Monday, October 12, 2015

Hawaii's Energy System Can't Handle a Republican-Like Meltdown

On Friday, in describing the U.S. House Majority meltdown, New York Times' Andrew Rosenthal gave insight into the current state of confusion and how rudderless the House Republicans are.  Here is his closing paragraphs:

House Republicans are not much interested in governing for all Americans, but rather for the fringe who believes Barack Obama is a Muslim non-citizen; who want to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants; who would deny family planning, cancer screenings and abortion services to poor working women; who would ban same-sex marriage, affirmative action and fair housing laws; and who would starve government of all power except to lower taxes on the rich. 
This fiasco might be good entertainment if not for the simple fact that the speaker of the House is third in line for the presidency.
I am concerned that Hawaii's energy situation could devolve into a Republican-like meltdown when ideology overwhelms reasonable energy policy and rational regulation.  One can easily paraphrase Rosenthal's editorial to describe how Hawaii's energy transformation is being discussed:

The vast majority who oppose the HECO/NextEra merger application are not much interested in an electrical system to serve all customers but rather for the fringe who believe a municipal or cooperative electric utility will give the customer everything they desire; who believe 100% renewables can happen in the near future but don't want it in their backyard; who don't want LNG because of fracking but expect electricity costs to go down; who believe solar and storage are the panacea and the democratization of power generation is the answer to all our woes they fight to retain subsidies and with the benefits going to the same people leaving many others behind and paying for it.

This fiasco (the barrage of opinions and distractions) might be good entertainment if not for the simple fact that affordable and reliable electricity is the lifeblood of a robust economy and quality of life.

While many who oppose the merger clamour their beliefs, there are very few amongst them who have had the experience and background to (1) operate a utility and take on the responsibility of providing affordable and reliable power for all customers and (2) understand the magnitude of change that is taking place in the energy sector and the skill sets necessary to navigate this transformation.

As I have said in previous posts, during this time of transformation a well-functioning electric utility requires insightful leadership, nimble and flexible strategic planning and strong analytical capacity. Detractors of the merger do not address any of these characteristics or qualities required for an electric utility to successfully navigate an energy transformation and may, in fact, hinder it with decisions based on politics and the need to weigh competing interests rather than relying on fact, technology, economics and best practices.

Again, this is why these naysayers, especially politicians and the Governor need to let the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, as the regulator, and the Consumer Advocate, whose statutory duty is to represent the interest of Hawaii's ratepayers, to do their jobs in evaluating the application and all the questions and responses to come to an evidence based decision that is in the public interest.


  1. I disagree with your perception about what is most important to ratepayers. Ratepayers are residents and as such climate change threatens to take away our homes and our livelihoods, and to destroy our reefs and our forests. This is our most urgent concern and we need to transition quickly to renewable energy and to inspire others to do the same.

  2. I agree with you, Mina. Reliable power is critical to the basics we take for granted. I, for one, am not advocating that key power-hungry end users -- like hospitals, for example -- start relying solely on solar panels, wind energy, and batteries until reliability is nearly 100%. (Of course, I am not putting forth HECO as the 100% standard--when the Big Island had its earthquake and O'ahu experienced massive power outs, hospitals were not immune.) Cost is really important too. Many families are struggling or don't own their own homes, while people like me can enjoy 65% tax benefits b/c we do own homes and we do have the upfront cash.

  3. Not sure who you consider the "vast majority". Do you have some study to back up this amazing claim? Most of the people I speak to who are against the merger are middle class hard working people who see we are going to get the shaft once again. Most are for LNG. Most want the Jones act repealed. All want HECO to do a better job and to be a public utility in the true sense of the word. Some of us have seen the ugly side of HECO as they gouge us right at the meter on the house and then claim it is the consumer's fault even after proof is offered to show it was them. Basically you make a sweeping generalization that you can't support. How typical. But to compare all this to the Democrats, why is Hillary not in jail yet? Same type of thing.