HELCO delays geothermal contract


By TOM CALLIS

Tribune-Herald staff writer

The Hawaii Electric Light Co. says awarding a contract for another 50 megawatts of geothermal power will take more time.

But how long remains unclear.

The utility was initially expecting to make a selection among the six companies that submitted proposals by September.

It later pushed that timeline to the end of November.

That deadline was missed, and HELCO Administration Manager Rhea Lee said Monday that a new date is in the process of being determined.

Whether that could be the end of the month or sometime next year, she was unable to elaborate.

“We’ll be providing information, additional information, on the next steps in the coming few weeks,” Lee said.

What is causing the delay also remains unclear.

Lee said she is unable to comment on why the process is taking longer than anticipated.

“I cannot discuss the reasons for the holdup,” she said.

Lee added: “I can tell you that we are really looking at these proposals very closely.

“We want to make sure that geothermal that we add will not be tied to the price of oil because we do want to lower the electrical rates for the customers. It’s not an easy decision.”

Twenty-five of the 38 mgw of geothermal power HELCO buys from Puna Geothermal Venture, the only existing geothermal plant in the state, is tied to the cost of oil.

Asked if the proposals are too costly or if HELCO is asking for more information from those seeking the contract, Lee said again she could not comment.

PGV, owned by Ormat Technologies, is one of the companies seeking the new contract.

Additionally, HELCO is still talking to some of if its independent power producers about renegotiating contracts to detach the cost of buying the electricity from the price of oil, Lee said. Those producers include companies like PGV that sell power to the utility. Lee said she could also not discuss details about those talks.

“I can say that some are willing to talk with us and are talking with us,” she said. “Some are not.”

Those talks began last year.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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