Discussions continue about biomass plant construction

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Hawaii Electric Light Co. is still in talks with Hu Honua Bioenergy LLC about completing construction of a biomass power plant in Pepeekeo, according to the utility’s president.

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Hawaii Electric Light Co. is still in talks with Hu Honua Bioenergy LLC about completing construction of a biomass power plant in Pepeekeo, according to the utility’s president.

“It’s still possible,” said Jay Ignacio. “We’re trying to find a way.”

HELCO canceled its power purchase agreement with Hu Honua in March after the company missed a deadline to begin operations in January, because of financing issues.

In May, Hu Honua representatives said during a press conference attended by elected officials and union members that they had the funding to finish the project.

The company asked the state Public Utilities Commission to review cancellation of the agreement.

The PUC said in September that the parties should resolve the issue through the dispute resolution clause of their contract.

Ignacio said they are avoiding going into mediation at this point.

“We don’t want to go through the dispute resolution if we can come to some sort of agreement that would be preferable,” he said.

One of the main issues is pricing of power, Ignacio said.

The 21.5-megawatt power plant was being built at the former Hilo Coast Processing Co. sugar mill.

It would be powered by burning eucalyptus and other trees on the island, primarily along the Hamakua Coast.

Trees would be replanted and cut after five to six years of growth.

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Hu Honua board member Harold “Rob” Robinson said in May that the power plant would employ about 30 people and support up to 180 jobs.

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

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