RIP, power plant
We owe a huge mahalo to Henry Curtis and his environmental organization Life of the Land for intervening at the state Supreme Court, challenging the latest lucrative power purchase contract between Hawaiian Electric and the Hu Honua/Honua Ola biomass project, which the Public Utilities Commission signed off on in 2017 without a hearing and without competitive bidding.
Our fight with the biomass project in Pepeekeo began in 2005 when it was first announced. My first letter to the editor on this subject was published that year, entitled “The Pepeekeo monster,” and indeed the gross qualities of this project became ever more clear the more we learned about it.
We had contested case hearings and lawsuits, but initially the courts appeared stacked against us. The successful challenge now was based on the fact that the law establishing the framework for the use of green renewable sources for the production of electricity in Hawaii requires consideration of the emission of greenhouse gases, and this was omitted in the original permit application.
Remember that the eucalyptus that was supposed to be harvested, transported and burned has been fixing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by photosynthesis for decades, and all that was now going to be put back into the air along with the emissions of hundreds of chainsaws and huge diesel trucks.
So, we can only hope that biomass burning is finally dead since they cannot possibly compete with more modern methods such as solar and geothermal, which produce electricity at 8-9 cents per kilowatt hour. Hu Honua’s lowest price came in at 22 cents per kilowatt hour, which would have raised our electric bills.
I think someone should write a play about this whole sordid affair. There are lots of interesting characters.
Who decided to include a polluting method in the state’s green energy plan? Were they pressured by Kamehameha Schools, which was looking for a market for their eucalyptus but could not find a buyer, and which has said they want the land for other purposes (marijuana?), so that would mean no replanting so goodbye renewable biomass? And the greedy investors who jumped on the chance of getting fat tax credits as provided in the law? And our former planning director, Chris Yuen, who, I am told, had the choice of changing the zoning for the oceanfront parcel where the decrepit old power plant was standing but kept it at industrial zoning, possibly under pressure? And on to the incompetent management of the project … a long saga.
Fifteen years is long enough. May Hu Honua/Honua Ola RIP.
Adrienne S. Dey