HEI afraid of Solar Power

SUBHEAD: Why the Hawaii Electric Industries (HEI) is afraid of and fighting solar power.

By Robert Petricci on 19 June 2012 for I Aloha Molokai - 

Image above:Detail of graphic for plan by HECO and General Electric to bleed Molokai and Lanai for power. From (http://www.hnei.hawaii.edu/content/o%E2%80%98ahu-wind-integration-study-shows-heco-can-use-wind-and-solar-power-supply-25-o%E2%80%98ahu%E2%80%99s-elect).

Contrary to what we are being force fed, geothermal is not the best answer for our energy future, it is a huge mistake that will cost us billions in lost economic activity and set us back at least ten years. The same corporations that have been robbing us blind for decades need this to slow solar down so they can stay in business. And I might add continue to rob us. Our energy policy should be about what is best for Hawaii residents not bailing out HEI and/or their subsidiaries outdated corporate business models.

This is to important to our overall economic well being to allow this to happen without all our options being objectively evaluated. Everyone that is setting energy policy needs to really understand all the issues, the impacts and implications, the big picture. HELCO understands this all to well as we see in their maneuvering at the state level with the PUC, and sitting on every energy advisory, panel, commission, or working group. They have there own interest at heart, not the people of Hawaii.

This is information put together by Henry Curtis.
Distributed_Generation/Wayfinding_Navigating_Hawaii_Energy_Future  (9.5 mb PDF file)

Thomas Edison believed that electric generators should be located near where the power is needed (Distributed Generation). The local electric grid should be based on Direct Current (DC).

George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla developed the alternative paradigm. Large centralized generation facilities should be located far away from where the power is needed (Central Generation). The grid should be based on Alternating Current (AC).

For a century the Westinghouse/Telsa paradigm held sway. Economies of scale led to bigger, cheaper and more distant electric generators and larger and longer transmission lines.

Three types of events forced a re-thinking of the existing energy paradigm. 
  • First, the isolated disturbances on the grid.
  • Second, the use of fossil fuel and nuclear energy has some very bad impacts.
  • Third, oil wars became very expensive and very deadly.

HECO has already started to experience a decline (in the number of people on the grid) and has to be acutely aware that it could escalate. In the past few years the rate of solar installations within Hawai`i has doubled each year.  The number of renewable energy developers who have made proposals to the utility for large-scale grid-connected renewable energy projects has gone up ten-fold. The increasing use of various energy efficiency systems is also driving down the demand for electricity.

HECO, and its subsidiaries Maui Electric (MECO) and Hawaii Electric Light (HELCO), experienced peak energy use in 2004. Since then the demand for electricity has been dropping.

In anticipation of this dim future, the utility wrote the Hawai`i Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) in 2008. The document calls for the Legislature and the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to adopt policies to shield HECO from this impending doomsday scenario. One such policy or concept is called “Decoupling.” This mechanism states that the utility is entitled to a certain level of revenue, and as sales drop they can automatically increase rates to keep their revenue on target. The PUC has already approved this mechanism.

An additional centerpiece of the HCEI is the development of industrial scale renewable power plants that would require extensive cabling to send large amounts of power to the primary load center, O`ahu. In February 2012 the parent company of HECO, MECO and HELCO, the Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. (HEI) included this in its annual 10-K report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission:
“Increasing competition and technological advances could cause HEI’s businesses to lose customers or render their operations obsolete. …HECO and its subsidiaries face competition from IPPs [Independent Power Producers] and customer self−generation, with or without cogeneration…. The electric utilities cannot predict the future impact of competition from IPPs and customer self−generation, or the rate at which technological developments facilitating non−utility generation of electricity will occur. New technological developments, such as the commercial development of energy storage, may render the operations of HEI’s electric utility subsidiaries less competitive or outdated.”
“Cascading natural deregulation” means that as the cost of renewable systems trend downward and electric rates go up, those who can leave the grid, will leave the grid, by building or installing on-site generation. The fixed costs associated with energy production, transmission and distribution will then have to be absorbed by the remaining (smaller) rate base. Thus, those who remain will see their rates go up even more, causing more people to opt out of a centralized grid, driving the rates for those who remain even higher. Under this scenario, companies such as HECO would be sucked down into a bottomless vortex and ultimately fail as a viable investor-owned corporation.

As the Rocky Mountain Institute noted:
“The electric industry once again finds itself at a crossroads,
confronting it with three basic choices: the supply-side path, the distributed path, or the status quo. Distributed generation poses four primary threats to the existing distribution utility business model. First, distributed generation results in the loss of revenue under traditional tariff structures; the customer simply is purchasing fewer kilowatt-hours or fewer distribution services. Second, more substantial market capture by distributed generation can create a new class of stranded asset within the distribution system-grid capacity no longer needed. Third, the ability of distributed generation to enter more rapidly than centralized generation or transmission upgrades can partially strand new capacity additions. Fourth, the combination of the first three threats can create a “death cycle” in which the higher prices to remaining customers induce more of them to leave this system, creating a self-reinforcing cycle of ever-increasing unit prices.

There would be many winners from the distributed resource path. Society at large would prosper because electric service could be provided at lower cost with higher reliability. The environment will benefit from lower air pollution more than it would with centralized generation. Generation companies would  suffer major losses, since the penetration of distributed resources acting as virtual peakers will significantly reduce peak power prices. It is the fear of these losses that creates resistance from the incumbent players to widespread adoption of distributed power.”
Hawaii county not only has the highest utility rates in the nation, it has held that record for decades, in spite of 20% of our power coming from geothermal. Make any excuse you want, what rate payers are billed determines if geothermal is cheap not somebody just telling us it’s cheap. We pay over 4 times the national average that is by no measure cheap power.

We have to look at the all of the cost of maintaining the grid to understand why. How much of our monthly bill is simply to maintain this 18th century technology, outdated, inefficient, and ugly system? Poles, wires, transformers, trucks, shipping, financing, labor, even tree trimming. No expense is spared and it is all passed on to the ratepayers. The reality is the world is decentralizing, moving away from grid in favor of 21rst century technology. Producing the power were you use it. Eliminating the grid, and using the latest and cheapest solar power and batteries must be seriously considered now. That is the future and it is the real cheap power source going forward.

On page 17 of the geothermal working group final report they say:

The evaluation concluded that for a 50 MW expansion on the East Rift zone, an additional transmission line from the new facility to Hilo, and an additional cross-island transmission line from the East side of the island to the West side would be required. For a 50 MW expansion near Hualalai, transmission lines from the new facility to existing transmission facilities on the West side of the island would be required but another cross-island transmission line would not be required…..

Imagine how many new lines will need to be built for a thousand megawatts….And the cost of the cable?….Ten billion?….We could put a solar system on every house in Hawaii for just the cost of the cable……Not counting the power plants….

The governor wants us (tax payers) to pay for that cable…..Listen to his state of the state speech…..This is economic suicide in this economy to benefit private corporations at the expense of the people of Hawaii….The future is decentralized power and a lot more solar, not geothermal.

Geothermal is a scam, that we can not afford….The governor says if we don’t like it we should vote him out. With an attitude like that, and after this ill advised plan to further hurt Hawaii tax payers and rate payers, we should do exactly that…..


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