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.

Hawaiian Electric Companies Propose Plan to Sustainably Increase Rooftop Solar

As part of its transformation to deliver a more affordable, clean energy future for Hawaii, the Hawaiian Electric Companies are proposing a new program to increase rooftop solar in a way that’s safe, sustainable and fair for all customers.

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.

Sustainable Solar

Under the proposal, existing Net Energy Metering (“NEM”) program customers and those with pending applications would remain under the existing NEM program. Any program changes from this proposal would apply only to new customers.

The initiative is part of the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ clean energy transformation to lower electric bills by 20 percent, increase the use of renewable energy to more than 65 percent, triple the amount of distributed solar by 2030, and offer customers expanded products and services.

“We want to ensure a sustainable rooftop solar program to help our customers lower their electric bills,” said Alan Oshima, Hawaiian Electric president and CEO. “That means taking an important first step by transitioning to a program where all customers are fairly sharing in the cost of the grid we all rely on.”

Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of customer service, added, “At the end of 2013, the annualized cost shift from customers who have rooftop solar to those who don’t totaled about $38 million. As of the end of 2014, the annualized cost shift had grown to $53 million – an increase of $15 million. And that number keeps growing. So change is needed to ensure a program that’s fair and sustainable for all customers.”

New Transitional Program

Currently, NEM customers use the electric grid daily. Their rooftop solar systems send energy into the grid, and they draw power when their systems do not provide enough for their needs, including in the evenings and on cloudy days. However, many NEM customers are able to lower their bills to the point that they do not help pay for the cost of operating and maintaining the electric grid.

As a result, those costs are increasingly being shifted from those who have solar to those who don’t.

The new transitional program would create a more sustainable system and ensure the costs of operating and maintaining the electric grid are more fairly shared among all customers.

Under the current NEM program, customers receive credit on their electric bills at the full retail rate for electricity they produce. This credit includes the cost of producing electricity plus operation and maintenance of the electric grid and all other costs to provide electric service.

The Transitional Distributed Generation program would credit customers at a rate that better reflects the cost of the electricity produced by their rooftop solar systems. This is consistent with how Kauai Island Utility Co-Op compensates its solar customers.

Increasing PV Integration

If this transitional program is approved, the Hawaiian Electric Companies expect to be able to modify their interconnection policies, more than doubling the solar threshold for neighborhood circuits from 120 percent of daytime minimum load (DML) to 250 percent of DML. In many cases, this will eliminate the need for a longer and costly interconnection study.

To safely integrate higher levels of solar, rooftop systems will need to implement newly developed performance standards, including those established using results of a collaboration among Hawaiian Electric, SolarCity and the Electric Power Research Institute. Through this partnership, the performance of solar inverters was tested at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. These standards can reduce the risk of damage to electronics in a customer’s home and to utility equipment on the grid, safety hazards for electrical line workers, and even widespread power outages.

The Hawaiian Electric Companies will also make strategic and cost-effective system improvements necessary to integrate more rooftop solar. They will work with the solar industry to identify areas where demand for upgrades is highest. Planning for these upgrades will also consider the needs of the State of Hawaii’s Green Energy Market Securitization (GEMS) program, which will make low-cost loans available to customers who may have difficulty financing clean energy improvements like solar.

To further support even more customers adding solar on high solar circuits, Hawaiian Electric will also be doing several pilot projects for “Non-Export/Smart Export” solar battery systems with local and national PV companies in Hawaii. These projects will provide real-world operational experience on their capability to increase solar interconnections on high-penetration circuits.

The company is also developing a community solar program as another option to help make the benefits of solar available to all customers, including those who may not be able to install rooftop solar (for example, renters or condo dwellers).

Hawaiian Electric is asking the PUC to approve the new program within 60 days. Under the utilities’ proposal, the Transitional Distributed Generation program would remain in effect while the PUC works on a permanent replacement program, to be developed through a collaborative process involving stakeholders from across the community, including the solar industry.

The PUC has stated it believes programs designed to support solar energy need to change. In an Order issued in April 2014, the PUC said:

“It is unrealistic to expect that the high growth in distributed solar PV capacity additions experienced in the 2010 – 2013 time period can be sustained, in the same technical, economic and policy manner in which it occurred, particularly when electric energy usage is declining, distribution circuit penetration levels are increasing, system level challenges are emerging and grid fixed costs are increasingly being shifted to non-solar PV customers.”

Across the three Hawaiian Electric Companies, more than 51,000 customers have rooftop solar. As of December 2014, about 12 percent of Hawaiian Electric customers, 10 percent of Maui Electric customers and 9 percent of Hawaii Electric Light customers have rooftop solar. This compares to a national average of one-half of 1 percent (0.5 percent) as of December 2013, according to the Solar Electric Power Association.

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Master Food Preserver Trainings Set for Kona, Hilo

The Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers (HTFG) and the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s College of Continuing Education and Community Service (CCECS) presents two food preservation trainings this spring.

Ken Love and his Same Canoe Lifetime Achievement Award from the One Island Sustainable Living Center

Ken Love and his Same Canoe Lifetime Achievement Award from the One Island Sustainable Living Center

Taught by Master Food Preserver Ken Love, executive director of HTFG and the Hawaii Master Food Preserver Program, the 64-hour training session is targeted to individuals looking to expand their knowledge of safe, home food preservation—plus learn the business side of selling syrups, preserves and sauces. Learn the steps for canning fruit and vegetables, plus pickling, fermenting and more.

Participants must be able to commit to an eight-day training and volunteer at least 20 hours in a year. Graduates earn a master food preserver certificate from UH-Hilo.

Kona dates are February 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 23 and 24 at the classroom/kitchen at 81-6393 Mamalahoa Hwy. in Kealakekua. Applications are due January 28. Hilo dates are March 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 23 and 24 at the Komohana Research and Extension Center, 875 Komohana St. Applications are due February 16.

“The training is designed to teach small agribusinesses and local residents how to safely preserve delicious and attractive, value-added products from underutilized produce,” explains Love, who is certified to teach the course by the University of California Master Food Preserver program. “It’s like the old adage, ‘Waste not, want not.’”

Tuition is $100. Apply by contacting CCECS 808-974-7664 or ccecs@hawaii.edu.

The classes are made possible by a grant from the Hawaii Department of Labor Workforce Development Division.

New Fee Added to Electric Bills to Support Green Energy Market Securitization (GEMS) Program

A new line on electric bills starting this month will finance the State of Hawaii Green Energy Market Securitization (GEMS) program. However, a corresponding reduction of the monthly Public Benefits Fund surcharge, collected to pay for the State’s conservation and energy efficiency programs, means most customers will likely see little net change on their electric bills. For a typical residential customer using 600 kWh a month, the green infrastructure fee will be $1.29 per month.

GEMS Office

The new line item, titled “Green Infrastructure Fee,” will appear under the listing of “Current Charges: Electric Service” beginning with December 2014 monthly bills of all Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, and Hawaii Electric Light customers.

As required by law and authorized by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, all residential and commercial customers will pay the Green Infrastructure Fee. The new fee will enable the State of Hawaii to borrow $150 million for its GEMS program. The State Department of Business, Economic Development will initially administer GEMS. The program will make low-cost loans so green infrastructure improvements are more affordable and accessible for customers who cannot afford upfront costs or cannot qualify for other financing.

The GEMS program will initially focus on clean energy investments so customers can take advantage of green initiatives such as photovoltaic systems, energy storage, advanced inverters and energy monitoring devices.

To learn more, visit the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism Energy Office website (http://energy.hawaii.gov/testbeds-initiatives/gems) or call 808.586.2407.

Public, Private Agencies Convene to Discuss Lava, Emergency Housing

More than 45 of Hawaii Island’s top officials in government, business, construction, academia and the non-profit sector gathered last week in Hilo to discuss the Puna lava situation and its effects on the island’s housing market.
Lava Housing

The emergency housing forum, hosted by HOPE Services Hawaii, Hawaii Island Realtors, the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) and Day Lum Rentals & Management, included roundtable discussions that focused on short- and long-term housing planning, legislative policy and expanding community resources.

The November 24 forum was intended as the beginning of a larger conversation focused on building more affordable housing on Hawaii Island. An action plan that outlines next steps and leverages private and public partnerships is being created by the forum’s hosts and expected to be complete by first quarter 2015. The plan will identify short and long-term solutions, which will help inform possible legislative policies and provide the basis for maximizing community resources.

During the forum, agency heads discussed what organizations are experiencing as a result of the lava breakout, which started in late June and has travelled 13.5 miles since. Some presented ideas to alleviate the demand for housing outside of Puna, noting, however, that today’s quick fixes should complement the island’s long-term housing and development plans.

“No one is pretending to have all the answers,” said Mayor Billy Kenoi. “There’s no lava flow manual, so many policy decisions are being made with the best information available. What we’re facing as a community is significant, but the challenges are not insurmountable. The County has been and will continue to be all hands on deck, ready to collaborate, and to share information as it becomes available to lessen anxiety and uncertainty.”

Brandee Menino, chief executive officer for HOPE Services Hawaii, said that while HOPE primarily helps homeless and at-risk individuals and families transition off the streets and obtain stable housing, her office has been getting calls from families displaced by Tropical Storm Iselle and potentially isolated by the lava. She noted that even before this year’s natural disasters, the need for rental units had been identified.

“A 2011 Housing Planning Study prepared for the Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corporation revealed that Hawaii County would need 1,753 rental units by 2016 in order to meet the growing demand for housing,” said Menino. “This report was done in 2011, when lava was not a concern, so we must make a concerted effort to prioritize creating more affordable housing opportunities for Hawaii’s families.”

Paul Normann, executive director of the Neighborhood Place of Puna (NPP), a resource for distressed families, said Puna has the highest rate of child abuse and neglect in the State. “Because of the disruption caused by Iselle and the active lava flow, NPP has seen a dramatic increase in the number of families seeking assistance. In the first four months of the current fiscal year, July through October, NPP has already served 106 families. To put that in context, over the course of the entire 12 months of the previous fiscal year, NPP served a total of 130 families.

Nancy Cabral of Day-Lum said that some families wanted to get ahead of the lava and moved from the area. But Cabral is concerned with who haven’t. “There are a lot of residents who have not been preparing for what’s coming. It seems they are waiting for government to step in and rescue them, so we really need to take steps to ready the housing market.”

Cabral offered solutions to stave off a potential housing crisis including working with hotels to temporarily rent out rooms, helping families uproot and move homes to vacant lots and lobbying the State to relinquish control to the County of affordable units such as Lanakila Housing, which can move faster to make the units available to those looking to relocate from Puna.

Mark Kimura, an economic geography researcher at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, who conducted an informal survey of Puna residents, said almost half reported they had no one to rely on or place to go if they needed to move. 14 percent said they have already left the area or are preparing to leave and 25 percent said they could move-in with family or friends on-island. He said many don’t want to give up their homes because they are still paying a mortgage, have farms, can’t afford to move and have difficulty finding places that are pet-friendly or retrofitted for people with disabilities.

Amanda Donaldson, President of NARPM’s East Hawaii chapter, which is made up of about 20 local residential property managers, said members get nearly a dozen additional calls a day from families looking for housing outside the lava zone. She said NARPM agents are willing to add addendums that allow individuals in the lava impact zone to break their lease once lava hits.

Kehau Costa of Hawaii Island Realtors championed a “one-stop-shop” rentals website where interested renters can view available units on the island, which would speed up house hunting. Costa also suggested a “new landlord resource fair” because of the increasing number of individuals asking how they can convert part of or their entire home into a rental.

Additional ideas that came out of the forum include exploring commuter housing, house sharing, prepping lands for modular housing, fast tracking County building permit processes as well as County take over, repair and rental of foreclosure homes.

Any individuals or organizations interested in taking part in future discussions may contact Brandee Menino at bmenino@hopeserviceshawaii.org or (808) 933-6013.

EPA Awards $200,000 to Children’s Defense Fund – Will Advance Environmental Stewardship on the Big Island

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded an environmental education grant of $200,000 to the Children’s Defense Fund for their “Mauka to Makai” project designed to improve environmental education in their summer learning centers and partner schools on the Big Island.
EPA LOGOThe “Mauka to Makai” (Mountain to Sea) project will incorporate environmental themes across all core and non-core academic subjects with an emphasis on resource management and habitat restoration.

“We’re pleased to be part of an environmental education effort highlighting flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “The “Mauka to Makai” stewardship will increase the protection of Hawaiian ecosystems from threats like invasive species, climate change, and habitat loss.”

Using a combination of student learning experiences, professional development for classroom educators, and strengthened partnerships linking public schools and local environmental agencies, the project will implement an environmental education model to increase community-wide knowledge of important environmental issues and foster the skills needed to help students, educators, families and the community make decisions about environmental responsibility and stewardship. The Mauka to Makai project aims to increase environmental knowledge on the Big Island by educating more than 7,000 students, providing professional development to over 100 educators, and supporting community projects through sub-awards.

The larger goal is to make the Mauka to Makai a model program that can be replicated across the nation with local partners and national experts. The project can be replicated with a similar focus on land to water resource issues or its focus can change with geographic location to highlight the regional environmental priorities of any given area.

The EPA Environmental Education Model Grants Program supports environmental education projects that increase the public’s awareness about environmental issues and provide them with the skills to take responsible actions to protect the environment. The EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Office received over 80 applications this year, and the Mauka to Makai project is one of two projects in the Pacific Southwest Region that received an environmental education grant.

HELCO Power Restoration Update – 2,700 Customers Remain Without Power

Hawaii Electric Light reported continued progress in restoring power to customers who lost power as a result of Tropical Storm Iselle. Service to an additional 1,100 customers was restored yesterday. Currently, an estimated 2,700 customers remain without power. Service was restored to the end of the Pahoa-Kalapana Road.

A pole down in Hawaiian Beaches

A pole down in Hawaiian Beaches

More than 200 workers have mobilized to work in the field on restoring power, including 26 electrical line crews, 14 tree trimming crews, and 30 construction crews contracted to dig holes for utility poles. The combined workforce will include crews from Hawaii Island, Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and contracted companies.

Areas of work

Today, electrical line crews expect to continue making progress in the following areas: Nanawale Estates, Leilani Estates, Seaview Estates, Hawaiian Beaches/Hawaiian Shores, Hawaiian Paradise Park, Hawaiian Acres and other portions of upper Puna.

Some areas of focus today include:

  • Nanawele Estates – In Nanawale Estates, crews are working on the main power line that brings electric service to the subdivision. Contracted crews are also preparing the area by clearing and trimming trees and digging holes to replace utility poles damaged by falling trees.
  • Leilani Estates – In Leilani Estates, crews have restored power along Leilani Boulevard and are now working on Kahukai Street and side streets, which suffered extensive damage from fallen trees.
  • Seaview Estates – In Seaview Estates, crews are working on the main power line that brings service to the subdivision. Contracted crews are also preparing the area by clearing and trimming trees and digging holes to replace utility poles damaged by falling trees.
  • Hawaiian Beaches/Hawaiian Shores – In Hawaiian Beaches, crews have restored main lines to the end of Kahakai Boulevard. Crews are still addressing side streets in the vicinity of Puni Makai North and South.
  • Hawaiian Paradise Park – In Hawaiian Paradise Park, crews have restored most of the main lines along Makuu and are focusing on Paradise Drive between 19th and 12th Avenues and side streets, which suffered extensive damage from trees. Crews will be replacing poles on side streets within the subdivision and restoring power.
  • Hawaiian Acres – In Hawaiian Acres, crews are working to restore power along Roads 1 to 4.

Restoration progress may be impacted by access due to storm debris, fallen trees, or other conditions in the field.

Even if customers don’t see crews in their area, we want customers to know that work is being done to restore power to their communities. In many cases, additional work on the electric system is needed in other locations to restore service.

Although crews are making progress and restoration in many areas may be much faster, preliminary estimates indicate it could take up to three weeks – and in some cases, even longer – to restore power to the areas with the most significant damage. Actual restoration times for each location will depend on the extent of the damage.

Although crews are making progress and restoration in many areas may be much faster, preliminary estimates indicate it could take up to three weeks – and in some cases, even longer – to restore power to the areas with the most significant damage. Actual restoration times for each location will depend on the extent of the damage.

New location for Customer Information Center in Puna

Beginning today, Hawaii Electric Light’s Customer Information Center has moved to the Leilani Estates Community Center at 13-3441 Moku Street in lower Puna. The center at the Hawaiian Shores Community Center in Hawaiian Beaches is closed. Company representatives are on hand to answer questions from the public and provide the status of repairing the damage. A charging station will be available at the center. Customers may bring their electronic devices to the center and get them charged there. The center will remain open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. – and longer if needed – as the restoration process continues.

Background on restoration process

The process for restoring service involves many steps that need to be coordinated to ensure public and utility workers’ safety. We also must ensure we deploy the right resources to ensure crews can restore power as quickly as possible. Here’s an overview of the restoration process:

  • Assess damage: Damage assessments by field crews identify the extent of damage and the specific materials – including poles, transformers, and power lines – that need to be repaired or replaced.
  • Clear trees and debris/dig holes: Contracted tree trimming and construction crews then need to clear fallen trees and debris and dig holes for utility poles
  • Install poles, restring lines, and install transformers: Electrical line crews can then be deployed to begin installing the poles, framing the cross arms on the poles, restringing lines, and installing transformers and other equipment.
  • Repair main line first before energizing: Work is first done on the main lines serving subdivisions to restore the connection into those neighborhoods. Side streets can then be restored. Even after power is restored to a neighborhood, there may still be damage at individual homes or pockets of homes within a neighborhood that will need to be addressed separately.

Puna Disaster and Recovery Assistance Centers Announced

This is a Civil Defense message.

This is a Community Assessment and Assistance information update for Tuesday August 12at 7:00PM.   

Cots were set up in various parts of the Pahoa Community Center today.

Cots were set up in various parts of the Pahoa Community Center today.

HELCO crews continue to work on restoring power in the affected areas. About 6,800 customers remain without power. Thank you for your patience and understanding with this effort. Please do not interfere with the operations of the HELCO crews.

County, National Guard, and private crews continue to clear debris from roadways. All subdivisions currently have access to highways and main roadways, however there may be debris and obstructions within the subdivision roadways. Crews report that access to Wood Valley in Pahala has been cleared. Remember that all downed power lines should be treated as energized and avoided to ensure safety.

Hawaiian Shores reports that their water system is now operational and safe to drink.

Community Assistance Centers will be open tomorrow, Wednesday from noon to 4 P.M. at Community Centers in Hawaiian Shores, Leilani Estates, and Nanawale, as well as the Kalani Retreat Center.

These centers will offer water, ice, and other supplies while they last. Bring a container for ice or water as bags or bottles may not be available. If you are able to get to a retail store to get your supplies, we encourage you to do so and leave these supplies for those who cannot get to a store.

Damage assessments are ongoing and being conducted by the County Office of Housing and Community Development and the Hawai‘i National Guard.

The Hawai‘i State Emergency Management Agency and the County of Hawai‘i will set up Disaster Assistance and Recovery Centers on Hawai‘i Island to provide information and services to people whose property was damaged by the storm.

The schedule and location for the Disaster Assistance and Recovery Centers is:

  • Thursday August 14 and Friday August 15 from 8:00am to 8:00pm at the Pahoa Community Center
  • Saturday August 16 and Sunday August 17 from 8:00am to 8:00pm at the Mountain View Gym

For more information on the Disaster Assistance and Recovery Centers, contact the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency at (808)733-4300 or askcivildefense@scd.hawaii.gov

HELCO Update – 10% of Big Island Remains Without Electricity

Hawaii Electric Light crews continue to work on restoring power as quickly as possible to customers who lost electricity as a result of Tropical Storm Iselle. About 8,100 customers (approximately 10 percent of total Hawai‘i Island customers) remained without power, mostly in the Puna District but also in smaller pockets on the east side of the island. Power was restored to a portion of Hawaiian Paradise Park late Saturday afternoon.

Photo by Lori Liwai-Kong

Photo by Lori Liwai-Kong

Crews have made significant progress repairing the main transmission lines that serve as the backbone of the island’s electric grid, making the overall system more stable. Now crews can focus their attention on restoring power to individual neighborhoods.

Customers who have not yet reported their outage should call 969-6666 to report it.

Customers who are still without power at this time should expect an extended outage into next week and, in some cases, much longer.

Hawaii Electric Light will continue to prioritize work that will bring service back to the largest number of customers while keeping the grid stable. This systematic approach will help ensure that power will stay on once restored. For example, on Saturday, crews restored power to major roads in Hawaiian Paradise Park. This work brought the power back on for customers on Kaloli, Beach Road, and parts of Paradise Drive. By fixing the lines that bring power into the neighborhood, crews can now focus on individual streets in Hawaiian Paradise Park.

Hawaii Electric Light urges customers to remember downed power lines should be considered dangerous. Do not approach a downed line or attempt to move it. If you see someone injured by a downed line, call 9-1-1 for assistance.

Customers are asked to check that stoves and other appliances are turned off or unplugged to avoid safety hazards or damage to their appliances as power is restored.

Hawaiian Electric and Maui Electric are sending crews, vehicles and other equipment to assist with the restoration. In addition, contracted construction and tree-trimming companies are also participating. Collectively, this will nearly triple the number of crews in the field conducting damage assessment and working to restore power to customers.

All workers participating with the restoration process will be wearing badges identifying them as employees of Hawaii Electric Light, Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, or an approved utility contractor. Customers should feel free to ask for proper identification if approached by someone who says they are from Hawaii Electric Light or any other organization. Utility company vehicles are clearly marked. Approved contractors have signs for their vehicles indicating they are working on behalf of the company.

Hawai‘i Electric Light’s business offices will reopen for normal business on Monday. Some services, such as new service requests, may be delayed as work crews focus on the restoration effort. Statement from Jay Ignacio, president of Hawai‘i Electric Light:

We understand the frustration of our customers who are still without power and sincerely apologize to them. We understand that customers want estimated restoration times so they can plan. Unfortunately, the extent of damage is worse than anything we’ve ever seen here. We’re working on providing more specific, reliable estimates and hope to do so by tomorrow (Monday) morning. Customers without power should expect to remain without it well into next week, if not longer. Again, we apologize and ask for their continued patience.

“Our first priority was to repair our high–voltage transmission lines. With the backbone of the island’s electric system restored, and our grid more stable, crews can start working on restoring neighborhood circuits for customers who are still without power.”

When Iselle hit Hawai‘i Island, the wind and rain caused trees to topple and fly into power lines, breaking lines and poles. We were in a very precarious situation at the end of last week. As Iselle hit our island, we started losing our transmission lines – the backbone of our electric grid – and came very close to losing the whole island. Of the 35 transmission lines on the island, we lost more than half during the storm. Both the north and south transmission lines were lost as well as the transmission lines serving Puna Geothermal Venture. 

As soon as Iselle passed, crews began working to repair the high voltage transmission lines. Some of these lines could be restored through automatic switching. 

But others, like the line that runs from Papaikou to Kalopa Mauka/Makai, have to be partially rebuilt. Some of the broken poles were on very high embankments. Crews worked around the clock to rebuild this section of the line, only to have another tree fall onto lines in another area. 

The transmission line serving Puna Geothermal Venture goes through a forested area near Nanawale Estates, and our crews cannot reach this line because of the many fallen trees. That area has at least 19 broken poles and will take a very long time to rebuild, starting with bulldozers to clear a path for trucks and crews. We were working on an alternate transmission line in an effort to get PGV back into service, but changed our focus early Sunday to restore customers as soon as we safely can. 

We thank our customers for their efforts to reduce energy use on Friday so we could meet the energy demands of the whole island.”

Governor Presents $1.6 Million to Innovative Zero-Waste Biofuel Program in Hilo

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today presented a $1.6 million check on behalf of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s (HDOA) Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) to the Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center’s (DKI-PBARC) zero-waste biofuel and high-protein feed program on Hawaii Island.

Hawaii Department of Agriculture Agribusiness Development Corporation check presentation to the Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center.

Hawaii Department of Agriculture Agribusiness Development Corporation check presentation to the Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center.

DKI-PBARC, and Florida-based BioTork LLC, have invested more than $1 million to successfully develop an economically sustainable zero-waste conversion project producing biofuel and high-protein animal feed from unmarketable papaya and other low-value agriculture feedstock. The conversion process takes fewer than 14 days to cycle in a heterotrophic environment, meaning no sunlight is needed using organically optimized algae/fungi developed and patented by BioTork.

The state’s $1.6 million is in addition to its initial $200,000 investment that will assist DKI-PBARC in moving the Hilo-based project to demonstration scale as a prelude to commercial production. The ADC will become a venture partner to globally export the rapid conversion technology in association with PBARC and BioTork.

“Our investment promotes further use of agricultural crops to provide clean energy and leads us on a more definitive path towards food sustainability,” said Gov. Abercrombie. “We need to focus on projects like this as Hawaii emerges as a global leader for biofuel and feed research and development.”

“Another by-product of this process is the production of high-protein feed and fish feed,” explained Scott Enright, HDOA chair. “The feed can greatly benefit cattle, swine, poultry and support aquaculture operations.”

The state also hopes to develop a long-term revenue generator as a partner exporting this technology. At full scale, more than 1,000 jobs are projected.

While papaya was chosen as the initial feedstock, this technology can be applied to any plant material as a carbon source. In Hawaii, other identifiable feedstocks are unmarketable sweet potato, sugar cane, mango, molasses and glycerol. Invasive trees, like albizia, could also be used as feedstock in this zero-waste program.

It is imperative that we provide support to build the necessary infrastructure which opens up new markets for agriculture,” said Jimmy Nakatani, ADC executive director. “Progress at DKI-PBARC has been nothing less than stellar to accomplish this, through efforts led by Research Plant Pathologist and Program Manager Dr. Lisa Keith.”

Funds are also being used to research the conversion of locally produced molasses. Samples from Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company are being tested to determine which high-value and economically viable co-products can be developed using natural methods to create much more value to the local economy.

Hawaii Energy, DLNR Release Two New Handbooks To Encourage Water Conservation And Greater Energy Efficiency

Two of Hawaii’s leading authorities on water conservation and energy efficiency jointly announce the distribution of two new handbooks written for Hawaii’s water and wastewater utilities that can help save up to 20 percent, or $16.1 million, in electricity costs annually – enough to power 9,400 homes in Hawaii.

Kate Aurilio, Energy Engineer, Hawaii Energy (Left); Ray Starling, Program Director, Hawaii Energy; Ernest Lau, Manager/Chief Engineer, Board of Water Supply and William Tam, Deputy Director, Commission on Water Resource Management (Right)

Kate Aurilio, Energy Engineer, Hawaii Energy (Left); Ray Starling, Program Director, Hawaii Energy; Ernest Lau, Manager/Chief Engineer, Board of Water Supply and William Tam, Deputy Director, Commission on Water Resource Management (Right)

Hawaii Energy, the ratepayer-funded energy conservation and efficiency program for Hawaii, Lanai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu, developed the Water & Wastewater Energy Management Best Practices Handbook to help water and wastewater facilities operate with increased energy efficiency.

The State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources’ (DLNR) Commission on Water Resource Management released the Hawaii Water System Audits and Water Loss Control Manual to assist all public water systems in Hawaii to assess their water supply efficiency through water audits and water loss programs.

Hawaii Energy’s Water & Wastewater Energy Management Best Practices Handbook

Water and energy usage are inextricably linked, referred to as the water-energy nexus, due to the significant energy required to transport and treat water and wastewater.

Based on a Hawaii Energy survey conducted in 2013, the state’s public water and wastewater systems consume an estimated 290.3 million kilowatt hours (kWh) per year, which is approximately 3.2 percent of the electric utilities’ total sales.

The generally accepted industry standard for water and wastewater facilities is that energy efficiency measures can generate 20 percent or more in energy savings. For Hawaii, the 20 percent potential savings translate to more than 58 million kWh per year (or $16.1 million) based on an average electricity rate of 28 cents per kWh.

“The handbook is another example of our commitment to increase the adoption of energy conservation and efficiency throughout Hawaii,” said Hawaii Energy Program Director Ray Starling. “The water and wastewater best practices have been proven effective in other parts of the country, are simple to follow and offer a wide spectrum of energy-efficient measures.”

It is written as a practical guide to help water and wastewater management personnel make informed decisions to reduce energy consumption in all aspects of facility operations, repair and investment. It outlines how to develop and assess an energy management program, implement capital and operational improvements to reduce energy usage and track energy performance.

The handbook provides an overview of each energy-efficient best practice and outlines the potential impact on productivity, the economic benefit and potential energy savings. Each practice is presented in a one-page format for easier readability and reference.

Portions of the handbook were developed with the permission of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and Wisconsin’s energy efficiency and renewable resource program, Focus on Energy.

Municipal and private regulated water and wastewater utilities provide service to 95 percent of Hawaii’s population. There are 206 regulated wastewater treatment facilities with a treatment capacity of more than 243 million gallons per day and an average daily flow of 121 million gallons, according to the state Department of Health.

The drinking water sector includes 130 regulated public water supply systems that consist of surface and ground water sources that produce approximately 260 million gallons per day, according to the State of Hawaii Annual Public Water System Compliance Report from 2010.

DLNR’s Hawaii Water System Audits and Water Loss Control Manual

DLNR’s Commission on Water Resource Management funded the development of the Hawaii Water System Audits and Water Loss Control Manual, which was prepared by the Hawaii Rural Water Association.

The commission acknowledged that a water utility’s energy bill is one of its largest operating expenses. By improving water system efficiency, the utility can prevent unnecessary waste, defer costs for new water source development and reduce energy bills.

“The majority of Hawaii’s drinking water comes from groundwater wells that require substantial amounts of electricity to pump out of the ground, into elevated storage reservoirs and then transported to customers,” explained William Tam, deputy director for the Commission on Water Resource Management. “If a lot of water is lost during this process, more energy is needed to pump additional water to compensate for the shortfall. Reducing water loss reduces energy consumption.”

The additional benefits of implementing water audits and water loss control programs include the following: increased knowledge of the water distribution system; reduced water loss by identifying problem/risk areas; efficient use of existing supplies; less legal liabilities and minimal service disruptions to customers.

The manual was developed based on the International Water Association’s (IWA) and the America Water Works Association’s (AWWA) “IWA/AWWA Water Audit Methodology.” The methodology was selected based on its research, industry acceptance, simplicity, adaptability and standardized performance indicators.

The manual was adopted from the Georgia Water System Audits and Loss Control Manual (September 2011, Version 1.0) with permission from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Environmental Protection Division and Georgia Watershed Protection Branch.

In April 2014, the commission conducted water audit training workshops in the four counties for drinking water utilities. Future workshops may be held based on interest. Water audits are not required in Hawaii. However, the commission is evaluating the implications of requiring water audits in the future.

Downloadable Versions
Hawaii Energy’s Water & Wastewater Energy Management Best Practices Handbook can be downloaded by visiting www.HawaiiEnergy.com/water-and-wastewater. For more information, call 839-8800 on Oahu or toll-free at (877) 231-8222 on the neighbor islands.

To download the Hawaii Water System Audits and Water Loss Control Manual, visit the commission’s water conservation website at www.dlnr.hawaii.gov/cwrm/planning/conservation.
For more information, call (808) 587-0214.

Video – Simulated Mars Mission Complete

The HI-SEAS Crew 2 had a live Google Hangout event today when they returned to “Earth” from “Simulated Mars”.  They have been living in a Mars simulation located on Mauna Loa for the past 120 days.

HI-Seas photo by Angelo Vermeulen

HI-Seas photo by Angelo Vermeulen

Here is the video:
[youtube=http://youtu.be/YvUIh2Y8fns]

Resource Caregivers Receive Increased Board Payments

Families that care for children placed with the Department of Human Services (DHS) Child Welfare Service (CWS) Branch will receive a foster board pay increase, effective July 1, 2014. Called resource caregivers, families will receive their first increased payment in August.

Department of Human Services

To ensure that resource caregivers receive the funds necessary to provide safe, healthy, and nurturing environments for children awaiting permanent placement, the DHS requested a legislative appropriation of $8,502,936 in 2014. The budget request was passed in its entirety as part of Governor Neil Abercrombie’s 2014 executive budget package.

“Hawaii’s rate increase is based on the DHS’ review of foster care rates and practices in 46 other states,” explained DHS Director Patricia McManaman, “and the benefits that Hawaii resource families currently receive in addition to tax-free monthly foster care payments.”

Children enter and exit the foster care system throughout the year. They can remain in resource family homes for days, months, or years in some cases. While siblings are often placed together, resource families also may care for two or more unrelated children.  In 2013, the average number of children per month in resource homes was 1,096.  In June 2014, a total of 1,156 children were in foster care across the State.

Representative Mele Carroll, Chair of the House Committee on Human Services, was a strong supporter of increasing foster board payments.  “The bill is a huge step forward to help support the foster families that are integral members of our communities.”  Her Senate counterpart, Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland agreed.  “I am very happy with the passage of this legislation and am grateful to the Department of Human Services, Governor, Legislature, advocates and foster families for this team effort!”

The increase in basic board payment also applies to families eligible for adoption assistance, permanency assistance, youth receiving higher education board allowance payments, and to young adults who choose to enroll in DHS’ new program of extended Voluntary Care to Age 21.

Foster board payment rates vary across the nation. Hawaii based its new rates on an age-tiered system indexed to documented costs contained in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Expenditures on Children by Families annual report.   The monthly per child payment to Hawaii resources caregivers has been increased from a base rate of $529 to $575 for 0-5 year olds, $650 for 6-11 year olds, and $676 for children aged 12 and above.

Similar to other states, Hawaii’s resource caregivers also receive QUEST health insurance benefits for their foster children, difficulty of care payments, and a clothing allowance. Difficulty of care payments are provided to resource caregivers that support children who require more intensive physical, emotional, psychological or behavioral care and supervision, as determined by a treating professional.

Resource families also are eligible to receive special circumstances or events payments, designated transportation costs (school bus fare or private car mileage, local bus fare) that effect child placement or promote family reunification, and $500 per child per year for extracurricular activities, social activities, hobbies, and camp funds.

Reimbursable costs include attendance at authorized meetings, respite care and child care coverage, limited liability insurance training, and  enhancements necessary for the child’s growth and development (e.g. Scouts, YMCA, YWCA, community soccer, community baseball, community swimming, Boys and Girls Clubs).

To learn more about becoming a resource care giver or attending one of the statewide informational briefings, please visit the DHS website www.humanservices.hawaii.gov/ssd/home/child-welfare-services/foster-and-adoptive-care/ 

Hawaii’s State and County Leaders Formalize Joint Sustainability Commitment

“Aloha+ Challenge” Sets 6 Targets by 2030

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii’s four county mayors, and Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) leadership jointly launched the Aloha+ Challenge: A Culture of Sustainability – He Nohona ‘Ae‘oia at a declaration signing held today at the Hawaii State Capitol. The statewide joint leadership commitment sets clear targets for clean energy transformation, local food production, natural resource management, waste reduction, smart growth, climate resilience, green jobs and education by 2030.

Government leaders sign the Aloha+ Challenge.

Government leaders sign the Aloha+ Challenge.

“The Aloha+ Challenge brings us all together across jurisdictions, agencies, sectors and communities to build a sustainable Hawaii for current and future generations,” said Gov. Abercrombie, who as a member of President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience is in a strong position to provide recommendations on how the federal government can support local efforts outlined today. “The targets transcend political timelines with a longer-term vision that also calls upon us to take bold action now. As a microcosm of the world’s sustainability challenges, it is time for Hawaii to become a global model of how to develop innovative and collaborative solutions.”

The Hawaii State Legislature unanimously passed the Aloha+ Challenge through resolution this year. Hawaii Green Growth, which brings together key leaders from federal, state, county, business and nonprofit organizations, hosted the declaration signing to show broad support.

Photo by Sen. J Kalani English

Photo by Sen. J Kalani English

Hawaii’s commitment to the Aloha+ Challenge is already creating international attention. With the U.S. Department of State, Hawaii has been invited to announce the Aloha+ Challenge on the world stage at a high-level Global Island Partnership event in Samoa this September, during the United Nations’ International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which focuses on sustainable development.

“Alternative energy sources like H-Power, solar and wind, combined with fewer car trips and reduced energy consumption, will help us sustain our island for future generations,” said City and County of Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “We have to invest in our future, and now is the time to do it.”

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi at the Aloha+ Challenge Dedication Signing and Press Conference.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi at the Aloha+ Challenge Dedication Signing and Press Conference.

Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi said: “The Aloha+ Challenge is about protecting our Hawaii and maximizing our resources to improve the quality of life for our communities. It reinforces that our decision-making as a state must focus on sustaining our resources for generations to come, and must be rooted in aloha.”

“The Aloha+ Challenge is about leading by example,” Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa said. “Our goal is to provide a higher quality of life for our children, and to build a community for our grandchildren that they can be proud of.”

“We are a state separated by ocean, but we are connected in so many ways – by families, by businesses and by shared values and traditions,” said Mayor Bernard Carvahlo of Kauai County. “It is important for us to always remember that. When our leadership focuses on one vision, we are united.”

“We must honor our past while also preparing for our future,” said Kamana‘opono Crabbe, chief executive officer for OHA. “The active participation of the community partners in this effort will also play a major role in bringing about a better, brighter future for all people of Hawaii.”

Photo from Gov. Abercrombie's Twitter feed.

Photo from Gov. Abercrombie’s Twitter feed.

In addition to sharing tools and knowledge and expanding partnerships, Hawaii’s top elected officials have agreed to develop a joint system of tracking progress and to increase long-term financing mechanisms for conservation and sustainability programs geared towards reaching the 2030 targets.

The Aloha+ Challenge commits Hawaii to reaching six targets by 2030:

  1. Clean Energy: 70 percent clean energy – 40 percent from renewables and 30 percent from efficiency (reinforcing the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative)
  2. Local Food: At least double local food production – 20 to 30 percent of food consumed is grown locally
  3. Natural Resource Management: Reverse the trend of natural resource loss mauka to makai by increasing freshwater security, watershed protection, community-based marine management, invasive species control and native species restoration
  4. Waste Reduction: Reduce the solid waste stream prior to disposal by 70 percent through source reduction, recycling, bioconversion and landfill diversion methods
  5. Smart Sustainable Communities: Increase livability and resilience in the built environment through planning and implementation at state and county levels
  6. Green Workforce and Education: Increase local green jobs and education to implement these targets

In 2011, Gov. Abercrombie signed Act 181, which established sustainability as a priority in the Hawaii State Plan and incorporated the definition, goals and principles of sustainability from the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan into Chapter 226. More than 10,000 citizens participated in the Hawaii 2050 planning process.

24th Annual Hawaii International Tropical Fruit Conference Coming Up

The 24th Annual Hawaii International Tropical Fruit Conference is September 12-14 at the Kahili Golf Course. All attendees registering before August 1 enjoy a discounted fee of up to $75; visit hawaiitropicalfruitgrowers.org for details.

Geared to farmers, educators, orchard managers and proponents of sustainable agriculture, the weeklong event is presented by the statewide Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers (HTFG) and open to the public.

The conference is titled “It’s All About Production” and offers a variety of breakout sessions, plus visiting researchers and agro experts.

Roger Leakey

Roger Leakey

Professor Roger Leakey, crop physiologist, will give the keynote address, “The Domestication of Tropical Trees as New Fruit and Nut Crops.” Dr. Leakey is the former director of research at the International Center for Research in Agroforestry and professor of agroecology and sustainable development of James Cook University in Australia.

Other speakers include tree-pruning expert Dr. Yoshimi Yonemoto of the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences, who will offer “Training and Pruning for Production,” He will demonstrate how to keep mangos under 5 feet tall and produce copious amount of fruits, while Dr. John Preece of the USDA and National Clonal Germplasm Repository in California will discuss “Vegetative Propagation of Difficult Woody Plants.”

Considered the world’s leading expert on post-harvest technology, the University of Hawai’i’s Dr. Robert Paull will do a dinner presentation on “Phenology, Productivity and Profits.”

Ken Love of the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers displays varieties of mangos grown in Hawaii.

Ken Love of the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers displays varieties of mangos grown in Hawaii.

HTFG Executive Director Ken Love says intimate breakout sessions will cover specific crops, while delving into a wide range of topics like “Selling to Whole Foods” by Steve Carey and “Soil Vitality and On-Farm Mentoring” by Vince Mina. Breakout presenters include Scot Nelson, Gabe Sachter-Smith, Craig Elevitch, Tom Baldwin, Brian Lievens, Leakey, Yonemoto, Preece and Paull. In addition, there will be Sunday roundtable and panel discussion touching on marketing and “Where Do We Go from Here?”

The annual gathering continues September 15-19 with day-long mini sessions in Molokai, Oahu, Kauai, Hilo and Kona. Mini-conferences will include presentations by speakers, plus on-site visits to member’s farms and greenhouses.

Registration forms and fee schedule are available at www.htfg.org or by contacting Love at kenlove@hawaiiantel.net or Mark Suiso at suiso@aloha.net.

Governor Abercrombie Signs 5 Bills Relating to Energy

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed five energy-related measures (Acts 106 to 110) that address solar energy device warranties or guarantees, the energy systems development fund, the Public Utilities Commission, modernization of the electric grid and a car-sharing vehicle surcharge tax.

Energy Bills

“We spend billions of dollars a year on imported oil,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “Let’s keep our money within the state by investing in clean, renewable energy development that will reduce carbon emissions in the process, helping to mitigate climate change. These bills are critical to Hawaii’s future and demonstrate our commitment to a more sustainable state for our residents.”

Senate Bill 2657 (Relating to Renewable Energy) requires contractors installing solar energy devices to notify private entities that installation may void roofing warranties or guarantees and to obtain written approval and follow written instructions for waterproofing roof penetrations from the roof manufacturer, unless the private entity forgoes the roofing warranty or guarantee. The measure also requires a roofing contractor that waterproofs roof penetrations related to the installation of a solar energy device to honor the roof warranty or guarantee.

Senate Bill 2196 (Relating to Energy) reestablishes the energy systems development special fund that was repealed on June 30, 2013. The measure also extends the allocation of revenues collected from the environmental response, energy and food security tax, also known as the “barrel tax,” to various special funds from 2015 to 2030.

Senate Bill 2948 (Relating to the Public Utilities Commission) transfers the administrative placement of the Commission from the Department of Budget and Finance to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and clarifies its authority to concerning standard administrative practices, including operational expenditures and hiring personnel. The measure also enables the commission chair to appoint, employ and dismiss an executive, fiscal and personnel officer.

House Bill 1943 (Modernization of the Hawaii Electric System) amends the Public Utilities Commission principles regarding the modernization of the electric grid.

Senate Bill 2731 (Relating to a Car-sharing Vehicle Surcharge Tax) establishes a car-sharing vehicle surcharge tax.

Hawaii Applauds Obama Administration’s Climate Change for Power Plants – Rest of the Country Following Hawaii’s Lead

The White House today released new rules under the Clean Air Act governing what existing power plants must do to reduce earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions.  These rules provide states flexibility to utilize energy efficiency and renewable energy, such as outlined in the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), as compliance measures.

President Barack Obama, with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, center, talks with EPA staff members who worked on the power-plant emissions standards, in the Rose Garden of the White House, June 2, 2014.

President Barack Obama, with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, center, talks with EPA staff members who worked on the power-plant emissions standards, in the Rose Garden of the White House, June 2, 2014.

Gov. Abercrombie applauded the new rules, stating, “Hawaii is at the forefront of responding to climate change through our Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, which serves as a substantial economic driver while reducing our dependence on imported oil.  By building such flexibility into the rules, President Obama is encouraging the rest of the country to follow Hawaii’s lead in pursuing clean energy.”

New financial tools under development by the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) to increase deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures are well-timed to empower the state’s energy consumers to contribute to greenhouse gas reductions through use of renewable energy like rooftop solar.

“Hawaii’s Green Energy Market Securitization financing tool, or GEMS, will expand low-cost financing to clean energy solutions while helping the state gain credit for reducing carbon through lesser use of petroleum products to generate electricity,” said DBEDT Director Richard Lim.

Proposed by the governor in his 2013 State of the State address and signed into law later that year, GEMS is an innovative, clean energy financing program designed to make clean energy improvements affordable and accessible to Hawaii consumers, especially underserved markets such as low- and moderate-income homeowners, renters and nonprofits.

These new rules requiring carbon dioxide emissions reductions from power plants were issued pursuant to Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.  During the its extensive process to hear from stakeholders throughout the nation the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reached out to Hawaii.  The state submitted a set of consolidated comments developed by the Hawaii Department of Health, Hawaii State Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and DBEDT regarding state plans to meet federal carbon emission reduction targets for existing electricity generation units.

Mark Glick, the administrator of the State Energy Office, acknowledged EPA’s innovative approach and outreach to Hawaii.  “EPA is clearly recognizing innovative policies like the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, by allowing states to utilize energy efficiency and renewable energy as greenhouse gas compliance measures.   Hawaii is able to comply with little or no financial impact on our businesses and residents by allowing our ongoing clean energy agenda to count for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” Glick said.

Gov. Abercrombie added:  “Hawaii is working with the Obama Administration to align our state’s commitment to go beyond 40 percent renewable energy in the electrical power sector by 2030 and our federal and state policies to reduce our carbon footprint.   As a leading test bed for clean energy, Hawaii can demonstrate to the world how to stimulate our economy while improving the environment for future generations.”

The new EPA rules allow states to employ a range of measures to meet carbon emission targets, including renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. In Hawaii, numerous such initiatives are underway in the power generation sector under the umbrella of the HCEI.

Ongoing PUC dockets include those relating to energy efficiency portfolio standards, requests for proposals for renewable energy production, and interconnection matters. In addition, the PUC and DBEDT are working with the Hawaiian Electric Companies to better align the utility’s business model with consumer interests and the state’s public policy’s goals.

UH Hilo and County of Hawaiʻi Offer Sustainable Farming Forum

The College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management (CAFNRM) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and the County of Hawaiʻi will host a free public forum on “Building Momentum Toward a Resilient and Sustainable Local Farming Culture” on Thursday, May 22, 9-4:30 p.m., in UH Hilo’s UCB Room 100. The forum aims to share collective knowledge and brainstorm ideas about the future of Hawaiʻi Island agriculture, beginning with how to improve soil health.

UH Hilo Moniker

Dr. Hector Valenzuela of the UH Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) and Dr. Norman Arancon of CAFNRM will be the lead presenters with discussion facilitation by Interim CAFNRM Dean Bruce Mathews and County Councilwoman Margaret Wille, chair of the County Council’s Committee on Agriculture, Water, Energy, and Sustainability.

Morning presentations and panel discussions focus on eco-friendly agro-ecological models, integrated crop-livestock systems and feed options, improving soil health, and increasing economical options for high quality compost. The afternoon sessions includes a discussion on red fire ant control strategies and facilitated breakout sessions to follow up on the morning topics.

For further information, call CAFNRM at 932-7036.

Hawaii Ranked 7th in Solar Electric Power Association Analysis

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) this morning named the Top 10 American electric utilities that in 2013 added the most new solar power to their systems and the most solar on a watts-per-customer basis.

Watts

This annual ranking, which identifies the companies that are integrating solar into the nation’s power grid, is part of the seventh annual Utility Solar Rankings report.

The full report, which will be released in June 2014, identifies leading solar industry trends such as total installed capacity, market share and industry growth rates.

Utilities ranking in this year’s SEPA Top 10 by Solar Megawatt accounted for 82 percent of all capacity integrated in 2013, up from 73 percent in 2012.

The top three leading implementers of utility solar in the Megawatt rankings hail from the western half of the United States:

  1. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)
  2.  San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E)
  3. Arizona Public Service (APS).

Rounding out the Megawatt list are:

  • Southern California Edison (SCE)
  • Duke Energy Progress
  • National Grid
  • Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G)
  • Hawaiian Electric Company
  • Georgia Power
  • Duke Energy Carolinas.

Six of the ten utilities were previously ranked in 2012. Newcomers to the list include Duke Energy Progress, National Grid, and Georgia Power. This is the sixth year that Pacific Gas and Electric Company has topped the list.

“We are firmly committed to renewable energy and solar is a vital part of California’s energy mix,” said Steve Malnight, PG&E’s Vice President of Customer Energy Solutions. “Given both PG&E’s large-scale solar procurement and our customers’ ongoing support of solar and other clean technologies, we are confident we will continue to be a renewable energy leader.”

The SEPA Top 10 Solar Watts-Per-Customer rankings take into account the number of customers each utility serves relative to its solar megawatts installed, giving small utilities a   means to measure the relative intensity of their solar energy capacity on an equal footing with any other utility, regardless of size.

Leading the Solar Watts-Per-Customer rankings is Sterling Municipal Light Department (SMLD), a public power utility in Massachusetts that serves 3,700 customers. Following Sterling is San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E), and a second public power utility, Silicon Valley Power. The remaining Top 10 providers include Arizona Public Service(APS), Hawaiian Electric Company, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Hawaii Electric Light, Maui Electric Company, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), and Imperial Irrigation District (IID). In the Solar Watts-Per-Customer rankings the Hawaiian utilities and Imperial Irrigation District from California were in the top ten in 2012 as well.

“We are very excited to be receiving recognition for our solar program,” said Sean Hamilton, general manager, Sterling Municipal Light Department. “We owe the success of the program to our entire community of staff, supporters and partners.  The Sterling Light Commission, employees, Sterling Selectmen and Planning Board, our business partners, E.H. Perkins, CES Sterling LLC, INDU Solar Holdings, groSolar, as well as many others, all played a role in creating a public-private partnership that included an educational piece for our local schools. This achievement is something the whole town can be proud of for many years to come.”

“We are thrilled to see milestones surpassed and barriers broken from coast to coast,” said Julia Hamm, president and CEO of SEPA. “It’s truly inspiring to see utility partners and their consumer communities rally around implementing solar programs that are changing the nature of our national energy portfolio.”

For additional information:

The complete rankings can be found here