asset base and revenue by investing in new markets that fit our stringent criteria. Our over-arching objective in managing the growth of Aina Le’a is to deliver long-term, sustainable shareholder value while providing some of the most desirable home locations in our industry.”

Under the terms of the Merger Agreement, upon the closing of the Business Combination, each ordinary share of Origo (including any Origo shares otherwise issuable with respect to the rights that were included as part of Origo’s units) will convert into common stock of Aina Le’a at a conversion ratio of 0.6 shares of Aina Le’a for each share of Origo, and each outstanding warrant to acquire ordinary shares of Origo will be exchanged for a warrant to acquire ordinary shares of Aina Le’a, which replacement Aina Le’a shares and warrants will be registered securities. The approximately $32.6 million currently held in Origo’s trust account will be used by Aina Le’a as working capital, less amounts required to fund redemptions by Origo’s public stockholders, if any, and the payment of Origo’s transaction fees and expenses and outstanding Origo loans. Aina Le’a expects to apply to list its common stock and warrants on the Nasdaq Capital Market following the closing of the Business Combination.

Aina Le’a’s board of directors will be expanded to seven directors, and will include two directors from Origo as independent directors. Management of Aina Le’a is not expected to change in connection with the Business Combination.

The Business Combination is subject to the approval of Origo’s stockholders, as well as other closing conditions.

EarlyBird Capital, Inc. is acting as financial advisor to Origo, and Chardan Capital is acting as advisor to Aina Le’a. Ellenoff Grossman & Schole LLP is acting as legal advisor to Origo, and Greenberg Traurig is acting as legal advisor to Aina Le’a.

Hawaiian Electric Companies Gathering Information on Land Available for Renewable Energy Development

To help accelerate and inform efforts to achieve 100 percent renewable energy, the Hawaiian Electric Companies today launched an effort to gather information about land that may be made available for future renewable energy projects that will benefit all electric customers.

Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, and the Hawaii Electric Light Company are issuing a Request for Information (RFI) which asks interested landowners to provide information about properties on Oahu, Hawaii island, Maui, Molokai, and Lanai available for utility-scale renewable energy projects, such as solar and wind farms, or for growing biofuel feedstock.

“Land is one of the most important resources to consider in the development of renewable energy projects. By proactively identifying potential sites, we are hoping to make the process of developing renewable energy projects faster and more efficient for both land owners and prospective developers,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric vice president of strategic planning and business development.

To reach 100 percent renewable energy, Hawaii will need a broad mix of renewable energy resources. Continued growth of private rooftop solar energy systems and energy storage will offer customers more options. These resources will be complemented by additional large-scale projects, which will help ensure all customers receive the benefits renewable energy.

Interested parties should submit responses to the RFI by Jan. 27, 2017. For more information, go to www.hawaiianelectric.com/landRFI or email landrfi@hawaiianelectric.com.