What’s interesting about HECO’s recently released Power Supply Improvement Plans is what is not in them.

After 2,731 pages and $17 million in taxpayer-funded studies, there is not a single mention of Big Wind on Lanai or Molokai, and the vaunted undersea cable is barely mentioned.

So, notwithstanding two communities that were torn apart, HECO executives infiltrated our rural communities to argue for Big Wind, two governors obsessively pushed Big Wind, DBEDT made it a centerpiece of their state energy plans and a clean energy agreement that had Big Wind as its centerpiece, it has completely disappeared from the state of Hawaii and HECO’s future energy plans.

Morning at the Kahuku wind turbines.  11.20.13 ©PF Bentley/Civil Beat

The Kahuku wind turbines.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Why? How could they have gotten it so wrong, and for so long?

Could it be because HECO executives and our two most recent governors bought into one megalomaniacal developer’s push for a project that was outrageously expensive, enormously and irreparably destructive, and ultimately unnecessary?

And what can said of our elected officials? Were they actively engaged in setting energy policies, or just going along for the developer’s ride?

Three years ago, despite long, passionate floor speeches acknowledging the agony that would come from Big Wind on Lanai and Molokai, only three state senators — Clayton Hee, Sam Slom and Suzanne Chun-Oakland — voted against the undersea cable bill.

Could our legislative leaders, like Sen. Mike Gabbard, chair of the Senate committee on Energy and Environment, have been blinder to the wishes of involved communities and the reality of Big Wind’s limitations?

Even at the end of this last legislative session, Sen. Gabbard refused to recognize the demise of Big Wind on Lanai, denying a hearing for a “Sense of the Legislature” resolution proposed by all three of Maui’s senators and approved by the House.

Many would point to the sale of 98 percent of Lanai to Larry Ellison as the game-changer, but Molokai had fallen off the table months before the transaction — and David Murdock still retains undisclosed “rights” to develop Big Wind on Ellison’s land.

Others might say that after the initial fanfare and public relations push for an “easy” fix, the reality of the projected costs for a one-way undersea extension cord from Lanai and Molokai to Oahu settled in, and clearer minds realized how monumental the expense would be for what would be delivered — less than 5 percent of Oahu’s electricity demands.

Eight long, contentious years of threats, intimidation, hostility, poor planning, wasteful spending, incompetence, Machiavellian manipulation and 2,731 pages later, there is not a whisper about Big Wind on Lanai or Molokai.

I would put my money on something. The volume of the outrage, furor and the previously unheard of outcry from the residents of Lanai — who opposed the destruction of their rural community by Big Wind — made the state and HECO re-evaluate.

Maybe we should take a moment to learn from the debacle of Big Wind. Surely in the 21st century we will not allow our state’s energy policy to continue to be set by self-serving developers.

Just because a landowner (pay attention here, Kamehameha Schools) promotes renewable energy projects on their land doesn’t necessarily make that the best use of that land.

Look no further than the aesthetic debacle at Waimea and Kahuku.

Did any good come out of HECO, Govs. Linda Lingle and Neil Abercrombie’s obsession with David Murdock’s boondoggle? Undoubtedly, yes.

The Lanai community — historically the poster child for a plantation town where no one speaks out against the corporate landowner — has now become much more vocal and questioning.

The plans proposed by our newest majority landowner no longer automatically gain approval.

Residents, even some of the union flunkies who blindly bought into the previous feudal lord’s harangues and threats, now come to meetings and speak out with their questions. Perhaps they have learned that even a small group of concerned citizens can change public policy for the better.

Eight long, contentious years of threats, intimidation, hostility, poor planning, wasteful spending, incompetence, Machiavellian manipulation and 2,731 pages later, there is not a whisper about Big Wind on Lanai or Molokai.

One can only hope that future energy plans begin with, rather than ignore the affected communities.

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