Thursday, August 28, 2008

HECO Commits to Set-Asides for Ocean Power; HVCA Audience Hears Straight Talk from Utility

Like the guy in the 1980s TV commercial who said, “I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company,” we liked the Hawaii Venture Capital Association’s (HVCA) meeting so much today we joined the group. Thank goodness no venture capital investment is required. An overflow crowd estimated at 150 filled the Plaza Club’s meeting room in downtown Honolulu for the second meeting in HVCA’s Renewable Energy Series. (The September 25th speaker will be Henk Rogers, founder of the Blue Planet Foundation, whose mission is: “To change our world’s energy culture.")

While scribbling notes, we wondered how we’d choose which of the panelists would lead today’s blog entry. Excellent contributions were made by each of the first three speakers – Warren Bollmeier, president of the Hawaii Renewable Energy Alliance; Bill Parks, on loan to the State of Hawaii from the U.S. Department of Energy, and Erik Kvam, CEO of Zero Emissions Leasing, LLC, a renewable energy entrepreneur. But then came Robbie Alm, executive vice president of Hawaiian Electric Company, and the choice was easy.

This blog began on March 14, 2008 to call attention to the most-overlooked renewable energy in our state, ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), and we made that point again as recently as one week ago. So to hear Alm make an unambiguous endorsement for ocean power in his remarks today was enough to give us – as we say in the islands – chicken skin.

We won’t put quote marks around Alm’s comments because we didn’t catch every single word, but near the end of his talk, he said something pretty close to this:

We (the utility) have a strong preference for proven technologies in purchase power agreements, but we will create room for set-asides for the ocean people to come to Hawaii. To some degree, we need to give the ocean technologies a special reason to come to Hawaii. If they do, we’ll all benefit.

For a moment, we could imagine what Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) might have felt when President Bush endorsed a massive commitment to ethanol a couple State of the Union speeches ago.

OK, so maybe we shouldn’t expect an announcement about HECO signing a contract with an OTEC developer next week, but that was the most ringing endorsement of OTEC and other ocean-based power systems we’ve ever heard from a HECO spokesperson. And more power to them (pun intended).

Patience Recommended

Alm concluded his prepared remarks by telling the assembled would-be energy producers that he can’t promise them an easy field to play in over the next years. Patience will be required as everyone works through numerous as-yet unresolved issues. His ending:

Hawaii will lead the world in the switch off oil. Hawaii will be the place where it happens. We’re all committed to making that our reality.

Quote or not, those are encouraging words from Hawaii’s dominant utility for supporters of OTEC and other renewable energy options.

We’ll post additional comments by Alm and the other panelists in the days ahead. For now, Hawaii Energy Options will leave it at:

HECO, we like your spirit!

4 comments:

Sailing Bob said...

There is absolutely NO reason that Hawaii should not lead the nation in "the switch off oil" and NO reason the U of H should not develop an Alternative Energy Undergraduate program to lead the world!

Keep us informed!!!

Bob Smith

Doug Carlson said...

Mahalo, former Hawaii resident Bob Smith. Come back! We need your positive energy and commitment to a fossil-fuel-free Hawaii!

David said...

For those interested, a video of this conference is available at the HVCA website - http://www.hvca.org/home.aspx - scroll down the page and it is under "POLICY AND REGULATORY CHALLENGES FACING RENEWABLE ENERGY ENTREPRENEURS" - click on "Play Video", enter your email address and name and the video will play.

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David.

Doug Carlson said...

Mahalo for your tip, David. We also linked the video from our September 1st post. Signing in is easy and free. The HVCA is doing a great job of archiving its programs for those who can't attend -- as we can't on September 25th when Henk Rogers speaks to the group.