Watts in waiting

HILO — Hu Honua Bioenergy will have to wait until the state Supreme Court rules on the appeal of its power purchase agreement before it can begin generating power.

That’s according to a Hawaiian Electric Co. attorney who provided a written update on the project to the state Public Utilities Commission this week.

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According to Brendan Bailey, HECO’s legal division director, Hu Honua requested waiver of a requirement that the amended power purchase agreement be finalized before the 21.5-megawatt power plant near Pepeekeo can begin selling power. The agreement, which the PUC signed off on in 2017, isn’t considered final until it is no longer appealable, the memo states.

However, Bailey stated Hawaii Electric Light Co., a HECO subsidiary, is “not amendable to Hu Honua’s proposal.”

Environmental group Life of the Land filed an appeal to the Supreme Court, arguing the PUC didn’t properly consider greenhouse gas emissions when approving the PPA. Oral arguments were held in October, and a decision remains pending.

“Regardless of the merits of the appeal, the appellant is challenging the fundamental process underlying the approval of the project which allegedly impacts certain asserted statutory and constitutional due process rights,” Bailey wrote.

He said it’s possible the court will remand the matter back to the PUC.

“As such, under the present circumstances, Hawaii Electric Light believes that waiving the Final Approval Requirement is premature and is not prudent in this specific case given the specific issues being raised,” Bailey said.

Henry Curtis, LOL executive director, said the utility made the “smart move not to override the legal process.”

“The permit is not valid until it’s a nonappealable decision,” he said.

Warren Lee, Hu Honua president, said the company wasn’t trying to circumvent the court.

“When the court rules, then that’s going to be the rule,” he said. “Nobody knows when the ruling is going to be right now.”

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The project was most recently estimated to be complete in March. Lee said it will take longer but he couldn’t offer a new timeline.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

  1. briala February 15, 2019 6:00 pm

    I have no opinion on whether this project is a good idea or not. What I do worry is that eventually Hawaii is going to run out of anyone willing to invest any money, time or effort to get anything done.

    By all means, ensure the process includes hearing from all interested parties, and a decision framework geared to reach the best decisions. But we’d all be better off if that framework included a predictable schedule and process, and yielded a result that is then stable and reliable.


  2. Pono Pulapula February 15, 2019 10:43 pm

    You guys know HELCO makes more money burning oil themselves than distributing the power made by independent green producers, ah? As nice as their commercials are about leaving a small footprint, they make more money off us with their oil belchers. So of course they don’t want Hu Honua online any sooner than the PUC makes them.


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