Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hawaii Will Try Feed-In Tariff Program for Clean Energy

Did the earth move for you, too? It must have for a lot of us, the way this week’s Public Utilities Commission “feed-in tariff” (FIT) ruling was anticipated. The new, improved and simplified way to pay for individual small-power producers’ sales to the electric utilities is touted as the beginning of a bright new day for renewable energy. The PUC's order has all the details.

According to PUC Chairman Carlito Caliboso, “The predictability and certainty that FITs provide to renewable energy developers should (encourage) future renewable projects and ultimately advance the state’s efforts to wean itself off of imported fossil fuel.”

Yes, that indeed is the goal – eliminating imported coal and oil to burn and generate electricity for the islands. Those imports now account for 90 percent of the electricity generated here.

Getting Serious about the Goal

Let’s keep the conversation going on this primary goal that individuals, corporations and governments all must acknowledge and embrace.

There’s been enough hot-air talk over the years about achieving this goal to produce a thousand megawatts of wind power, but do we all really believe that it must happen?

What will it take for all of us to get serious about this goal – wholesale oil prices near $150/barrel again, with retail costs even higher? That’s no way to live – reacting to circumstances beyond our control.

I think the only way to change our way of life in this regard is through education – more intense, more widespread and more comprehensive than anything we’ve seen so far. Who will the T. Boone Pickens of Hawaii be who, instead of building wind turbines, will throw money behind an educational effort that’s unprecedented in the state, and perhaps the nation?

It’s going to take more than replacing a few incandescent light bulbs in our homes and feeling good about it. With our extreme dependence on imported oil, Hawaii residents are among the most at-risk people in the world! Do more than 10 percent of us truly believe that in our guts? I doubt it, and we haven’t even touched on climate change, ocean level rise and all the rest.

This is serious stuff. It’s encouraging there’s a new FIT program, but to truly be “fit,” Hawaii must go on a crash green-energy diet and embrace the concept of GOO -- Get Off Oil -- and stay on that diet, forever!