Friday, May 13, 2011

PUC Rejects FOL’s Petition to Intervene in ‘Big Wind’

It was more than predictable. Legal technicalities tend to outweigh the down-home emotions of individual citizens as revealed in the petition filed by the Friends of Lanai with the Public Utilities Commission seeking to intervene in the Big Wind project docket.

Rather than repeat all the “who shot JR?” twists, we’ll direct you downward in this column to previous posts on Big Wind. We’ve called it a soap opera due to all the romancing, spurning and dissing among the players.

The PUC rejected FOL’s petition (which is what Hawaiian Electric Company urged it to do) and noted that FOL isn’t a party to the docket and therefore couldn’t petition for intervention.

Where this harried project goes next is anybody’s guess. Will the Governor condemn 10,000 acres of Molokai land for Big Wind? Will First Wind find a parcel somewhere in the county to build 200 megawatts of wind power? Will all 400 MW end up on Lanai, as apparently is still possible? Will Pattern Energy and Molokai consummate their budding relationship? What next for the Friends of Lanai? Does a $3-billion investment in an intermittent wind resource make sense?

We asked Robin Kaye of the FOL group exactly that – what’s your next step? Here’s his emailed response today:

“Good questions. We're doing the necessary legal research and questioning right now. The PUC has been operating like this (opaque, no-explanations-necessary) for quite a long time. HECO and the PUC appear to move in lock-step. It's really bad government. They write the rules, they interpret the rules, and they then appear to adjudicate the rules. There doesn't seem to be much precedent for challenging the PUC re regulations; lots regarding rate cases, but very little around the issues we're raising. And it's doubtful they consider "residents' interests" at all. One would have assumed that the Consumer Advocate (we think this is an oxymoron) would take that role, but they appear to be in step with HECO and the PUC on this.”

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