Hawaii’s consumer advocate says that Oahu ratepayers should pay for the added cost of biofuel consumed on the Big Island — not Big Island residents.

Aina Koa Pono executives hope to build a biofuel plant in the Kau region of the Big Island. But the project has attracted local opposition, in part because Big Island residents, who pay some of the highest electricity rates in the state, don’t want to see their electricity bills go up. 

Jeffrey Ono, the consumer advocate, feels their pain. In filings with the Public Utilities Commission, he recommends that Oahu residents cover the extra cost of the biofuel instead, which will raise residential electricity bills by about $1.16 a month. 

HECO originally proposed that the premium for the biofuel be spread out among both Oahu and Big Island residents. 

Ono writes: 

Taking all of these circumstances into consideration – aggregating Hawaii Island’s renewable energy to help HECO; the slower economic recovery and higher unemployment on Hawaii Island compared to Oahu; HELCO’s higher electricity rates; and HECO’s larger customer base – it is my opinion that HELCO ratepayers should not be asked to pay for any portion of the cost differential between the biodiesel and the fossil fuel the biodiesel replaces. That cost differential should be borne entirely by HECO ratepayers.

Ono also urged Aina Koa Pono to release the results of an environmental assessment of the project expeditiously. And he expressed disappointment that the energy developer hadn’t negotiated a community benefits package with local residents who will host the project, according to the PUC filing. 


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(Photo: Aina Koa Pono)

– Sophie Cocke