A Pyrrhic Victory for Hu Honua; Hawaii’s Supreme Court Decision

While the spin machine for Hu Honua Biomass would have you believe that a recent Hawaii Supreme Court decision was a great victory for them, that really isn’t the full story.

Justice Michael Wilson in a concurring opinion for the majority makes it clear that the Public Utilities Commission may still decline a waiver from the competitive process that Hu Honua had sought.

The court decision was more a form of legal housekeeping that clarifies an earlier ruling. PUC attorneys have the ability under current regulations to issue a new waiver denial they just need to change the justification. It is the stuff only lawyers love.

Back in 2006, the PUC adopted a competitive bidding framework under administrative rules that have the effect of law. Waivers are really obsolete now. The intent is to get ratepayers the best deal for electricity. Waivers are anti-competitive and not in the public interest.

Hu Honua simply cannot compete in the current energy marketplace. Burning trees for fuel is highly inefficient. Prices for solar and batteries have dramatically dropped making them the better choice.

When the PUC re-issues its new waiver denial in accordance with their rules, it will send a message to Puna Geothermal which also seeks the special treatment of a waiver. They, too, are not competitive.

With no open competitive bids for additional renewables, both Hu Honua and PGV efforts to get special treatment actually leave them with no opportunity until another round opens up and even then it is highly unlikely that they will succeed.

In the meantime, two solar farms on the Big Island with 60 MW of capacity and massive battery storage have been approved and are moving quickly to start construction.

Another larger solar farm at 60 MW went through Phase 2 competition and is awaiting PUC approval.

As Hawaii moves down the path to 100% clean and renewable energy, with it comes island sustainability and energy independence.

Hawaiian Electric ratepayers can also look forward to reduced costs for electricity, altogether a win-win for Hawaii’s residents and businesses when Hawaii can move past Hu Honua to a clean and sustainable energy future.

For additional information, see Steve’s earlier article on the “Hu Honua Meltdown”: https://www.beyondkona.com/hu-honua-meltdown/

“The PUC denied the waiver from competition because they found that Hu Honua wanted too much money for electricity and that it wasn’t in the public interest to raise rates for all consumers including State and County facilities on the Big Island …”

Steve Holmes is the former Energy and Sustainability Coordinator for the City and County of Honolulu.   He won the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Champion Award in 2002.  He served 12 years on the Honolulu City Council putting large areas into parks and preservation.    He was a state energy analyst in Hilo, a Park Ranger at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Executive Director of Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, Hawaii Chapter Conservation Chair of the Sierra Club, President of Kokua Hilo Bay, and has won numerous awards for his efforts on behalf of Hawaii’s environment.
1 reply
  1. Rob Culbertson
    Rob Culbertson says:

    Well, thank you Mr. Holmes! (I am starting to think of you like the fabled detective Sherlock Holmes because of your astute insights and reasoning skills 😉
    Unfortunately, the ‘spin machine’ as you correctly label it, too often sets the frame for public ‘understanding’ and makes it harder for conventional media or general public to appreciate the important legal nuances and consequences. And that is what I fear is the operating principle here!


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