The answer to the question posed by Guy Cooper in his Community Voice titled “Is Hu Honua’s Energy Plan Truly Sustainable?” is a definitive yes!

And it delivers the following six benefits and more:

  • Honua Ola, the project name under new ownership, has a favorable carbon footprint;
  • Honua Ola will replace trees to serve as a carbon capture for the trees it harvests;
  • bioenergy provides energy diversification, a hedge against natural disasters’
  • locally grown biomass protects us from the pricing volatility of imported fossil fuels;
  • bioenergy delivers more affordable, dependable, and cleaner power than fossil fuels; and
  • Honua Ola will provide firm, not intermittent power, to keep the lights on when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.

NOTE: pick the correct link

Biomass represents an important part of the renewable energy mix, and Hawaii Island offers plentiful amounts of commercially grown biomass that can be harvested and replanted like any agricultural crop. Continuous planting of new trees reduces the overall carbon footprint.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading international body for the assessment of climate change, reports biomass emits fewer units of carbon dioxide (CO2) than forms of conventional energy, such as fossil fuels (see graph below).

We believe the island’s energy mix should come from locally available and sustainable sources, as opposed to importing and continuing to burn fossil fuels and coal, which is currently the case.

The U.S. EPA agrees with the IPCC and states it considers the bioenergy produced from managed forests, like those from which Honua Ola harvests, to be carbon neutral.

Combustion of eucalyptus under Honua Ola’s plan will not increase the CO2 level or reduce the amount of oxygen. Why?

Once Honua Ola begins operating, Hawaiian Electric Companies will be able to reduce its dependency on oil-burning plants and the continuous planting of new trees will increase the amount of CO2 recaptured, together resulting in a significant net reduction in CO2 emissions. As a result, Honua Ola’s use of trees as feedstock will not create more carbon dioxide than burning coal or natural gas.

The Honua Ola Bioenergy plant in Pepeekeo in 2019.

Honua Ola Bioenergy

In comparing fossil fuels to biomass, Mr. Cooper ignores UN IPCC and U.S. EPA reports, stating biomass is renewable and carbon neutral, because unlike coal and natural gas, new crops of trees absorb the CO2 emitted when older trees become fuel for energy.

Also, Honua Ola did not gain state approval, as a result of state tax credits, as Cooper indicated. Honua Ola, like a variety of other renewable energy projects including wind and solar developments, qualified for federal tax credits because it produces renewable energy.

Mr. Cooper also misunderstands Honua Ola’s use of water.

First, the water will be drawn from a salt water source and will be returned to the brackish and salt water depths in the aquifer, not those where fresh drinking water is found. Also, the discharged water contains a harmless, barely detectable quantity of a polymer that prevents naturally present manganese in the water from clumping together when warmed. This process meets the requirements of the state Department of Health.

The DOH also recently approved our construction permit after a thorough review of our plans and procedures. Protecting the ocean and its marine life was an important aspect of that review. Honua Ola has put in place carefully designed state-of-the-art safeguards and best-practice procedures for the sourcing and return of water.

Continuous planting of new trees reduces the overall carbon footprint.

Honua Ola’s energy production will occupy a critical place in Hawaii Island’s renewable energy portfolio, with firm power available 24/7. This will add predictability and stability to the island’s grid. And biomass nicely complements other intermittent renewables, such as solar and wind.

Note too that Honua Ola is equipped with state-of-the-art emissions control equipment that meets or exceeds current federal and state emissions standards and stringent air quality rules. Our technology also complies with all state Department of Health and Board of Land and Natural Resources regulations.

Carbon emission graph from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

What about benefits to Hawaii island consumers?

Recent local news coverage has featured consumer “outrage” over the rising cost of electricity. The more we grow the energy mix and the more we reduce fossil fuel imports and lessen our exposure to volatile oil prices and potential supply stoppages, the greater the stability in energy and electricity pricing, which will help prevent dramatic increases in utility bills.

We firmly believe our efforts represent a necessity and a big step forward toward the state’s commitment to our grid becoming 100 percent renewable by 2045.

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