Sunday, December 27, 2009

Editorial Supports Cable Link to Create Multi-Island Grid; the President, too?

The President’s in town, so what better time for the Honolulu Advertiser to write a supportive editorial on the inter-island electric cable? Barack Obama’s reading file just might include his hometown paper when he’s vacationing here.

We subscribe to the theory that the more the President knows about his home state’s imperative to get off oil, the more successful that effort will be. That’s why we’ve sent two requests for him to participate in our Energy Futures program tomorrow at Hawaii Public Radio. It’s a “live” call-in show, so we’re still holding out hope he’ll join in – slim though that hope may be.

Today’s editorial in the Advertiser makes the case for building the electric link among the islands – and while they’re at it, to be sure all the appropriate environmental impacts are studied. As one of our guests in tomorrow’s Energy Futures show pointed out in an Advertiser commentary a few days ago, the assessment should cover the costs to upgrade transmission lines on the affected islands. Failing to do so understates the costs that will have to be recovered from ratepayers and taxpayers.

Of course, we support spreading the cost among all of the nation’s taxpayers, not just those in Hawaii. Hawaii’s is more dependent on oil for its energy needs than any other state, and we therefore are a legitimate target for federal funds to transform out of our oil dependency to a totally green-energy state.

So Mr. President, here’s an open invitation for you to ring us up on the 5-6 pm HST show tomorrow (941-3689) and also to send significant federal funds to Hawaii to hasten that much-needed transition.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Inter-Island Planning Begins To Link Four Hawaii Islands in Grid

The Advertiser's graphic with today's cable story.
Planning for an inter-island electrical cable network is advancing, according to a page one story in the Honolulu Advertiser today. The network would be both a hedge against future oil prices and a way to significantly reduce the use of oil in Hawaii’s energy mix.

The multi-billion dollar project as envisioned would enable the development of up to 400 megawatts of wind power on the islands of Molokai and Lanai for transmissions to Oahu, the state’s population center. The article breaks down spending on the project to date.

The development costs eventually would be shouldered by electric customers and taxpayers. The price of oil presumably will continue to rise in the decade ahead (it more than doubled in 2009), so a pricing formula for cable-delivered wind power could cost less than continuing the state’s reliance of oil for the generation of nearly 80 percent of its electricity.

The other consideration in favor of building the cable is that the neighbor island wind farms could significantly cut the state’s carbon footprint. The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative calls for 40 percent of the state’s energy requirement to be supplied by renewable projects by 2030, with another 30 percent shaved off the peak by conservation.

And two decades beyond that is an unofficial goal that Hawaii will use no carbon-based fuel by 2050 – something we’ve been advocating for some time now. Our grandkids will still be youngsters in their 40s by then, and it’s their generation most of us are planning for.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Burying OTEC in Bureaucracy Would Be Calamitous Mistake

Two days ago we passed on the essence of a “let’s have coffee” conversation with someone who seemed earnest, sincere and well informed about the potential for ocean thermal energy conversion to drown in NOAA’s bureaucracy.

If not an OTEC “insider,” our coffee partner appeared to be close enough to the action to know what’s going on. His assessment that OTEC’s rollout could be needlessly delayed is alarming in light of the urgent need to develop non-polluting base-load generation sources. (Our thanks go out to OTEC News for picking up our November 13 post and generating an email to its far-flung list.)

Throw the Copenhagen climate conference into the discussion and NOAA’s presumed intention to over-regulate OTEC becomes even more egregious.

We don’t editorialize much here at Hawaii Energy Options except in generalized support for renewable energy development, with special attention given to OTEC from our very first post. But in this instance, we now urge anyone and everyone with influence and interest in OTEC to do everything you can to break the potential for an NOAA logjam before it’s firmly in place.

OTEC’s presumed ability to supply people around the planet with clean energy and clean water must not be needlessly delayed by red tape. Let’s be sure no additional roadblocks are in place just when this promising technology seems ready to fulfill its promise.

January 6 Update: Dr. Luis Vega comments on this post.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Will NOAA’s Bureaucracy Delay OTEC a Decade or More?

Our most recent post said we pass on rumors – even rumors of rumors – here at Hawaii Energy Options. There’s no city, news or managing editor looking over our shoulder, so it’s all fair game, far as we can tell, as long as we adhere to some objectivity standards.

That said, here’s what we’ve heard within the past 48 hours:

NOAA is so gummed up with bureaucratic inertia due to the “shell shock” it feels over the enormity of ocean thermal energy conversion that it will demand five years of operating data from even a pilot plant before giving OTEC its regulatory blessing.

Five years to build a plant, then five years of data gathering could effectively scare off investors unwilling to sit in a waiting game before OTEC could be meaningfully rolled out in Hawaii or anywhere else to counter our oil dependence.

“OTEC is on a scale so much larger than anything we’ve dealt with before,” a visiting NOAA official said last month. That seems like a tell-tale insight into the problem – if there indeed is a problem as was related to us.

When the NOAA slow-down was mentioned to an in-the-know official, he responded: “I have heard a bit about NOAA being potentially a barrier, but nothing substantial.“

Whether substantial or not, the issue of NOAA’s potentially go-slow stance has been suggegsted, so we raise it here. The issue is potentially too serious to let lie, so the question needs asking:

Is NOAA going to be an impediment to OTEC development due to an overly conservative regulatory environment? And if that’s the case, what can be done about it?

January 6 Update: Dr. Luis Vega comments on this post.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

“Something Must Be Happening with OTEC These Days….”

We’re not above passing on rumors here at Hawaii Energy Options, and I hope Pat Takahashi doesn’t mind me quoting his email from yesterday as he commented on the comings and goings of various ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) personalities.

We won’t dip to the level of the celebrity blogs by naming names. Let’s just say Pat may get an OTEC earful over dinner tonight.

We will call your attention to our November 19th post about a visiting NOAA delegation sent to Hawaii to study up on OTEC. And while we’re at it, check out our September 2nd post that reports on a prediction that the first OTEC plant could be up and running in Hawaii by 2013.

We’ll wrap up today with a link to a YouTube video (thanks to Pat's email) on a car of the future powered by the fuel of the future – hydrogen, which can be mined from seawater using……you guessed it……OTEC, of course.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

“The Most Important Conversation in History” is the Subject of HPR Program

Here’s another “expediency post” to this blog. We’re simply pointing you to our sister Energy Futures on HPR blog where we promote Monday’s hour-long conversation about the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference from a Pacific research perspective.

You’re invited to join us either over the air or on-line via streaming. Details are over at Energy Futures.