Hu Honua power purchase OK’d


The state Public Utilities Commission has approved an agreement by Hawaii Electric Light Co. to purchase up to 10 percent of the isle’s energy needs a year from a bioenergy plant in Pepeekeo that remains under construction.

Work at the 25-acre, 21.5-megawatt Hu Honua Bioenergy site has met with delays in the past few months as investors have awaited the PUC’s approval of their power purchase agreement with HELCO. The power company had initially applied for the regulatory commission’s approval on May 3, 2012. Waits for other approvals and permits, as well as a labor dispute, have also served to slow construction at the site of the former Pepeekeo Sugar Mill.

In addition to giving the OK to the 20-year purchase agreement, the PUC’s ruling — which was filed Friday afternoon — orders HELCO to file a power supply improvement plan within 120 days to “address a number of power supply issues.”

According to the decision, “the parties and participants raised certain issues concerning HELCO’s systems operations and retirement of certain generation plants. The commission shares these concerns …”

HELCO CEO Jay Ignacio was unavailable to clarify what those concerns were, or what the power supply improvement plan would entail, but his office did supply a short statement by presstime Monday.

“The Hu Honua biomass project will help Hawaii Electric Light Company meet the state’s energy policy goals by reducing reliance on fossil fuels by using locally supplied biomass fuel,” he said.

Calls to Hu Honua CEO John Sylvia and his company’s public relations firm were not returned by presstime Monday afternoon.

The state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism issued a press release Monday commending the PUC on its decision.

“Hu Honua will deliver a firm, dispatchable, biomass resource to Hawaii Electric Light Company’s renewable energy portfolio, which will not only reduce HELCO’s dependence on imported fossil fuels, but will also provide necessary grid support services,” PUC Chairwoman Hermina Morita was quoted as saying. “Importantly, this project will enable HELCO to retire aging and expensive fossil fuel power plants to help lower the high cost of electricity paid by HELCO’s ratepayers.”

DBEDT Director Richard C. Lim added that the PUC had approved the purchase agreement in pursuit of a “diversified energy portfolio” for Hawaii residents.

“This decision reflects our policy of balancing technical, economic, environmental and cultural considerations for renewable energy projects, providing cost savings and creating green jobs in Hawaii County,” he said.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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