Hu Honua: PUC’s approval ‘a welcome development’


Following last week’s approval of a power purchase agreement with Hawaii Electric Light Co., Hu Honua Bioenergy LLC’s CEO said the company will begin finalizing its plans for investment in the venture and work to complete its construction.

“The PUC’s decision is certainly a welcome development,” said John Sylvia in a prepared statement emailed Tuesday morning. “While the prolonged approval period proved challenging for our investors and construction partners, we appreciate the thorough and exhaustive review the commissioners undertook as Hawaii moves further into diverse forms of renewable energy.”

Sylvia said the company continues to await resolution of some remaining regulatory and permit matters, but did not elaborate.

“As we enter the new year, we will assess our timeline moving forward and will look to restart construction based on availability of labor and material resources,” he said. “Considering the work we have already completed, we estimate approximately nine months of work remains once full construction activity resumes.”

Work at the 25-acre plant, on the grounds of the former Pepeekeo Sugar Mill, has been delayed multiple times since it began. Sylvia said in an earlier interview the company misjudged how long it would take for the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to approve Hu Honua’s power purchase agreement with HELCO.

The agreement calls for Hu Honua’s 21.5-megawatt biomass-fueled power plant to provide the island with up to 10 percent of its electricity needs each year for up to 20 years at a cost of $253 per megawatt hour.

In addition to approving the purchase agreement, the state PUC ordered HELCO to prepare and 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 …” the decision stated.

In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, HELCO President Jay Ignacio explained the addition of a biomass-fired plant would “change Hawaii Electric Light’s generation mix.”

“The commission instructed us to look at those changes and file a power supply improvement plan within 120 days,” he said. “The plan will look at our common goals: use as much renewable energy as possible and control our customers’ energy costs.

“As you know, the Shipman plant currently is not in service. Whether there are more fossil fuel-fired plants that can be retired, deactivated or simply used less while we maintain reliable service for our customers is one key item to be addressed in the plan.

“Our systems operations team is constantly dealing with changes on our electrical system, day to day and long-term. Their challenge is to match our customers’ electricity needs precisely every moment, 24/7, by balancing firm and variable generation and utility-scale and customer-sited generation.”

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

 

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