Several non-profit environmental and solar advocacy groups united their voices this week in protest of the Hawaiian Electric Industries' maneuvers to oppose renewable energy. Although HECO publicly claims to be working toward the state's goal of using 100 percent renewables by 2045, its actions seem to support just the opposite.
It's like having a two-faced utility. HECO's corporate website will tell you it's committed to protecting the environment, with a nice photo of a Hawaiian sea turtle.
And yet, the Clean Energy Coalition points out how HECO is moving Hawaii in the wrong direction, considering:
>> HECO just proposed the building of a 383-megawatt power plant on Oahu to burn liquefied natural gas, or diesel oil, if the NextEra deal is approved.
>> HECO is asking to expand the state's largest coal plant to 189 megawatts, which is equivalent to the power generated by allowing about 6,000 homes to install rooftop solar.
>> Yet HECO just killed a deal for three large solar farms which would have brought more than 100 megawatts of clean and relatively inexpensive energy on to the grid, reducing electricity rates for Oahu residents.
>> HECO fought to slash compensation to residents with rooftop solar and limit the amount of solar that can be installed.
>> On Oahu, HECO has not approved a rooftop solar application under the new Public Utilities Commission tariffs in more than four months.
On Monday, Earthjustice, The Sierra Club, Blue Planet Foundation, Hawaii PV Coalition, Alliance for Solar Choice and Hawaii Solar Energy Association raised the above concerns with Hawaii's largest electrical utilities.
"Hawaii claims to support clean energy," said Marti Townsend, director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii. "So why isn't HECO moving forward with real clean energy projects? How can a state-sponsored public utility flout the will of the people and the Legislature?"
Robert Harris, spokesman for the Alliance for Solar Choice, said: "It's time to change the system. We need to look at options, such as putting another entity in charge of running the grid who doesn't produce or sell power. HECO won't change its stripes if it's not in its financial interest to do so."
Rick Reed, president of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, said 96 percent of people in Hawaii believe we should have more solar power, not less.
"Anything that's not meaningfully moving in that direction isn't respecting what the people want: cheaper and cleaner power," he said.
Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, said: "It's time to say no to more fossil fuels. It's simply not acceptable for our utility to be proposing new fossil fuels at the same time it's slow down clean, local power."
The Public Utilities Commission resumes a third round of testimony on NextEra Energy Inc.'s proposed $4.3 billion purchase of the state's largest electric utility next week.