57 tons

October 30th, 2014
By

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal hauled out on large net at Pearl and Hermes Atoll Photo Credit: NOAA

Caption: Hawaiian monk seal hauled out on large net at Pearl and Hermes Atoll.
Photo Credit: NOAA

The 57 tons of marine debris that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration divers removed from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands during a 33-day mission this month is just a fraction of all that's out there. The Star-Advertiser story ran in the paper Oct. 29.

For the Green Leaf, the images are a reminder of just how much work remains to be done out in the isles, also known as Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, as well as of the impact of all the plastic that ends up in the ocean ecosystem. For the team of 17 divers sailing aboard the Oscar Elton Sette, it was rewarding to at least have made a dent in the amount of derelict fishing nets and plastic litter in and around the tiny islands, atolls and sensitive coral reefs.

"The amount of marine debris we find in this remote, untouched place is shocking," said Mark Manuel, chief scientist for the mission. "Every day, we pulled up nets weighing hundreds of pounds from the corals. We filled the dumpster on the Sette to the top with nets, and then we filled the decks. There's a point when you can handle no more, but there's still a lot out there."

Divers encountered – and rescued — three sea turtles tangled in different nets at Pearl and Hermes Atoll.

They were also able to remove a "super net" measuring 28-by-7-feet, which took several days. The net weighed 11-and-a-half tons and had to be cut into three pieces and towed back to the Sette separately. Luckily, it will no longer be out there, posing an entanglement risk for marine wildlife like the sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals and seabirds, or damaging corals.

On the shorelines of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, the team surveyed and removed nearly 6 and a quarter tons of plastic trash, paying special attention to the bottle caps and cigarette lighters that are commonly consumed by birds. They removed and counted thousands of pieces of plastic, including (take note):

>> 7,436 hard plastic fragments

>> 3,758 bottle caps

>> 1,469 plastic  beverage bottles

>> 477 cigarette lighters

NOAA has led the mission every since 1996, removing a total of 904 tons of marine debris, to date, including this year's haul. The nets are transported back to Hawaii and converted to energy through the Nets to Energy partnership with Covanta Energy and Schnitzer Steel.

"This mission is critical to keeping marine debris from building up in the monument," said Kyle Koyanagi, Pacific Islands regional coordinator for NOAA's Marine Debris program. "Hopefully we can find ways to prevent nets from entering this special place, but until then, removing them is the only way to keep them from harming this fragile ecosystem."

Marine debris is a global, everyday problem that affects everyone. Anything manmade, including litter and fishing gear, can become marine debris once lost or thrown into the marine environment, but the most common are plastics. "There is no part of the world left untouched by debris and its impacts." Visit marinedebris.noaa.gov to learn more.

NOAA diver conducts towboard surveys at Midway Atoll. Photo Credit: NOAA

NOAA marine debris staff sorting marine debris on Midway Atoll after conducting shoreline surveys. As you can see, most of it is plastic. Photo Credit: NOAA

Patagonia, Kina‘ole, invest in solar

October 23rd, 2014
By

Patagonia, which has two stores on Oahu, is putting money where the sunshine is.

The Ventura, Calif.-based outdoor clothing company is joining forces with local solar finance company, Kina‘ole Capital Partners LLC  to create a new $27 million fund to purchase rooftop solar photovolatic systems in Hawaii. Patagonia is offering a $13 million tax equity investment. The fund will be available to all qualified solar installation companies in Hawaii to help purchase more than 1,000 rooftop solar energy systems in Hawaii.

Patagonia's investment comes through its $20 Million & Change fund, which was launched in 2013 to help innovative, like-minded startup companies bring about solutions to the environmental crisis and other positive change through business. As Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard put it: "Working with nature rather than using it up."

PatagoniaSolar

"This is smart business for Patagonia and good news for homeowners in Hawaii, who pay way too much for dirty electricity," said Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario. "I hope other companies see how this strategy can bring strong returns and think seriously about doing the same thing.  Business is in a unique position to accelerate the creation of renewable energy infrastructure."

The announcement, made Oct. 15, comes at a time when many solar companies are in a difficult position in Hawaii due to hurdles created by the Hawaiian Electric Co. Approximately 3,500 solar PV customers in highly saturated areas (depending on the circuit they are on) are still waiting to get connected to the grid. Some have waited as long as nine months. HECO says they have to wait due to grid safety and reliability issues.

In addition, HECO recently outlined an action plan in late August — pending Public Utilities Commission approval — to raise the fixed connection fee for all customers on Oahu to a minimum of $55 (instead of $17), and an increase to $71 for new solar PV customers. At the same time, HECO proposes reducing the credit for excess energy produced by solar PV customers to just 17 cents per kilowatt-hour, half of what it currently offers. It is also proposing all new solar PV customers pay an additional, as-of-yet-unknown fee.

The plan has been criticized by the state Department of Economic Development and Tourism as one that embraces an outdated business model while doing more to benefit the utility than the public.

Still, solar is a great investment, and makes sense in a state that gets 271 days of sun annually. Despite the fees proposed by HECO , there will still be a return on your investment (even if it will take longer) — and best of all, it'll be a switch to clean energy, which is part of Hawaii's Clean Energy Initiative.

The solar energy systems purchased by the fund would potentially reduce 153,000 tons of carbon dioxide — or the equivalent of taking 29,000 passenger vehicles off the road. The solar investment also creates hundreds of jobs, including ones for Patagonia's surf ambassador Kohl Christensen and his Oahu-based solar company.

So kudos to Patagonia for leading the way!

Patagonia surf ambassador Kohl Christensen installing solar panels. Photo courtesy Patagonia.

Patagonia surf ambassador Kohl Christensen installing solar panels. Photo courtesy Patagonia.

Honu and Hina

October 21st, 2014
By

honu-and-hina-a-story-of-coexhistance-book-hawaiian-childrens-book-story-88

Nature artist Patrick Ching, author of "The Story of Hina" has another book in the works: "HONU and HINA, A Story of Coexistence."

His approach to this book, which addresses how we as humans live among protected animals like the honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle) and Hawaiian monk seal, is different. He's taking it on indiegogo. The goal is to raise $15,000 by Saturday, Oct. 25.

That covers the cost for the first print run of about 4,000  books by Island Heritage Publishing, not including the painting and writing time, but the production, graphic art work, editing, printing, binding and shipping. The books are scheduled to be available in early November.

A former ranger for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Patrick Ching lived among turtles and seals on the protected atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

"The Honu and Hina book will bring to light important facts about these species' history, life cycles and current status at a time when people are very curious about them," says Ching in his Indiegogo blog. "The colorful illustrations were done with the help of many artists of all ages and even some professionals!"

>> For $10, get a personalized mahalo email from Ching.

>> For $25, get a personally signed Honu and Hina mahalo card with original cartoon from Ching.

>> For $50, get a Premier Edition book, autographed, personally dedicated and cartoonized.

>> For $100, get a Premier Edition book, autographed, etc., plus an 8 x 10 inch "Dreams of Paradise" matted print featuring Honu and Hina.

>> For $200, get two Premier Edition books, plus a $97 value Ching Canvas Giclee of your choice.

>> For $1,000, get four Premier Edition books, autographed, etc. plus a $675 value Patrick Ching Canvas Giclee of your choice.

Keep the Sea Free of Debris art contest

October 15th, 2014
By

NOAAMarineDebrisartcontest

The "Keep the Sea Free of Debris" art contest is on.

NOAA Marine Debris invites students from Kindergarten to 8th grade to create artwork that shows 1) how marine debris impacts the oceans (and Great Lakes) and 2) what you are doing to help prevent marine debris.

The contest officially starts today (Wed., Oct. 15). Students have until Nov. 17 to submit entries (postmark date).

The goal of the contest is to raise awareness. Winning entries will be featured in NOAA's 2016 Marine Debris calendar. To learn more about marine debris, visit www.marinedebris.noaa.gov.

Each entry must include a piece of artwork and description, to be filled out on the entry form. The entries must be on a single sheet of 8.5-by-11-inch paper, landscape direction, using any art medium including colored pencils, crayons and paint. However, the artwork must be hand-drawn by the student. Computer graphics will not be accepted.

The entries can be mailed to:

Marine Debris Art Contest
ATTN: Asma Mahdi
NOAA Marine Debris Program
1305 East-West Highway Rm #10203
SSMC4, 10th Floor
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Click here for complete contest rules and to download an entry form.

Teleworking, coworking

October 13th, 2014
By

ProtoHUB

ProtoHUB Honolulu, soon to become ImpactHUB Honolulu, is the newest co-working space to arrive in Kakaako. The space comes complete with lockers, free WiFi, organic coffee, meeting rooms, a nap nook and wellness room. Photos by Nina Wu.

Times have changed in terms of how we work.

With mobile laptops, tablets and smartphones, work is now defined as wherever we are, as opposed to "the office." Which is why the time has also come for the advent of "co-working" spaces like BoxJelly, ZenWorx and ProtoHub Honolulu (soon to become ImpactHUB Honolulu).

Walk into any Starbucks, and you can pretty much see, it doubles as an office.

I think telecommuting is a great idea. If more companies would allow their employees to work in a mobile mode, then we could probably alleviate traffic during "rush hour," reduce carbon emissions, as well as that influx of energy usage right at 5 p.m. when everyone supposedly goes home and turns on their appliances.

If official work hours could be more staggered, or flexible, in terms of when and where, then we could avoid that congestion.

Coworking spaces like ProtoHub are cool, too, because they serve as hubs for innovation and interaction. If there was one in every neighborhood, people could walk or ride their bikes. For people who run their own businesses, it's an ideal meeting spot. You can be a part-time or full-time member, depending on your needs.

ProtoHub co-founder and director Shanah Trevenna believes in the triple-bottom-line of  a "people, planet, profit" economy. Sustainability, in other words, leads to a thriving economy that benefit both people and the planet.

Ian McMillan, a retail entrepreneur from Volcano, Hawaii, recently signed up for part-time membership because he comes to Oahu to sing for the choir in Hawaii Opera Theatre. So yes, he's here for the production of Puccini's "Madam Butterfly."

He sees coworking spaces as a source of inspiration.

"When you work by yourself, you sort of get in a rut," he said. "Being around different people exposes me to a lot of new ideas and new energy."

Plus, you can check out what's for lunch on Wednesdays, when various catering companies and chefs will fix a "Sexy Salad" using local, organic produce, for just $7.

Som Tum, or green papaya salad, prepared by George Yarbrough of Pono Aina Catering. Sexy Salad Wednesdays offer a fresh, organic salad made from mostly local produce for $7.

Som Tum, or green papaya salad, prepared by George Yarbrough of Pono Aina Catering. On Wednesdays, ProtoHUB's kitchen offers a fresh, organic salad made from mostly local produce for $7.

Keiki Garden Adventure

October 7th, 2014
By

Keiki planted herbs and vegetables into a patch of rich soil at The Green House. Photo by Nina Wu.

Keiki planted herbs and vegetables directly into a patch of rich soil at The Green House. Photos by Nina Wu.

Gardening seems like a natural hit for keiki — get your hands dirty, hold earthworms and learn how plants grow. I spend more time writing about gardens than actually gardening myself (I need more time - that's my excuse). My four-year-old likes to tag along, help water the few native plants and pots of herbs in our yard and pick lemons from our tree.

So when The Green House  held it's hands-on Keiki Garden Adventure workshop on a recent Saturday in Pauoa Valley, I decided to sign up. It made for a fun Saturday morning. My son was shy, at first, but when I asked if he had fun later that afternoon, he said: "Yah!"

Here are a few tips I learned:

>> When planning an edible garden, think about what will grow based on sunlight, soil composition and moisture. Observe what's growing well in your neighborhood to get an idea — bananas, papayas, citrus, avocados, sweet potatoes all do well in a tropical climate.

>> You can create healthy soil through composting and sheet mulching. No matter what type of soil you have, adding compost and vermicast to poor soil will improve overall soil quality.

>> When taking a plant out of a pot, using  your fingers to fluff out the end roots is helpful before planting in the ground. You want to plant it just right, not too low, not too high, to make it happy

>> Ecoscraps, an all-organic compost mix, is available at Home Depot. This mix is made from a variety of composted fruits and veggies, with no chemicals. It was started by two college students, Daniel Blake and Craig Martineau, who noticed how much food was being wasted at an all-you-can buffet –what began as a dorm room project grew into a business venture.

Betty shows the keiki some examples of seeds, explaining how they grow into plants.

Betty shows the keiki some examples of seeds, explaining how they grow into plants.

Betty Gearen, the teacher, started the morning by having the kids shape "wormies" out of a chocolate-cinnamon dough that she later baked up as a yummy treat.

She brought out a few examples of seeds and explained how they grew. Then the kids got to get their hands dirty making "seed balls" — a mix of soil, compost, and a little clay — sprinkled with various flower seeds. Add water and shape into small balls. A reused paper egg carton makes the perfect container.

Drill three holes into a plastic gallon container and you've got a watering can.

The Green House is now offering the new EcoExplorer Learning Center for two to five-year-olds from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"With the Aina as our playground and Mother Nature as our guide we have created an innovative place where keiki will blossom in a fun, safe, nurturing eco-environment that has been created just for them to imagine, wonder and explore.

Keiki will learn creative arts, literature, math, cooking, gardening and yoga through the center, which embraces Montessori and Waldorf philosophies. To learn more, contact program director Karla Meek, karla@thegreenhousehawaii.com.

Keiki examining peeled beans under magnifiying glasses.

Keiki take a close look at peeled beans to see how seeds grow and examine the soil with magnifying glasses to find useful bugs.

Tell it to HECO

October 2nd, 2014
By

 solar-PV-1024x685

Absolutely p.o.'ed. Disappointed. Insulted.

These are the responses I've heard from people who either own or lease solar photovoltaic panels regarding the plan that the Hawaiian Electric Co. recently proposed which would raise basic connection fees for all customers to $55, while imposing an additional $71 for new solar PV customers.

HECO also proposes that the utility credit solar PV customers about half of what they get now — at just 17 cents per kilowatt-hour — for the clean energy that they produce. In other words, if they produce the energy, they charge a premium. If solar PV customers produce clean energy, it should be worth less. How is that fair? How is charging ALL customers MORE — a whopping $55 (which is unheard of in any other state) — fair to everyone? Is it fair to change the rules in the middle of the game? Not in my book.

Meanwhile, more than 4,400 solar PV customers are still waiting to be connected to the grid. HECO has not answered questions of when they will be connected, or how they will be compensated, as they very well deserve to be.

Solar is not a luxury. It's a technology that middle-class families from Waianae to Hawaii Kai, small businesses and non-profits invested in as part of a step towards a clean energy future and energy independence. It's a technology that makes sense for Hawaii.

Polls show that an overwhelming number of people want more rooftop solar in Hawaii, according to the Sierra Club, which adds that "customer choice is in the public interest."

So give HECO a piece of your mind. Or tell it to the Public Utilities Commission, which still has to approve HECO's Aug. 26 plan. Public comment is welcome at hawaii.puc@hawaii.gov by Oct. 6. Put the docket number in the subject line. (ex.Public Comment – Docket No. 2014-0192 – DGIP). Let your solar voice be heard.

Separately, you can also contact Hawaii's legislators (contact info is available at capitol.hawaii.gov).

Letters to the editor have been rolling in, with the vast majority expressing disappointment and disbelief with HECO's plan. For your convenience,  here are "Letters to the Editor" that ran in the Star-Advertiser in the past few weeks. Shows you how powerful the voices for solar can be together (scroll all the way down, the earliest one's my favorite). Keep them coming.

Oct. 18, 2014

Rosenblum gets a sweet deal

Did I read this correctly ("Ex-HECO chief to get $551K as consultant," Star-Advertiser, Oct. 15)?

Hawaiian Electric Co. is paying former president and CEO Dick Rosenblum $551,000 for six months of work to be an "adviser" to HECO chairwoman Connie Lau immediately after he retires on Jan. 5.

So you have a current chairwoman, Lau, who has seemingly thwarted our state in its move toward energy independence, hiring Rosenblum to advise her on things she already knows or could be advised of between now and Rosenblum's retirement.

I don't get it. Something smells. Hopefully the public and the state Public Utilities Commission smell something, too.

Orson Moon
Aiea

PV owners being mistreated?

It seems Hawaiian Electric Co. has managed to pit photovoltaic owners against non-photovoltaic owners.

The erroneous assumption is PV owners are not paying their fair share because they are not buying enough energy. What happened to decoupling?

Saying to get off the grid if you do not like it ignores the fact that if 11 percent of the grid's users got off and stopped paying the minimum, that cost would have to be absorbed by the remaining 89 percent. Seventeen dollars may be too little, but $71 is too much, and it is unfair to make people pay more for using less.

Michael B. Moore
Kapalama

Sept. 27, 2014

HECO failing at lowering bills

I'm a photovoltaic investor and it saddens me to have read negative responses to PV systems.

I shouldn't have to explain why we decided to invest our hard-earned money into a PV system, but I feel I must.

The reason my family did it was to get away from a huge monopoly like Hawaiian Electric Co. and start using the money saved from the outrageous electric bills to something more important -- our kids.

It seems to me HECO is trying to create an animosity between us and a distraction from the bigger picture.

There are fewer customers on the grid but HECO is still charging three times more for electricity. Why hasn't it figured out how to take the unused electricity my PV system produces and apply it to non-rooftop solar customers to lessen their electric bills?

Could it be HECO was unprepared?

Crystal Padron
Kapolei

Sept. 26, 2014

HECO delaying sustainability

Stop falling for Hawaiian Electric Co.'s misinformation campaign that pits customers against each other ("No special deals for PV owners," Star-Advertiser, Letters, Sept. 11).

Unfortunately, we're past the luxury of bickering. Climate change is real. Climate change is here. Any doubters should check out what's happening with rising sea levels on the islands of Kiribati, then go to watchdisruption.com.

HECO's plan slows Hawaii's move to clean energy and self-sustainability.

In addition to slowing photovoltaic installations, it swaps oil for liquefied natural gas, another fossil fuel, drilled via "fracking," which creates climate impacts just as bad as oil.

Fracking also ruins communities by exposing them to environmental and health hazards, including toxic leakage into their drinking water.

I don't think the people of Hawaii want to be party to this type of devastation.

We must all do everything we can to bring down carbon emissions, and that means cooperation and putting the planet before HECO profits.

Sherry Pollack
Ahuimanu

PV owners now being penalized

We installed thousands of dollars worth of photovoltaics two years ago.

It was our out-of-pocket gesture to benefit the community and help protect the environment.

It was also, incidentally, a very real subsidy to Hawaiian Electric Co., in the form of reduced fossil fuel costs, thereby freeing up funds which could be used to maintain and improve the electrical grid.

We generate all our own home power, plus some extra for the community to share. Based on our past electric bills, we won't recoup our investment for more than 10 years. Oahu's other 33,000 PV owners are doing essentially the same.

Let's not forget that PV owners paid their dues, up front, when purchasing their systems. We committed personal resources to move all of us toward our shared goal: clean air and energy independence.

Why, then, should we be financially penalized and seen as part of the problem, when we're proactively pursuing the solution?

Don Hallock
St. Louis Heights

Sept. 24, 2014

HECO driving customers away

Here is a glimpse of the future if Hawaiian Electric Co. raises the hook-up rate for solar customers:

Solar customers will look at the annual $850 or so that HECO is charging to be connected to the grid, do the math, and figure out that if they buy batteries and a generator, they will not need HECO. Battery technology is getting cheaper.

HECO is getting what amounts to free power from the excess from these customers. New HECO generators to replace this lost power will be very expensive.

HECO's CEO, Constance Lau, as reported in 2013, was earning $5.82 million per year. If you have a family of four, you are paying more than $20 a year just for Lau's salary. Double that for the next few key executives.

With solar customers opting out of the grid, that burden falls on fewer shoulders.

All rates will go up.

Tom Wallace
Hawaii Kai

Sept. 19, 2014

HECO conquers by dividing us

Hawaiian Electric Co. created a debate pitting ratepayer against rate-payer, deflecting attention from the real issues at hand.

Temperatures could increase by 2 degrees by the mid-2030s according to Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group vice president and special envoy for Climate Change. Kyte also said we could be staring at an ongoing food crisis within the next decade.

One person in five receives aid through the Hawaii Food Bank. Making matters worse, we can expect a sharp climate-induced rise in food prices due to the severe drought in California. Many will have to choose between feeding their families or paying their electric bill.

HECO and its shareholders should bear some of the burden. And HECO should be mobilizing its resources to expedite a grid with majority renewable energy to help reduce rates. We all need to make sacrifices in this era of climate change.

Dan Nakasone
Wahiawa

Sept. 18, 2014

It's not HECO's call about tax rebates

Something seems to have been lost in the debate over our rooftop solar panels.

The idea was to find a way to reduce the island's collective carbon dioxide footprint. In order to do that, homeowners needed an incentive. Tax rebates are that incentive.

This should not be Hawaiian Electric's call. HECO, as a corporation, has no interest in reducing CO2, if it costs the corpor- ation money.

That is why, I hope, we have government and regulations that lean toward the interests of the people, not the corporations.

Garry Francell
Waialae Nui Ridge

Solar production was boon for HECO

Hawaiian Electric Co. encouraged solar power production because it made economic sense for HECO and for all its customers.

This solar power production deferred rate increases for needed generating capacity that HECO otherwise would have been required to build itself. HECO also touts solar power as a non-fossil-fueled, sustainable resource.

Due to significant tax credits, customer-generated solar power was cheaper (and more timely) than power that HECO could have produced itself. HECO enjoyed the additional capacity, deferred ratemaking politics, and avoided the customer rate-shock that would have occurred if it had built this generating capacity itself.

Shame on HECO for creating a wedge between its solar and non-solar customers over transmission upgrade costs.

HECO dollars to be spent on transmission upgrades have been more than offset by the dollars that HECO saved by not building this generating capacity itself, dollars that ultimately all HECO customers would have paid.

Donald Armstrong
Kailua

Sept. 14, 2014

"PV system permits plummet on Oahu," Star-Advertiser, Sept. 10:

» Anybody who says Hawaiian Electric did not anticipate the demand is drinking the HECO Kool-Aid. I agree, they did not plan for it, but not because it wasn't evident in all the numbers.

» HECO did not anticipate, HECO did not anticipate, HECO did not anticipate. I am so sick and tired of hearing this because all it is saying is that they did not plan or do their job!

» Hawaiian Electric currently pays a 5 percent annual dividend. PV is not an option for me, so I bought shares of HE stock. For now, the 5 percent dividend covers my electricity bill.

» Lemons into lemonade. Good for you.

Sept. 7, 2014

HECO profiting well from PV customers

Hawaiian Electric Co. President Dick Rosenblum's latest quote, "We just want them to pay their fair share" regarding residential PV owners, really galled me.

HECO proposes to not only increase the base charge but also reduce by half the price of the credits it's giving solar owners, citing fairness and pandering for support from those without PV panels upset about paying full price.

If Rosenblum wants to talk fair share, how about HECO sending a check for that electricity they're taking from me and selling to non-solar owners?Even at the reduced rate, it would be a pretty penny every year.

HECO doesn't pay a dime for residential PV systems yet profits by re-selling any annual over-production from the panels at full price with absolutely no overhead to itself when the credits zero out.

I hope the state Public Utilities Commission sees through this charade to pad HECO's bottom line and that the Star-Advertiser does a little investigative reporting to bring the heat.

Mike Hanson
Mililani

Sept. 4, 2014

Maybe turn HECO into a nonprofit

The premise of Hawaiian Electric Co. President Dick Rosenblum's defense of proposed HECO rates seems to be that solar power adopters are getting a "good deal" from HECO ratepayers after paying off their solar systems.

Rosenblum seems to conflate taxpayers with ratepayers.My solar "deal" was a result of taxpayers deciding that the common good was served by decreasing the amount of electricity generated by HECO and increasing the amount of electricity generated by individual solar panels.The $55 charge advocated by HECO is really solar owners paying for 200 kWh of electricity they don't use.

Using Rosenblum's logic, shouldn't taxpayers own HECO so that the subsidies provided from non-solar to solar customers are equitably distributed?

HECO reported $161 million profit for 2013.If HECO was non-profit, the $38 million subsidy claimed by Rosenblum could be easily absorbed by the public corporation and rates could be lowered for all.

Mark Felman
Kapolei

Sept. 2, 2014

HEI salaries related to high energy cost?

Informative and interesting article on high-salaried occupations in Hawaii ("Medical field tops wage ranking in Hawaii," Star-Advertiser, Aug. 28).

Going a little further and calculating, it appears that the CEO of Hawaiian Electric Industries received in the neighborhood of $2,885 an hour. Once you calculate the salaries of all other Hawaiian Electric employees, the total annual salaries must be off the charts.

Could that be one of the reasons that Hwaii owners and businesses pay the highest price in the nation for electricity?

James l. Robinson
Aiea

What will new rate be called on bill?

HECO's new plan will raise more than solar rates; it will raise mine, too, and I'm not a solar customer because I live in a condo.

HECO says it now charges 34 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).

When I do the math, my last bill came out to 37.7 cents per kWh, all charges inclusive. Even if HECO reduced the charge from 37.7 cents per kWh to 26 cents per kWh and then added the $55 charge, my bill would increase by 25 percent.

I say, OK, charge me the 34 cents per kWh (not the 37.7 cents per kWh), but forget the $55 charge.

What does it plan to call the new charge anyway?My bill already has the following ambiguous charges on it:Customer Charge; Base Fuel Energy; Non Fuel Energy; Energy Cost Adjustment; IRP Cost Recovery; PBF Surcharge; Purchased Power Adjustment; RBA Rate Adjustment; and Renewable Infrastructure Pgm.

HECO is the wolf in sheep's clothing. Baaaaaa to its plan.

Kathleen Adams
Mililani

Aug. 31, 2014

HECO energy plan will kill PV industry

Shibai! Hawaiian Electric Co.'s so-called energy plan is anti-green and anti-renewable energy.

First, it will penalize photovoltaic (PV) customers who invested tens of thousands of dollars to become energy efficient.That will also destroy the PV industry in Hawaii.

Second, while HECO claims it wants to reduce charges to non-PV customers, the plan actually provides their rates will increase, too -- all in the mere hope that after 2030 HECO "might" reduce energy costs for everyone.

If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.

Michael A. Lilly
Pacific Heights

Changing rules now unfair to PV owners

My electric bill last month was $17.

We delivered to Hawaiian Electric Co. 280 kilowatt hours (kWh) and received 220 kWh for a credit of 60 kWh. But with the proposed rate increase we would have to pay $99.57 -- a dramatic increase.

Here's the calculation: To HECO, we would have to pay 220 kWh times 34.62 cents, totaling $76.17 for the electricity we received, and simultaneously, receive a credit of 280 kWh times 17 cents for $47.60 total for the power we feed into their system(instead of our present 280 kWh times 34.62 cents for $96.93 total).

So although this wasa good summer month and we made more electricity than we used, we still would have a negative balance of $28.57 ($76.17 - $47.60 = $28.57).

Add to that the proposed new fixed monthly charge of $71 and our bill would then be $28.57 + $7 = $99.57. This would make solar a poor investment for us and probably many other solar customers.

HECO should not be allowed to change the present rules for existing solar owners, because the present rules were the main reason people bought solar.

Volker Hildebrandt
Kaneohe

Aug. 30, 2014

HECO plan will ensure its profits

HECO has come up with a new plan that sounds more like a way to discourage private photovoltaic (PV) installations and effectively raise rates.

» Step 1: Promise (someday) a 20 percent reduction in electric rates.

For its mythical average customer using 600 kilowatt hours a month, that would be a savings of around $42 monthly.

» Step 2: More than quadruple the minimum monthly charge to people with PV from $17 a month to $71 a month, a $54 monthly hike.

» Step 3: Charge a one-time interconnection fee of an undisclosed amount for each PV installation.

» Step 4: Reduce the credit for electricity supplied by customers' PV installations in half (from the retail rate of about 35 cents per kWh to 17 cents per kWh).

Result: More profit for HECO.

Battery backed-up, off-grid installations will become more attractive, and HECO's customer base will decrease even further.

Result: Less reliable grid.

Bob Gould
Kaneohe

 

Hoarding plastic bags

October 1st, 2014
By

 

Plastic bag caught in the fence near Kakaako Waterfront Park. Photo by Nina Wu.

Plastic bag caught in the fence near Kakaako Waterfront Park. Photo by Nina Wu.

So, now it's official.

Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell signed Bill 38 into law on Thursday, Sept. 25, which would ban retailers from distributing plastic carryout bags — including biodegradable  bags — starting July 1, 2015.

Oahu follows Maui, Kauai and the Big Island in banning plastic  bags at checkout. But California, not Hawaii, became the first state to ban plastic bags yesterday.

In the first version of the bill, biodegradable bags would have been exempted, until environmentalists pointed out they can be just as damaging in the ocean. Compostable bags that meet the standards of ASTM International are allowed.

The bag ban, though not perfect, is great news for our environment. It's going to be an adjustment for folks who take plastic bags for granted.

In our recent Big Q poll,  the majority of readers (346) said they plan to start hoarding plastic takeout bags in response to the news. I imagine some began hoarding as soon as they heard Honolulu was considering a ban.

How will you prepare for Oahu’s plastic-bag ban at stores, to be effective July 1?

  • B. Start hoarding plastic bags (49%, 346 Votes)
  • A. Start using recyclable bags (33%, 231 Votes)
  • C. Already stopped using plastic (18%, 123 Votes) 

It cracks me up because I know people like that — people like my mom, who believe if something's free, then take it. At the checkout at Marukai, I remember watching an elderly Japanese lady at a packing table by the exit, meticulously wrapping each purchase, big and small, in a separate plastic bag.

Why would you hoard plastic bags? So you can have a lifetime supply without ever having to purchase any plastic bags for your wastebaskets?

On the other hand, too many plastic bags do come with a cost – an overhead cost that businesses pass on to consumers for the convenience and a high environmental cost to this beautiful paradise we live in. On average, one shopper uses 500 bags in one year. Plastic bags are choking up our waterways, breaking into chemical-laden pieces in our oceans. They offer short-term convenience, but long-term consequences. Burning them at H-power is not the answer (not for the health of the air we breathe in).

Reducing them is part of the solution. That's what this law will do.

I've been bringing my own bags to the store for several years now, and believe me, life is still fine. Our home isn't completely plastic bag-free yet, due to visitors and other household members who sometimes bring them in. But there's just a small cluster, (which yes, I line my wastebaskets with), compared to a large monster ball beneath the kitchen sink. You start to discover that you don't need so many, certainly not that huge monster ball amount.

Here are some ideas on how we can use fewer plastic bags:

>> Consolidate. So maybe we don't need so many small, plastic bags. On trash day, dump the contents of your wastebasket into the larger trash bag before taking it out. Reduce the number of bags you use. When you have mostly dry waste, this isn't a big deal. Wet waste is tougher.

>> Compost. You can reduce trash by composting food waste - vegetable peelings, apple cores, leftover pasta and bread, and put it back into your garden.

>> Reuse. Think of the other plastic bags that we get which are still available. Get creative. Bread bags, newspaper bags, sack of potato bags.  Bread bags and newspaper bags work just fine for picking up dog poop, another common complaint about the ban of plastic grocery bags.

>> Recycle. Are there things that you throw out in the trash which can actually be recycled? Remember, No. 1 and 2 plastics go in the blue bin. That includes pretty much all shampoo bottles, laundry detergent bottles, etc., as well as glass jelly  jars, newspapers, corrugated cardboard pizza boxes, etc.

>> BYOB. Bring your own bags to the store - keep a dozen in your car, and at least one or two of the Chicobag, Envirosax or Baggu kind (that fold up small) in your purse or backpack. I like the large, square-bottomed and insulated ones I got for supporting PBS Hawaii. I also love the ones from Trader Joe's. Or, try the Costco method and keep an empty cardboard box in the car. I'm hoping people will be encouraged to bring their own bags instead of collecting piles of paper bags at home.

And when you have no choice but to use a bag for your wastebasket, there are alternatives out there like Biobags, which are compostable. Just don't let them get into the ocean.

Plastic bag monster sculpture created by the Shanghai chapter of Jane Goodall Institute's Roots & Shoots. From youbentmywookie.com.

Plastic bag monster sculpture created by the Shanghai chapter of Jane Goodall Institute's Roots & Shoots. From youbentmywookie.com.

Window A/C rebates

September 25th, 2014
By

 

WindowAC

Summer's officially over, but if you're still trying to cool your heels in the isles, Hawaii Energy is offering $50 rebates for anyone who trades up to an EnergyStar-rated window air conditioner.

Hawaii Energy, a ratepayer-funded energy conservation and efficiency program, is offering a $50 rebate for individuals who swap out an old working unit for a more energy efficient one. They're available on a first-come, first-served basis, but the perk is free pick-up and haul-away of the old A/C unit.

The rebates are available on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, but not Lanai or Molokai (sorry, folks).

To qualify, your unit must be EnergyStar rated and have an energy efficiency ratio of 10.8 or higher.

It's easy.

1. Pick up an application at the time of purchase of an EnergyStar A/C unit from participating retailers, including Lowe's, Sears, NEX, Home Depot and City Mill.

2. Schedule a pick-up of your old A/C unit for recycling by calling 537-5577 or (877) 231-8222.

3. Send your completed rebate application and original receipt via snail mail to Hawaii Energy, P.O. Box 3920, Honolulu, HI 96812. The rebate should arrive in the mail in eight to 10 weeks.

The switch could save you about $80 per year on your electric bill (though savings vary depending on the make, model and usage of your window A/C unit).

If you're getting a split-air A/C system, there are $150 rebates available for variable refrigerant flow air conditioners up to 24,000 BTU, and $250 rebates for units from 24,001 to 36,000 BTU. They must have a minimum SEER rating of 16.

Questions? See if the answer is in the FAQ list.

 

About those fire ants

September 10th, 2014
By

So the last we heard, the invasive Little Fire Ants were in Mililani Mauka.

But keep your guard up, because who knows where they'll turn up next?

They might turn up in your neighborhood. When they were discovered in Waimanalo during the summer, only Waimanalo folks were concerned. As of now, the samples coming in (about 10 per week) are from Mililani. It's possible they may have gone undetected in Mililani for a few years.

The Little Fire Ants, originally from South America, not only deliver a painful sting, but can blind animals and reduce biodiversity. If these ants become established in Hawaii, they would be Hawaii's most devastating pest. Nesting seabirds and sea turtle hatchlings are also under threat. We do not want these to be established on our island. Small populations can still be eradicated if detected early enough.

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Not to be confused with the tropical fire ant, the Little Fire Ant is half the size (one-sixtheenth of an inch or about as long as the width of a penny). For more information, visit lfa-hawaii.org.

The Little Fire Ants were first discovered in Puna in 1999 and have since spread, hidden in plants, logs, green waste, gravel and sometimes, even cars. In December 2013, they were discovered in hapuu logs at nurseries and garden shops on Oahu and Maui, and in landscaping on Lanai. Most of the hapuu sold to the public remain unaccounted for.

What can you do about it?

Test your home and yard. You can do this by placing a thin smear of peanut butter on disposable chopsticks - place them every few feet in and around plants in your yard, garden and lanai. Focus on shady, moist areas, bottoms of pots and where plants' leaves meet the stem. Leave the sticks in place for one hour during the cool part of the day. Check the sticks without moving them, and collect if:

>> Ants are uniformly orange/red and very small.

>> If you're unsure about the ants.

As of right now, the Department of Agriculture is responding to every sample sent in. Better to have plenty of samples that turn out not to be Little Fire Ants than to miss opportunities to detect and eradicate them. We need to remain vigilant.

Place the ants directly into a zipock bag, seal, label with your name, address and phone number and freeze overnight. Here's a link to a brochure and video for further instructions.

Immediately report any suspected LFA to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture hotline 643-PEST.