Hawaii’s 2019 Legislative Session

An exclusive BeyondKona interview with Rep. Nicole E. Lowen, House Chair of the Energy & Environmental Protection Committee–

— Today, Jan. 16th, marks the start of Hawaii’s 2019 regular legislative session.  Many of the state’s lawmakers believe that Gov. David Ige’s conservative revenue outlook, combined with a new legislative budgeting process could alter how priorities are established, and programs and projects are funded. The House is embarking on a zero-based budgeting approach that would require each agency to justify their budgets from scratch, rather than justifying only the increases.

In an exclusive interview with BeyondKona, Rep. Nicole Lowen, recently appointed to the position of Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, offered her insights on renewable energy, the environment, and other legislative priorities for this new session.

Lowen~highresolutionoriginal2Rep. Lowen has worked tirelessly to protect Hawaii’s unique and valuable environment. Her previous years’ experience serving as the Vice Chair of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee have yielded valuable lessons as to what’s possible in her new position as chair of this important committee.

In 2015, she helped to pass an all-important bill that set the state on path to a clean energy economy – and enable Hawaii to reach its goal of becoming a 100% renewable energy state by 2045, ending its costly dependence on imported fossil fuels.

We asked Rep. Lowen what we can expect from the 2019 legislative session in addressing the state’s ongoing transition to renewable energy, climate change, and other potential challenges ahead. She summed it up: “In order to get stuff done you have to pick priorities, you can’t do everything at once, and be willing to compromise.”  


 

BeyondKona – Thank you Nicole for taking the time to join us today.  What do you see as your top three priorities for your committee this legislative session?

REP. LOWEN –  “Priorities for this session will include climate adaptation and mitigation, pushing to accelerate the transition to 100% renewable energy, and establishing some goals and incentives for clean transportation.  Around two thirds of the fossil fuels imported into the state are used for transportation fuels, so that is a big piece that still needs to be addressed.”

“I also expect a number of bills on invasive species and waste reduction, issues I’ve worked on in the past…”      

 

BeyondKonaHawaii’s 2045 RPS goal holds the promise for a 100% fossil fuel-free economy. Based on what we have accomplished already, there is still so much more to do to achieve this goal, which will require coordinated and cooperative efforts among all the stakeholders. How do we get there?

REP. LOWEN – I think we are on track to achieve these goals, and we are finally at a place where, in my opinion, the public utilities commission, the utilities, and the legislature are more in line with each other than they have been in the past.

In 2015 the legislature passed the bill to establish our 100% renewable by 2045 goal, but then shortly after that NextEra came in with their proposal to purchase the utilities, and that put progress on hold for about a year and half while the merger was considered.  Since the merger deal was taken off the table, you really get a sense that Hawaii’s utilities are finally on board with the transition to renewable energy.

At the same time, the cost of renewable energy projects has been consistently dropping, and there have been a lot of technological advances which make these projects very competitive.

 

BeyondKonaThere has been a fair amount of public controversy as to the types of currently qualified and approved power plant replacements for fossil fueled ones. Some replacements actually add to rather than eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and pollute the local environment in other ways.  Is there a legislative opportunity for RPS reform that will result in greater environmental due diligence and protections when considering future power generating options between now and 2045? Do you see PUC taking on this oversight role?

REP. LOWEN – “Right now the PUC, I believe, mostly looks at cost and pricing considerations when they are tasked with approving new PPAs (power purchase agreements). But we could consider whether we should establish some other criteria for the PUC to consider when they are deciding whether to approve these requests. 

For example, if a life cycle analysis of a project shows that its carbon emissions are as bad as or worse than a fossil fuel power plant, then we could give the PUC a directive to make that consideration part of their process.”

  

BeyondKonaThe House is embarking on a zero-based budgeting approach that would require each agency to justify their budgets from scratch, rather than justifying only the increases.

REP. LOWEN – “In the past, there hasn’t been enough transparency in passing the budget bill, and there are a limited number of public hearings.

The changes this year will provide a chance for the subject matter committees to have a bigger role in determining the budget for departments or divisions under that committee’s jurisdiction, and this will provide a chance for all the committee members to be more involved as well.”

 

BeyondKonaIn preparing for and addressing ongoing Climate Change impacts, which should Hawai’i prioritize first in addressing this global threat?

  • Preventing and Mitigating Environmental and Infrastructure Impacts –
  • Preserving and then slowly transitioning existing business models to climate-driven priorities –
  • Minimizing social and economic transition disruptions in addressing global warming – even if such delaying actions increase eventual costs to Hawai’i in terms of the economy, as well as societal and environmental impacts –

REP. LOWEN – “Clearly, all of these factors are important—we must act decisively to reduce carbon emissions and to prepare for the impacts we do expect to see from climate change. I don’t think it is useful to frame this as a trade-off between climate action, jobs, and the needs of the business community.  

The goal is to build a clean energy economy that works for everyone. Also, as bills move through the legislative process, environmentalists are not the only ones in the room. 

In order to make this work and to get bills passed, we have to build consensus with unions, with the business community, with all the other stakeholders.”

 

BeyondKona Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and a political science professor at Texas Tech University, recently summed up Climate Change this way: “If you think immigration is a problem now, just wait. If you think international competitiveness, or agriculture or water shortages, or the extreme amount of money that is being spent to help cities and regions to recover after disasters, if you think any of that is a problem right now, just wait.”

With that in mind, do you think Hawai’i should go fast, slow, or business as usual when it comes to addressing climate change?

REP. LOWEN – “Of course we need to take action, and with all the recent news about climate change and the report from the IPCC, it seems like the faster we can move, the better. 

We also hope that other states and countries are doing what they can do as well.  We aren’t going to be able to solve climate change on our own, but I am very proud of the leadership that Hawaii has shown on these issues.

The policies we pass here really do have a significant impact well beyond the borders of our state.”   

BeyondKona – I know you’re short on time. Thank you again Nicole for your comments and thoughts on priorities and expectations for the legislative new year.


SUPPORTING NEWS SUMMARY – THIS MONTH

Ocean Warming Is Accelerating Faster Than Thought, New Research Finds

New York Times, Jan.10, 2019 — Scientists say the world’s oceans are warming far more quickly than previously thought, a finding with dire implications for climate change because almost all the excess heat absorbed by the planet ends up stored in their waters.

A new analysis, published Thursday in the journal Science, found that the oceans are heating up 40 percent faster on average than a United Nations panel estimated five years ago. The researchers also concluded that ocean temperatures have broken records for several straight years.

“2018 is going to be the warmest year on record for the Earth’s oceans,” said Zeke Hausfather, an energy systems analyst at the independent climate research group Berkeley Earth and an author of the study. “As 2017 was the warmest year, and 2016 was the warmest year.”

Hawaii Beach Erosion

Island of Oahu, the Pipeline beach area with newly established beach erosion measures now in place…

 

Big Island Banner Pic

2018, A Big Island Year To Remember

The 2014 movie “Interstellar” was based on the theory of traveling through a blackhole, bending time, and experiencing intense gravity with strange outcomes.  Living in Hawai’i recently seems like our island spaceship cannot escape the intense gravity of world events, yet we are continually reminded of the paradox that Hawai’i is uniquely isolated, but globally connected.

Kīlauea’s summer vacation

This year began like any other, until the Kīlauea’s east rift zone erupted on May 3, 2018.  This latest eruption is believed to have been connected to the larger volcanic eruption that began on January 3, 1983, and blessed the Kona side of the island with smoggy (voggy) skies and poor visibility for the next 35 years.  The May 2018 eruption (considered to be the most destructive since the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980) took its toll on island residents, especially those residents previously living in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions.

On the positive side, waking up one summer morning and suddenly discovering something missing was an understatement.  Without any fanfare from Kilauea, the volcano just decided that enough was a enough and it was time for things Sunset 1to quiet down for while – an unexpected gift and well received by the Island’s local residents.  Since 1984, it took a swift in the trade winds, or perhaps a heavy rainfall the night before to temporarily clear the sky of volcanic haze (vog aka volcanic smog).

But by early August this past year the eruption had almost completely subsided, and the lull in volcanic activity continues to keep the air mostly clean and clear for island sunsets that are unbelievably beautiful. For now at least, skies are crystal blue, and stunning ocean views are unobstructed to the horizon, and night skies now rival any planetarium show that even impresses lifelong residents.

At the peak 2018 eruption, it was estimated that 50,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and other poisonous gases were filling local island skies and beyond. Gas mask sales soared across Hawaii Island.  But since dropped to an average of 1,000 tons of SO2 gases a day, 1/50 the volume at peak eruption earlier this year.

The current “pause” in volcanic activity state has yielded only very minor signs of vog production wafting across Kona skies, with nothing much getting in the way of breathing deep and enjoying a wonderful and joyful sunset – for as long as it lasts…

The sun energizes most of life on Earth, and Hawai’i is no exception

(updated Jan. 17th, 2019)

Hawaii’s tropical location provides abundant sunshine, producing energy, abundant agriculture, deep suntans, sunsets and a night sky (away from city lights) that will take your breath away.

All this sunshine depends on a nearby star, our Sun, which serves as the ultimate (fusion) nuclear reactor, creating high temperatures through the  fusion of hydrogen at its core, and in turn, warming the Earth to livable temperatures from millions of miles away.   Most of Earth’s life depends on the sun, and we human are no different. In the history of human civilization, energy (in one form or another) has been basic to human survival, and sun plays a most important role in Earth’s energy matrix.

As modern civilization evolves, so has our modern day adoption and use of energy resources such as fossil fuels, nuclear fuel, or renewable energy.  In the 21st century, our planet economies are becoming increasingly electrified, along with a corresponding increase appetite for energy.  The emission by-products of these energy-dependent processes are now impacting Earth’s climate, ecosystems, and most life on Earth.

The last 150 (fossil-fueled) years has produced accumulative CO2 emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere and is now placing  life on Earth in 21st century into a death spiral for what scientists are calling the “6th great extinction event”.  Driven by many human factors, human-caused global temperature rise is creating disastrous impacts on ecosystems and the species dependent on them – Hawaii is no exception, with one the most notable impacts, coral bleaching and the death of near shore marine ecosystems.

There was a time in Earth’s history comparable to today’s climate crisis (minus humans) — that was 252 million years ago, when up to 96% of all marine species and more than two-thirds of terrestrial species perished. The mass extinction, known as the “great dying” marked the end of the Permian geologic period. The study of sediments and fossilized creatures show the event was the single greatest calamity ever to befall life on Earth, eclipsing even the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Scientists now believe the Earth has entered its 6th mass extinction event, a ‘biological annihilation’ of populations of animals that have been lost in recent decades. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/10/earths-sixth-mass-extinction-event-already-underway-scientists-warn

Unlike past mass extinctions, caused by events like asteroid strikes, volcanic eruptions, and natural climate shifts, the current climate crisis is almost entirely caused by us — humans. In fact, 99 percent of currently threatened species are at risk from human activities, primarily those driving habitat loss, introduction of exotic species, and global warming. Because the rate of change in our biosphere is increasing, and because every species’ extinction potentially leads to the extinction of others bound to that species in a complex ecological web, numbers of extinctions are likely to snowball in the coming decades as ecosystems unravel.

As for Hawaii’s energy sector, the nexus of energy and climate change-extinction is obvious to an increasing number of policy makers.  The state has begun to transition to locally produced and (for the most part) clean and emissions-free renewable energy, while capitalizing on Hawaii’s abundant solar energy options. Solar  power, within Hawaii represents he highest per capita growth rates in the United States.

Putting environmental, social, and climate change impacts aside from burning fossil fuels, Hawaii’s imported dirty energy represents the most costly for the importation of petroleum and coal — a cost factor that is three to four times higher than the mainland fuel prices.  Imported energy costs further mount with factoring in environmental, climate, and public health cost factors that are absorbed by the public from burning those fossil fuels.  In effect, Hawaii has both strong environmental and economic motivations to become a world class leader in energy self-sufficiency through solar and wind and energy storage as primary replacements of imported and costly, polluting fossil-fuels.   Solar Pv Sun Image

In 2015, Hawaii was the first state in the United States to reach grid parity for photovoltaics.  Previously, solar energy represented just 0.07% of Hawaii’s total electricity generation back in 2007. But by 2015, solar energy fulfilled 6% of Hawaii’s total electricity needs, and thermal solar (hot water systems) further reduced Hawaii’s energy demands.

Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (HRS 269 -92) mandates 100 percent renewable energy in the electricity sector by  2045, and solar will continue to play key role fulfilling this goal.  In 2017, Hawaii’s energy mix for renewables stood at 27.6 percent, more than 12 percent ahead of the interim statutory 2015 target of 15 percent, with plenty of room for future growth of both rooftop residential and business installations, combined with utility-scale solar and solar-storage installations, all together, ending Hawaii’s dirty imported energy dependency.

New Arrivals to the Big Island discover a 21st century paradise, but not without challenges

Between 2012 and 2016, the Big Island lost an estimated 2,362 people annually to the other three counties in Hawaii, while adding just 1,654, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. Not in this past census data was the recent impacts of the 2018 Kilauea eruption and exodus of some long time residents who had enough health issues and uncertainties to overcome the joys of paradise.

For recent Mainland (move-in) arrivals to the Big Island, many quickly discover that island life has its challenges and rewards. 

Is there a doctor in the house?   Leaving “living the good life” descriptions to the state’s well-funded tourism brochures, daily Big Island life too often means living with a chronic shortage of doctors and essential medical services. The only real full service medical system on Hawai’i Island is Kaiser, and even the big K is feeling the pain of a chronic shortage of qualified medical practitioners, and as outer island populations grow, their legacy of a strategy for lowering operating costs by flying their members in need to Oahu for many medical services and labs, based on a big Island with small population is failing to meet demand.  Doctor Shortages

Forget our local hospitals, you may be better off taking a life-flight to Oahu or the mainland. The discovery of the absence of medical choices leaves newcomers to the island dumbfounded for what they took for granted – medical options that were easily and conveniently available on the mainland, are now a day trip or longer away and come at a higher cost.

Then there is Big Island living at the end of the state’s supply-chain, which too often requires being your own personal Costco in order to ensure that what you want is available when you need it.

All in all, it takes only one beautiful sunset, ocean swim, monarch butterfly, and fresh year-round produce to soon forget, at least for a moment, the challenges of island life.

Onward and i luna, next stop Mars?

The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation is an analog habitat for human spaceflight to Mars.   For the first time ever, the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) project, which tests how humans would endure the isolation of a Mars mission, will include participants from four different countries of origin.  HI-SEAS is located in an isolated position on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano on the island of Hawaii.  Mauna Loa offers Mars-like features, and an elevation of approximately of 8,200 feet above sea level for the habitat to further the unearthly Earth bound experience.

Mars Habitat On MkThe first crewed Mars Mission plans sending astronauts to Mars, orbiting Mars, and a return to Earth, and it is scheduled for the 2030s.  One year after Elon Musk announced his big vision plan that expects to transport a million people to Mars via Space X, he expects Mars colonization to be in less than 25 years.

Sustainability is foremost in the minds of dreamers, entrepreneurs, scientists, and adventurers who plan to settle on Mars.  Basics like oxygen, water, a radiation shield, and no food are just some of the things we take for granted here on Earth, but absent on Mars. At recent scientific conference hosted by Mars colonization enthusiasts and advocates, the key speaker painted bleak picture for the future of human survival on Earth, but simple stating …‘extinction is the new norm,’ …which begs the question, really?

So some uber-rich billionaires are betting their riches on building their own lifeboats to escape Earth, as they see it as a sinking ship and look to a journey to Mars as humankind heads for extinction on planet Earth.

Human extinction is not a scientific or social foregone conclusion.   But a prescription for extinction of life on Earth starts with unsustainable living, and the wasting and pollution of Earth’s life-sustaining assets: clean water, breathable air, and upsetting the balance of the atmosphere by loading massive amounts of  human-generated CO2 emissions, methane, and other greenhouse gases that all together are rapidly raises planetary temperatures.

When global changes occur in the Earth’s temperatures, natural, self-regulating systems, change as in climate change. Add in the wasteful absentee management of over-harvesting the Earth’s life-sustaining food chain, and humans soon find themselves on a path on of no return.

 

Beyond Kona Powerlines Solar Field

Hawai’i Island Energy At A Crossroads

Hawai’i Island is at a crossroads… reactive public policies and misguided private investment are not helping – enough. 

Just days after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a terrifying report confirming the world (in which Hawai’i is not exempt) must act immediately to avoid catastrophic climate change, Hurricane Michael has slammed into the Florida panhandle, supercharged by overly warm ocean water, and showed us another example of the devastation climate disasters can cause, especially to vulnerable communities.

Ok, you’ve heard it before, but it bears repeatingHurricanes are becoming stronger, slower and wetter; recent storm events in Hawai’i bears this out.  And yes, the changes to our climate and increase in global temperatures are primarily driven by human-induced demand for fossil fuel energy and the consequences of that demand and energy consumption.  If you still drive a gas or diesel truck, SUV, or car, then you’re burning fossil fuels and part of the problem.  When you shop at the local grocery store, you’re contributing to the problem, when you turn on your lights with power supplied by Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) or take a shower with DWS supplied water, you’re also part of the problem, and life’s list goes on…

Let’s face it, we are all part of the problem, but the time is now, and long overdue, that we all become part of the solution.

ENERGY PROBLEMS

HELCO’s decision to buy power, and thus enable, the controversial (yet to be activated) tree destroying and wood-burning Hu Honua power plant, is one example of Hawai’i Island being on the wrong path in its energy transition with state-sanctioned renewable energy options that include wood-burning biomass power plants.   The Hu Honua is the kind of power plant project you would expect to be sited in marginally developed areas of the world with limited power options, not Hawai’i.

A recent name change to Honua Ola (Living Earth) from Hu Honua does not change the reality that this form of so-called renewable energy is a bad example of state and county energy policy, and a poor choice by HELCO to meet its 2045 RPS goals, and completely fails to address the growing state of impacts from power plant emissions that are driving climate change.  This problem example is especially true when HELCO has cost-effective clean and renewable energy options available today.

Renewable energy is often falsely linked to low pollution and low climate change impacts.  The current deficiencies in state’s all-in energy policy designed to transition off fossil fuels allows many types of renewable energy and numerous ways it can be applied.  Some reduce and some raise pollution levels, some have lower and some have higher climate impacts, and some, as is the case with wind and solar are zero emissions (clean) energy options.

For Hu Honua, making electricity is all about cutting down Hawai’i Island’s forests to burn for energy, clogging local and inadequate road systems with a supply-chain of logging trucks, polluting the local air shed and producing waste by-products potentially toxic to Hawaii Island’s earth and water assets, altogether, here is an excellent example of taking Hawai’i in the opposite direction of becoming a self-sufficient and clean energy economy.

While HELCO continues to struggle to meet its 100% RPS goal by 2045, historically picking losers instead of winners to replace its costly and polluting diesel-fired power plants, it bet heavily on the Puna Geothermal Ventures plant, now shuttered thanks to Pele. Their announcement to, for the first time, embrace utility scale solar and battery storage area, is welcome news to Puna area residents who can now breathe easier and sleep at night, if and when they return to this very volcanic-active part of Hawai’i Island.

The historic utility grid model of a centralized power plant with miles and miles of cable and other utility infrastructure running in all directions only to serve customers at the end of those cables – represents the weakest point of failure for utility service reliability, and HELCO’s grid operation is no different.

Without power we are quickly back in the stone age.  Hawai’i Island residents also face another consequence from potential major power outages, one that keep emergency planners up at night: it’s a loss of water supply from the Department of Water Supply (DWS) and to its customers throughout the island.  Since January 2017, DWS has had a jaded reliability record, beginning with a series of still not fully explained well site failures. Only one of the five affected well sites has been restored to service in nearly two years.

A prolonged loss of HELCO-supplied power to DWS, by its own estimates, would result in the department’s ability to only operate and supply water to its customers for no more than 24 hour period.  No power to pumps – no water to customers.  There is no rooftop customer solution to this DWS water dependency, except a better prepared DWS operating with under back-up power in the event of the next major storm and an extended power blackout. One power-independent solution, the Lamamilo Wind Farm, currently serving as a dedicated alternative power supplier to DWS.

ENERGY SOLUTIONS

Hawaiian Electric, HELCO’s parent company announced on Oct. 9th, the company’s intention to establish two 30 Megawatt (MW) utility scale solar farms with back-up / load balancing battery systems equal to 240 MW in power storage. This is a major development for HELCO and the advancement of the Big Island’s clean energy future.

Not only are these two new zero-emissions power plants the right choice for Hawaii’s solar rich environment, with the promise to operate at a considerable lower cost to HELCO’s conventional power plants, while providing essential power security (at least their grid connection points) that otherwise would not be possible.   These two solar plants, if approved by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), will help displace 1.2 million barrels of fossil fuel per year, and hopefully save ratepayers money.

Following in the highly successful footsteps of KIUC (Kauai’s people’s utility), solar, wind, and batteries (in combination) are just arriving in time as utility-scale clean power solutions for HELCO. The utility right now needs help meeting its clean power power RPS requirements, and with community input, making the right power choices — no burning trees required.

Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawai‘i Electric Light (HELCO) already have more than 500 MW of renewable energy under contract, in addition to nearly 80,000 private rooftop systems in operation. The missing element for rooftop solar, by Hawaiian Electric standards, has been the four operating utilities seeming inability to accept clean power generation from their customers. These new clean power solar energy producers are not only solving the problem of Hawaii’s dependence on dirty energy, regardless of its source, but they are assisting HELCO and its sister companies in their state-mandated quest to go all-in with renewable energy by 2045.

If you already have solar panels on your rooftop or apartment building, you will clearly understand what follows…

Ask any solar rooftop homeowner, what is their number one priority for going solar. They may say with some pride, it’s being independent of the utility, saving money, doing the right thing, and/or charging their recently acquired Electric Vehicle (many more EV choices are coming to a dealer near you) with fuel-for-free from the sun.

A Tesla Energy (Solar City), customer benefit audit of an average Big Island home installed with a 8KW rooftop solar and four years operating history, looks like this:

  • $10,788 annual energy savings
  • 32.8 tons of CO2 (global warming gases) eliminated by avoiding through self-supply, utility-supplied and fossil-fueled electricity
  • The elimination of the equivalent exhaust pollution emissions, equal to NOT driving an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle a total of 77,638 miles

Whatever their reason, Hawaii’s residents and businesses with rooftop solar, especially in combination with battery back-up, find comfort in knowing they are ready to meet the challenges of an increasingly uncertain power security future, with preparedness, reliability, and power on-demand when the next super storm hits Hawai’i.

Hurricane Chart

 

THE BIG PICTURE

Today’s energy decisions that we let others make for us affect our daily lives and have far-reaching consequences to our families, friends, and community.  

Our current assumptions about weather, climate, emergency preparedness and sustainability are now in question as fast-moving global and local developments challenge this thinking on which Hawaii’s private and public dollars are spent.

The world’s oceans continue to warm at a fast rate, coupled to coral die-offs, sea-level rise, more hurricanes, and super storms that are becoming the norm.  This is especially important to Hawai’i, an island state, as hurricanes draw their energy from deep below the ocean’s surface – up to depths of 2,000 meters. The temperature at these depths is measured by Ocean Heat Content, a metric that has soared since 1970, driven largely by four of the world’s major oceans. Last year was the hottest on record.

One thing island residents can rely on is the rising cost of daily living.  The role energy plays is central to that cost of living, and the food, water and power security on which we depend. The technology and system costs associated with clean energy choices, such as solar, wind, and battery storage continue to drop.

When Hawai’i considers alternatives to it current fossil fuel energy dependencies, the cost of kilowatt hour (KwH) delivered, a gallon gas-diesel pumped, to Hawaii’s environment on which we all depend, the sum of Hawaii’s energy costs are greater than its parts.

 

 

 

Dirty Power Plant Emissions

Judge Dismisses Suit Against Hu Honua, County

First reported  in Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Friday, September 21, 2018 — What’s wrong with this legal decision … just about everything that’s wrong with Hawaii’s power plans for a transition to a clean energy economy by 2045.

On one hand, the state is working to free Hawai’i of its fossil fuel dependency and the pollution impacts associated with that dependency. On the other hand, Hu Honua is an example of replacing one bad polluting energy dependency for another.  Dirty Power Plant Emissions

The legal decision failure to stop the Hu Honua biomass plant was built on a combination of government failures:

A Legal Failure – Judge Nakamura states the obvious deficiency in his ill-conceived “dismissal” decision…”The court’s view is that Hu Honua’s request to the PUC does not … for example, request approval of any use of land. … As such, the request does not trigger the requirement of an environmental assessment …”

Hawaii’s State Auditor’s recent findings on Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) actions summed things up perfectly with relationship to Hu Honua and similar decisions… “Although the utility regulators are not vested by law with any specific environmental control responsibility, since utilities and their facilities and operations have a tremendous impact on the environment, and in light of the laws on environmental control, it would be completely unreasonable and unrealistic to consider public utilities in isolation from matters relating to environmental protection.”

A Hawai’i County Planning Failure – This is certainly a failure of procedure and policy by Hawaii’s PUC in fulfilling its regulatory responsibilities, however it does not dismiss Hawaii County’s Planning Dept. allowance of the Hu Honua plant, its basis and supply chain impact of continuously transporting and then burning the island’s trees as feedstock for fuel with social and environmental impacts on the surrounding community and the island’s ecosystem.

A State Regulatory Failure – The PUC original decision to green-light the Hu Honua Biomass Power Purchase Agreement was as a supplier source of electricity for HELCO.  The PUC’s approval of the Hu Honua plant, in effect, totally ignored the climate change impacts of the facility’s operation and thereby sanctioned the destruction of mature Hawai’i Island trees which serve a valuable and significant carbon sink for greenhouse gases. Once these local trees are cut down and then burned as fuel for the HU Honua plant, the stored Greenhouse Gas (GHG) gases are then released back into the atmosphere, along with out combustion emissions.

Hu Honua is a classic example of the disconnect between PUC grants that allow new power plants to be built and operate, but then pollute and impact an island air shed (in this case, Hawai’i Island), and all the while contributing to the very problem the state’s 2045 Renewable Portfolio Standard (administered by the same PUC) is designed specifically to address.

A State and & County Policy Failure – The Hu Honua biomass power plant is also an example of the legislative disconnect within the state’s current renewable energy policy allowing for both clean and dirty (emissions-emitting) power replacements of current fossil-fueled power plants.

Burning trash (so-called waste-to-energy) or cutting down and burning trees for fuel, or for that matter anything else that burns with a smokestack to produce power, and then results in the release of Greenhouse Gases and other airborne pollutant emissions being pumped into the air is bad enough as an energy policy, while permitting at the same time power plant byproducts that include toxic waste incinerator by-products which can contaminate the ground and water sources.

Solar, wind, pump storage, batteries, microgrids, other clean (emissions-free) energy production and grid management options totally eliminate the need for electricity production that relies on dirty energy, and do not pollute Hawaii’s air, water, and land.

Just because Hu Honua replaces the need for burning oil, coal, or gas to produce electricity does not make it better or right for Hawai’i.

HELCO, are you listening?

Earth Wind Fire And Water

Hawai’i – Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water

Volcano Update: Monday, Aug. 6th, 2018

Since this July 29th issue of Hawai’i Today was published, and beginning this past Saturday (Aug. 4th), field observations and drone overflights indicated “reduced output” from Fissure 8. By late Saturday afternoon, the lava river, which had once been a vigorous liquid flow moving over 30 mph, had become a very slow moving flow chunky hardened cooler lava.

The latest report, issued by Hawaii County Civil Defense (Sunday evening) stated the there was no lava moving in the lava river channel. At the heart of the eruption, the cone at Fissure 8, there is still some lava spattering, but the lava fountains of 200 feet high and more have stopped.

At the summit of Kilauea, the rhythm of the last couple months of 5.2 magnitude earthquakes every 36 hours has also stopped. There has not been a magnitude 5 or greater earthquake in over 3 and a half days, and the magnitude 2 earthquakes, which were numbering in the hundreds per hour, now happen at a rate of a few per hour.

What’s next is anyone’s guess.

BeyondKona’s July 29th issue of Hawai’i Today:  

KILAUEA – the volcano that keeps on giving

Reuters reported last week: “Hawaii eruption could last years, destroy new areas”.   The Reuters report went on to state: The current eruption could become the longest in the volcano’s recorded history”.   It’s noteworthy, these dire predictions are just that, predictions, and volcanic science is imprecise, even in the tech-weighted 21st century.

Here’s what we know.  A higher volume of molten rock is now flowing underground from Kilauea’s summit lava reservoir than in previous eruptions, with supply to a single giant crack — fissure 8 — and is showing no signs of waning, according to the study published last week.   The lava is now bursting from the same area (about 25 miles down Kilauea’s eastern side) as it did in major eruptions of 1840, 1955 and 1960. The longest of those eruptions was in 1955. It lasted 88 days, separated by pauses in activity.

If the ongoing eruption maintains its current high rate, Kilauea-based geologists believe it may take months to a year or two to wind down.

Geologists also believe previous eruptions may have stopped as underground lava pressure dropped due to multiple fissures opening up in this Lower East Rift Zone. The current eruption has coalesced around a single fissure (8), allowing lava pressure to remain high.

Hawai’i (Big) Island consists of an area representing nearly 63% of the entire state’s land mass, and is growing daily thanks to the current eruption activity.  With 4,000 plus square miles of land and multiple micro climates, Hawai’i Island is nature at its fullest, and the current eruption is producing consequences far beyond the island’s districts of Ka’u and Puna.  For example, here are some of the early eruption indicators and impacts on Hawai’i Island:

1- The number of voggy and overcast days now outnumbers clear air, sunny days in West Hawai’i

2- Respiratory health problems related to vog-smog (SO2) exposure have spiked with local residents

3- Nurseries, landscapers, and agricultural operations have reported increased yellowing and other signs of plant stress. Some good news as well, many Kona coffee growers are pleased with the unusual number and duration of overcast days (less the SO2), which is apparently good for growing coffee

4- The same (vog-related) overcast conditions pleasing some Kona coffee growers, has presented other problems for some of Hawai’i Island’s solar energy community who are experiencing a decrease in historic energy production

Overall, our Hawai’i Island community appears to be adapting to the current economic, environmental, and community changes, while gearing up for a possible long term increase in Kilauea’s volcanic activity.  If the aloha spirit and community, mean anything, it is that they are more than just words when practiced by our island residents …and now is the time. 

HAWAI’I ELECTIONS:  GOVERNOR and LT GOVERNOR RACES

It’s election time again in Hawai’i, and primary election cycles in Hawai’i generally decide the outcome of many races, including our next governor.

Hawai’i is currently at a crossroad, and BeyondKona has researched the backgrounds, qualifications, achievements, and energy policy agenda of the candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor, and who may well decide the state’s energy future: one towards sustainability or greater dependency on imported fossil fuels.

So why is energy so important?  Next to life’s fundamental need for food, water, housing; energy is the foundation and building block of our modern world.  Living in Hawai’i is expensive, as is the case for imported energy and its supply chain dependency from one of the most remote and populated locations on Earth.

Hawaii’s cost of living is the highest of any of the 50 states.  Hawaii, which along with Alaska belongs to the “Pacific Noncontiguous” region of the US, has by far the highest monthly utility bills.   For Hawai’i Island residents and businesses, energy represents half or more of the cost of water for DWS customers, and our island electric utility HELCO rates are the highest in the nation, and among the costliest of HECO’s four island utility service range.

The choice of governor in this current election year will likely determine the direction and outcome of Hawaii’s 2045 100% renewable energy objective, and the cost of energy in the future.  ”Although Hawaii’s energy policy is spelled out generally by statute, Hawaii’s governor plays a significant role in implementing the policy”, stated Rep. Chris Lee, chairman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee.

For many voters, Governor Ige gets a gold star for both clean energy leadership, and another for protecting Hawaii’s unique and precious multi-island environment.

  • Ige’s leadership style is a refreshing contrast to many of today’s political leaders whose self-serving agenda is more media engagement than substance or achievement.  Ige has demonstrated quietly and thoughtfully honest leadership as Hawaii’s chief executive — addressing Hawaii’s growing homeless problems, supporting Hawai’i Island in its most recent major eruption and the corresponding disruption of communities and businesses.
  • The Governor’s highest visibility action to date was opposing the highly unpopular NextEra takeover of HECO. For any other governor it would have been an easy sell-out to NextEra and political gain that would have provided NextEra the support it badly needed, but Ige instead repeatedly placed the state’s interest ahead of any potential personal and political gain by standing up against the NextEra’s fossil-fueled political juggernaut by representing Hawaii’s interests first.  No2 Nextera
  • This election year’s Sierra Club endorsement of Ige stated…” Hawaii’s common-sense commitment to clean energy owes a lot to Gov. David Ige, who championed this vision at the Legislature and made it a core part of his leadership agenda”.  Ige’s leadership has produced more than twice as many people now working in Hawaii’s clean energy sector — these are well paying local jobs.

However, the elephant in the room that many politicians fail to acknowledge is the growing societal, environmental and economic costs of burning fossil fuels linked to global warming. An absence of leadership on this macro issue by Colleen Hanabusa could not be more obvious.

Hawai’i is now squarely in the cross hairs of climate change.  The impact and costs of climate change on island states like Hawai’i, continues to accelerate, with rising sea levels, super storms, and changing wind and weather patterns. Hawaii’s future is increasingly dependent on the energy choices we make today, and moving Hawai’i forward to self-sufficiency in energy and food are key to the state’s future and viability; no governor understands this better and has demonstrated leadership towards tackling climate change than Gov. David Ige.

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa… Hanabusa’s links to the fossil fuel industry go back to her family’s gas station.   She has previously served as a director of Hawaii Gas, and is a strong advocate of LNG (natural gas) for Hawaii’s future.

  • Hanabusa pushed hard for the NextEra takeover of HECO and its island operating utilities, and supported NextEra plans to slow Hawaii’s advancement of solar, wind, and other local clean energy options, substituting the importation of natural gas as a so-called “bridge” and dirty fuel replacement for Hawaii’s current dependency on other fossil fuels.
  • Also, in this current election cycle, a dark money PAC (fossil fuel funded) launched several TV attack ads against Ige that some considered crossed a line when it comes to Hawaii’s historic rules of political engagement.

⊗  – BeyondKona recommends the re-election of Governor David Ige

Hawaii Island continues to struggle in its development of adequate health resources and services for our island population – no one understands this issue better and is better qualified to address this problem than Dr. Josh Green.

Green is a practicing local Hawai’i Island doctor who has spent much of his life caring for Hawaii’s families.  As a State Senator, Green currently serves as the chair of the Committee on Human Services, and has been a leader on advancing Hawaii’s health care opportunities.  He is also a member of the Committee on Hawaiian Affairs and represents Hawai‘i’s 3rd Senatorial District.  Green has served in the Hawai‘i State Senate since 2008, and understands the issues facing Hawai’i today, especially the importance of the state’s transition to a clean energy economy.

⊗  – BeyondKona recommends the election of Dr. Josh Green to the position of Lt. Governor

BeyondKona has researched the candidates, their qualifications, voting records, legislative achievements in full consideration of its candidate recommendations.

We kindly urge our kama’aina friends to vote by mail or at the ballot box in this year’s important primary election, August 11, 2018.  Mahalo a nui loa.

IT’S HOT AND GETTING HOTTER

This 2018 summer marks a global spike in the continuing trend of global temperature rise.  Weather stations around the world are logging record-high temperatures on the edge of the Sahara and above the Arctic Circle.

From the Arctic to Antarctic and places in between we are witnessing and experiencing the heat this summer, with massive fires in the mainland’s western states, super storms in the east, and rising global heat-related deaths that defy the current US Administration’s policy on climate and energy – one that appears deaf, dumb, and blind to the scientific facts, costs, and societal consequences of global warming.

The Arctic Circle this month is experiencing an unprecedented heat wave that has sent temperatures in the far north of Sweden as high as 86 F, and in parts of northern Siberia it reached 90 F degrees, 40 F degrees above normal.  After years of increasingly hot, dry summers, the great forests in the far north, and around the globe are starting to burn releasing large quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and melting permafrost that is releasing huge quantities of methane – what scientists call a feed-back loop that is further accelerating global warming impacts. Japan was walloped by record triple-digit temperatures, killing at least 86 people in what its meteorological agency bluntly called a “disaster.”

So far, Hawai’i has escaped some of these climate change impacts, but that is now changing.  Sea-level rise, coral beaching and die-off, and changing weather and trade wind patterns that are now being experienced throughout the Hawaiian island chain.  It seems, no matter how remote Hawai’i may seem from the rest of the world, global warming is truly global.  For an in depth perspective on current and frightening climate change developments, visit the BeyondKona Climate section: https://www.beyondkona.com/climate/

Department of Water Supply apologizes …questions remain

It’s been over a year since a series consecutive water well failures operated by DWS struck West Hawai’i.

The county Department of Water Supply states it has 11 of 13 deep wells up and running and serving North Kona, that’s up from 8 surviving wells operating as of January 2016.

A significant number of questions remain that cannot be answered by DWS encountering just a run of bad luck.  The Tribune Herald recently reported that significant “roadblocks remain between the department’s current standing and full system functionality.” Read more

Defying Trump, Hawaii Becomes First State to Pass Law Committing to Paris Climate Accord

Hawaii, A Leader in Renewable and Clean Energy, Enacts Law Aligned With Global Paris Climate Accord

HONOLULU — Hawaii has passed a law to document sea level rise and set strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The bill signed by Gov. David Ige aligns the state’s goals with the Paris climate accord.

Ige said Hawaii is the first state to enact legislation implementing parts of the Paris climate agreement. President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from that accord last week. Read more

2017 Hawai`i State Legislature Fails on Clean Energy Advancement

As the 29th session of the legislature draws to a close, the fifty-eighth Senate day of the sixty-day session ended with votes where no one could explain what happened. The irony of these votes reveal the underbelly of the legislature, which could explain why there are so few community people who come to testify anymore.

All conference committees had to finish their meetings by 6 p.m. In past years, the halls of the Capitol were packed as the final minutes wound down. But few people show up for the final showdown this year, and by 6 p.m., the halls were virtually deserted. Read more

Trump Administration declares war on climate science realities with key federal agencies cuts: EPA, NOAA, and NASA

Trump Administration has proposed funding cuts for fiscal 2018 targeting overall environmental protection responsibilities of more than a dozen federal agencies.

Cuts include marine sciences and sharp reductions and elimination of climate-ocean science specific research and reporting within NASA and NOAA impacting grants and research currently benefiting Hawai’i. 

The Trump administration has targeted environmental protections across the board with EPA a top target in their cross-hairs, and climate change research set for elimination. And while the cuts are essentially an opening salvo in what promises to be a fight with Congress once the budget requests formally arrive, they also demonstrate the level of hostility many scientists feared their work would face from a new Administration loaded with cabinet and agency level managers filled with fossil-fuel interests and climate change deniers. Read more

Hawaii County Doctor Shortage Worsens

More than half of the doctors in Hawaii will reach the retirement age of 65 within the next decade, according to a new report submitted Thursday to the state Legislature.

The University of Hawaii Physicians Workforce Assessment says of the 8,900 physicians licensed to practice in Hawaii, roughly 2,903 full-time physicians are actually practicing medicine. The report emphasizes that supply of new physicians is not keeping up with demand and Hawaii is at a critical juncture.

“Demand grows by 50 … per year, and we lose 50 physicians per year, so we need 100 per year to maintain the current staffing levels,” the report concludes. Read more