Mililani Trask is a candidate for the board of trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

It is highly unlikely that the community is even aware that HECO, responding to pressure from the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), filed a Power Supply Improvement Plan (PSIP) in late August. The PSIP is currently open for public comment.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser called the plan a “sleep aid” in a small item that told readers how important it was that they weighed in. But is it even credible to expect ordinary ratepayers to do so?

Here is what the PSIP consists of: a plan for Maui (715 pages), Hawaii Electric Light Power Supply Improvement Plan (415 pages), Hawaiian Electric Power Supply Improvement Plan (477 pages), Hawaiian Electric Companies’ Distributed Generation Interconnection Plan Book 1 (515 pages) and Hawaiian Electric Companies’ Distributed Generation Interconnection Plan Book 2 (609 pages.)

HECO greenhouse gases (PF) No text

A HECO power plant.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

HECO’s Aversion for the Digital Age

HECO is nothing if not consistent. When New Mexico put out an RFP for renewable energy it was 27 pages long and bidders could respond online. When HECO put out an RFP for geothermal energy it was 92 pages long with 11 appendices totaling 468 pages. Bidders had to provide five hard copies of their submissions. Submissions, of necessity, were two to three times the length of the RFP to provide the detail requested. No online option for submission was allowed.

If HECO cannot update its business processes to reflect our digital age, what confidence can we have in them leading Hawaii in the transition to the culture and technology of renewable energy?

I felt compelled to plow my way through the dense forest of the PSIP because I have been advocating for community-centered development of our vast geothermal resources for some years now. I have been following the issue of Hawaii’s dangerous dependence on imported fossil fuels — a habit that costs us $7 billion annually.

Imagine what that money could do if it remained in the state to help struggling farmers, stimulate small businesses, address our failing public schools, tackle homelessness and the other challenges we face daily in a place that is Paradise — for some.

My effort at scrutinizing the PSIP left me with tired eyes and dashed hopes.

Where are the specifics to which we can hold HECO accountable?

Where is the timetable with specific dates for the retirement of dinosaur grids?

Where is the commitment to developing renewable energy on at least some of the 1.5 million acres of public land?

Where is the road map that everyone can understand showing specific actions that will lead us to renewable energy self-sufficiency?

Hawaii Can’t Do What Burlington, Vermont Did?

Vermont’s largest town, Burlington has just announced that it will generate 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources. We are told that Burlington’s achievement came about as a result of the state’s active commitment and “a decade of planning.”

But decades of discussion with our monopoly utility have not moved us off our fossil fuel habit — and there is no sign they really want to.

Instead, in these islands where we have daily sun, wind, ocean and geothermal energy in abundance, HECO declares, almost unbelievably, “Renewable energy, while increasingly cost effective, can replace much, but not all of the fossil-fuel based generation because of its intermittent nature.”

If there is no will, there will be no way.

HECO’s PSIP does not reflect a will to transform our state of fossil fuel dependence to energy independence built firmly on our rich mix of renewable resources. The obstacles placed in the way of ready public understanding of the PSIP speaks to HECO’s way of doing business. The PSIP attests to HECO’s lack of interest in really communicating with the customers and policy-makers who have kept them in business since the entity first came into existence under the auspices of the Kingdom of Hawaii. It’s no mean feat that even while the Kingdom was taken over, Hawaiian Electric survived, and thrives. The people of Hawaii are literally the poorer for it.

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