Monday, May 9, 2011

Public TV Show Reviews Hawaii’s Energy Future

Afternoon Update: HECO urges PUC to reject Friends of Lanai petition on Big Wind bidding.
There never can be too much conversation about getting off oil in the Aloha State, so the topic on public television’s “PBS Hawaii Insights” show last week was more of what we needed.

Watch it and you can pick and choose the parts you like, the parts you don’t like and the parts that support your particular technology preference and/or your major concerns. We’ve noted here our concern about the Big Wind project, which at times has resembled a “soap opera” with its big swings in plot and players.

Our biggest concern is that a great deal of effort and faith has been invested in Big Wind by many key players, including some on this TV show, even though the entire project is highly problematic at this time. The anticipated impacts to be visited on Molokai and Lanai may be so great in the end that Big Wind simply won’t happen, and you can be sure opponents on those islands will be heard.

That’s why we wonder whether $3 billion invested in the two neighbor island wind farms and an undersea cable to connect them to Oahu would soak up so much money from Hawaii as a whole – businesses, residents, government – that there would be nrothing left for other technologies that conceivably could come online later. In that regard, we’ve picked the following quotes.

Hermina Morita, chair of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission:

“One of the key objectives of Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative is to demonstrate with the US Department of Energy that there’s no one solution, that it will take multiple technologies, diversity and the integration of these various technologies to come to a solution, and what better place to do it than Hawaii….? There’s no one technology that’s gonna solve our problem, and we really have to approach this from a systems (basis)….”

Mike Hamnett, chair of the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum:

“There are a number of (technologies) that are right over the horizon. So in the whole biofuels area, a lot of people are looking forward to the role that algae will play…. The people who are in the algae business they’re saying it’s three years, five years away, but having the diversity of resources allows us to not put all our eggs in one basket, so if we get a new technology….even ocean thermal energy conversion has got a lot of potential….but if we take a diversified approach to the whole thing, and as these new technologies come on line we can swap them out for the things we’ve already developed and get the best of all worlds, rather than putting all of our eggs in any single technology basket.”

There’s that energy basket again, and without actually connecting his remarks to Big Wind, the HEPF chair mirrored the same concern that we have – that the Big Wind project is becoming the technology that’s far more desirable than all the others, notwithstanding the breadth of discussion about other technologies on the program.

Please watch the video, then chime in with your opinions at the Hawaii Energy Forum, which is linked at the top of the page. Click on any of the major issues listed there, such as Energy Policy to comment on the TV show, register in the upper right-hand corner (if you haven’t already) and weigh in on one of the most important conversations happening in Hawaii.

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