No LNG and no NextEra for Hawaii: straight to renewable energy –Gov. Ige

Natural gas is a bridge to nowhere, and Hawaii’s governor not only rejects LNG imports, but also NextEra’s bid for its electric utility. Can you read the writing on the wall now, NextEra and FPL? Fossil fuels are done. Solar power is the future here now.

Duane Shimogawa, Pacific Business News, 24 August 2015, Gov. David Ige opposes Hawaii importing LNG, says state should focus on renewable energy,

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said Monday that the state does not need liquefied natural gas as part of its energy future and says Hawaii should focus on developing renewable energy rather than importing LNG.

“I have reached the conclusion that Hawaii does not need LNG in our future,” said Ige, one of the keynote speakers at the Asia-Pacific Resilience Innovation Summits & Expo in Honolulu. “It’s time to focus all of our efforts on renewables. We will oppose the building of LNG facilities.”

Interesting background to that Hawaii decision, especially considering all the solar farms Southern Company is building at military bases in Georgia and Florida.

Juan Cole, The Nation, 26 August 2015, Hawaii’s Governor Dumps Oil and Gas in Favor of 100 Percent Renewables: An unlikely partnership between Hawaii’s local government and the US military makes the island a leader in energy policy.

Ige said Monday that LNG (liquefied natural gas) will not save the state money over time, given the plummeting prices of renewables. Moreover, “it is a fossil fuel,” i.e., it emits dangerous greenhouse gases. He explained that local jurisdictions in Hawaii are putting up a fight against natural gas, making permitting difficult. Finally, any money put into retooling electric plants so as to run on gas, he said, is money that would better be invested in the transition to green energy.

Ige, trained as an electrical engineer, is leading his state in the most ambitious clean-energy program in the United States. On June 8, he signed on to law a bill calling for Hawaii’s electricity to be entirely generated from renewables in only 30 years. He also directed that the University of Hawaii be net carbon zero in just 20 years.

As a set of islands, Hawaii faces special energy difficulties. Residents pay the highest rates for electricity of any state in the union. Last year, before the recent oil price drop, residential electricity averaged around 36 cents per kilowatt hour (the US average is 12 cents/kwh). On the mainland, states that do not generate enough electricity themselves can import it from their neighbors. Islands in the middle of the Pacific just have what they can make themselves. Because Hawaii’s energy plants were built before it was economical to ship natural gas as LNG, they for the most part use petroleum. The high oil prices of the past decade are estimated to have cost Hawaii some $5 billion extra that was not anticipated. Part of the impetus for the current drive toward renewables is to escape the volatility of fossil fuel markets.

Senator Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, also addressed the summit, insisting that wind, solar, and other renewables are now competitive with fossil fuels and no longer “alternative.” Rather, they are practical today, because of significant price drops in the cost of photovoltaic panels and of wind turbines. He argued that change only comes when it is demanded. Several years ago, he said, Hawaii set what seemed like unrealistic green energy goals at that time. The senator’s point is valid. By 2015, officials wanted 15 percent of electricity generation to come from renewables. In 2014, it was already 21 percent. At the Federal level, Schatz said that the Senate is coming around on climate change issues, with all Democrats backing renewables and even a lot of Republicans privately admitting the climate change crisis. He said that the United States must lead at the UN’s Climate Change Conference later this year in Paris, but that the real test will be in the implementation of the goals adopted there.

The state’s major utility, the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), is on board with the rapid turn to renewables and is partnering with the state and US military bases to meet the 2045 goal. Alan Oshima, the utility’s CEO, pointed out that 15 percent of homes in Hawaii already have rooftop photovoltaic panels, and he expected that number to triple.

And not only that, Gov. Ige is fighting off NextEra’s bid for HECO.

khon2, 21 July 2015, Gov. Ige explains opposition to proposed NextEra-HECO merger,

At a press conference, the governor said NextEra wasn’t a great fit for Hawaii’s goal of having all of its power come from renewable energy sources by 2045.

“We are committed to a 100-percent renewable future, standing alone among fifty states in the nation in that action. We need an electric company that sees Hawaii as the center of its work and the opportunity we represent as one of the greatest moments in history for any utility. We have not seen that in this proposal,” he said.

Ige said a 360-degree review was conducted by state personnel and consultants, and they all independently concluded that it was in the state’s best interest to oppose the merger.

Watch a replay of Gov. Ige’s press conference on KHON2.com’s live stream “There were many concerns raised by the testifiers that the burden of proof is on the proposed merger to prove that the merger is in the best interest of Hawaii and the ratepayers and clearly the feeling of the testimonies presented to this point did not attain that level,” he said. “There were many direct questions posed to the proposed merger that were not responded to adequately.”

It’s time for the burden of proof to be on NextEra and Spectra and Duke about Sabal Trail. And that’s a burden they can’t lift.

Meanwhile, NextEra may be left with only its sweetener in Hawaii:

Before the discussed merger, NextEra was already committed to working with HECO in some capacity. In November 2014, NextEra signed a contract with Hawaiian Electric to build a 15 mega-watt solar farm in Waianae.

Because:

Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa applauded Ige’s decision.

“Maui County and the other counties have all been talking about NextEra concerns for some time now and it is good to see that Governor Ige has joined us,” he said in a statement. “The state and counties must stand together on this issue. This sort of decision could affect Hawaii for generations to come and should not be taken lightly.

This is exactly why Maui County has been looking at other options such as starting our own municipal utility. Kauai County already does this and I know that Hawaii County is considering it as well. It might be time for the City and County of Honolulu to look into the municipal or co-op utility model too.

Most concerning to us is how NextEra seems to view renewable energy. While most local residents and businesses would like to expand the use of solar, wind and other renewable resources in our grid, NextEra seems more interested in wanting to control and limit their use. This is not a model that is good for the County of Maui or the State of Hawaii. Our utility should be more concerned about community benefits rather than profits and dividends.”

And so should we all! A few dollars one time for easements or timber, or even annual tax revenue that won’t offset lost taxes due to devaluation of land with a pipeline on or near it, are in no way commensurate for the property invasion, environmental destruction, and hazards to agriculture, wildlife, and human life and limb.

The 20th century fossil fuel era is over. It is past time to get on with clean 21st century sun, wind, and water power.

No new pipelines!

Let the sun rise.

-jsq

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