PUC denies Honua Ola’s motion to reconsider competitive bidding waiver request

The state Public Utilities Commission today denied a motion by Honua Ola Bioenergy, formerly known as Hu Honua Bioenergy, to reconsider its denial of Hawaiian Electric’s request for a waiver from renewable energy competitive bidding costs for the nearly completed biomass power plant in Pepeekeo.

In its denial on July 9, the regulatory panel essentially nixed the power purchase agreement between Honua Ola and Hawaiian Electric, formerly known as Hawaii Electric Light Co., because of the purchase price of power from the wood-burning power plant at the former Hilo Coast Processing Co. site.

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Honua Ola’s price estimate was 22.1 cents per kilowatt hour. The PUC noted that two solar-plus-storage projects already approved on the Big Island, AES Waikoloa Solar and Hale Kuawehi Solar, have a photovoltaic system capable of producing 30 megawatts with a battery storage capability of 120 megawatts, with an energy purchase price between 8 cents and 9 cents per hour.

Honua Ola filed a motion for reconsideration of the PUC decision, stating that regardless of cost, Honua Ola was a more reliable source of power than the solar projects. It also argued the plant was 99 percent complete, that $474 million was invested in the project, and to not allow it to go online would result in the loss of about 200 local jobs and would be a major economic blow during the pandemic and could have a chilling effect on future economic investment in Hawaii in the future.

“After carefully reviewing the record, including (Honua Ola’s) motion for reconsideration, supplemental filings, and the responses of docket participants, the commission determined that (Honua Ola’s) arguments do not meet the legal requirements for consideration,” a summary of the PUC decision stated.

“… Based on the success of the first two rounds of (Hawaiian Electric’s) ongoing competitive bidding process underway since 2017, the commission will direct (Hawaiian Electric) to open a third round of competitive bidding, which will provide another opportunity for (Honua Ola) to advance its project for reconsideration.

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See Thursday’s Tribune-Herald for a full story.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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