So where do Hawaii's gubernatorial candidates stand on solar and accessibility to solar?
The Green Leaf made the following queries a week ago, and down to the wire, here are how candidates Jeff Davis (Libertarian), former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann (Independent), former Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona (Republican) and Sen. David Ige (Democrat) responded, in the order that they were received.
The candidates aired their perspectives earlier, including their views on LNG (liquefied natural gas), in an Oct. 14 Gubernatorial Forum on Clean Energy for Hawaii's Future hosted by ThinkTech Hawaii at the Laniakea YWCA.
In Florida, the "Sunshine State," solar has become a major rallying point for the race between the state's current governor, Rick Scott, and former governor, Charlie Crist. Energy, and the source of energy, for the Aloha State, is no doubt just as crucial, given that our electricity rates are three times higher than the national average.
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Do you feel HECO's action plan filed Aug. 26 is fair to solar PV customers in Hawaii, as well as to regular electricity customers in Hawaii?
Jeff Davis, solar contractor, radio talk show host, Libertarian
Since last Sept. 6, 2013, the PV world in Hawaii and our bright future has come completely screeching to a halt. Now to suggest that there be two classes of rateplayers, and that certain people be grandfathered in is the continuance of absurdity with which the Hawaiian Electric Industries has dealt with its competitor, the PV industry, in general. Because we are their competitor.
Mufi Hannemann, former Honolulu mayor, Independent
HECO’s plan is seriously deficient, as the Public Utilities Commission made plain in its comments on the plan (Docket 2014-0183). In particular it has failed to embrace the full potential of renewable energy resources and it continues to rely far too heavily on fossil fuels. Electricity prices in Hawaii are 300% higher than the mainland. This is hurting families and businesses.
We need a much more proactive approach, one that encompasses solar and wind to the fullest extent possible and is open to geothermal power, the one energy resource that can really move the needle on fossil dependence and provide cheap, clean, renewable energy in very large amounts 24 hours a day. We need a smart inter-island grid that is more flexible, more efficient and can accept power generation from all sources.
Solar PV customers, all electricity customers, are being short changed by our current approach. And it is a self-defeating and ultimately pointless exercise to pit one set of customers against another. The job of the Governor is to ensure we free ourselves of our dependence of foreign oil, invest in alternative energy sources, build a new grid and lower electricity prices.
Duke Aiona, former Lt. Gov., Republican
If we have to change the system by creating a separate utility for transmission and distribution, in order to make alternative energies like solar more accessible to the community then I would consider that an option as well as neighborhood and community coops, which would empower neighborhoods as opposed to pitting them against one another.
David Ige, state senator, electrical engineer, Democrat
Did not respond to questions.
What will you do to help ease the hurdles faced by middle-class families that want to invest in solar but are faced with greater costs for doing so imposed by HEI (HECO, MECO, HELCO)? How will you help the 3,500 or more customers who invested their hard-earned money into solar PV systems but are still waiting to get connected to the grid, as well as those who have had to wait more than nine months?
In the simplest of terms, HEI must be taken out of the pay-to-play role. They cannot serve two masters — their shareholders and the public. HEI must be, with aloha and grace, taken into a for-public coop and removed from being traded as a stock entity. There's no solving any of these problems without tackling the problem of a for-profit monopoly.
We are deeply concerned at the delays and uncertainties concerning HECO's ability to connect solar PV systems to the grid. The PUC should require HECO to immediately remediate the situation, and to impost penalties if they cannot comply. Otherwise, with federal subsidies for PV systems scheduled to end in 2016, possibly up to 200 Megawatts of commercial solar power production may now not go forward in Hawaii. This is unconscionable.
I believe that the presumption should be changed. HECO should have to prove that solar installations can not be connected to the grid, rather than the solar customer having to prove it can be. HECO has the resources and the ability. Why should the responsibility be on the consumer?
Did not respond to questions.
How do you plan to keep the Public Utilities Commission, and HECO, accountable in genuinely implementing Hawaii's Clean Energy Initiative? How will you help us reach those goals?
Number one, for the interim between taking HEI to a coop, we need to beef up the budget and personnel of the PUC. We need to take the PUC's appointments away from the political party in power and perhaps we should put the PUC members on a ballot and elect them.
The PUC's mandate should be expanded to actively promote the development and distribution of all renewable energy resources. It must require HECO to invest meaningfully in renewables and hold it accountable by basing its rate decisions on performance against quantified goals not costs. We should give the PUC the resources it needs to do its job and stop the State from raiding its funds for other purposes.
The PUC deserves to be supported by the administration with resources and direction. My direction to the PUC will be to consider all options that reduce the cost of energy in Hawaii, while being sensitive to the environment.
Did not respond to questions.